'In the Battle of Oil: Is Europe Heading to Cold War-2?'

Joao Cravinho,
Ambassador for European Union in India

Alexey Novikov,
Consulate General of
In a move to get a better insight into the current geopolitical development in Europe and the impact of western sanction on the entire hydrocarbon industry, Titto Eapen brings the diplomatic perspective on some of the burning issues that concerns India, as well in an exclusive interaction with Joao Cravinho-Ambassador for European Union in India and Alexey Novikov -Consulate General of Russia.

"Russia should respect the sovereignty of Ukraine"

Can you discuss the rationale behind the western sanctions on Russia ? And legitimate is the sanction?
The EU and other countries have been continuously urging Russia to stop the flow of weapons, equipment and fighters across the Russian-Ukrainian border. These actions not only increased, but Russia even sent its soldiers into Eastern Ukraine. After the illegal annexation of Crimea, these actions undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and are not in conformity with international law. The EU has applied targeted measures against specific sectors of the Russian economy. These measures are part of a dual-track approach, together with diplomatic initiatives to find a negotiated resolution. They have a clear legal basis and are scalable and reversible. We are talking about a political conflict that has trade ramifications, not the other way around. Actions led by Russia in violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, stability and security are unacceptable and have consequences. At the same time, the EU is ready to reverse such measures when Russia starts contributing actively and without ambiguities to finding a solution to the crisis.

How the European market is prepared for a stronger-than-expected move by Russia to ban certain imports from Europe and the United States ?
The European Commission remains optimistic that alternative sales outlets can be found for most of the products, in particular in the medium term. It is also clear that certain products and certain regions will face serious difficulties as a result of the Russian measures, especially in the short term. The most immediate concern is that products previously exported are sold cheaply on the EU market, leading to a more global price collapse - hence the swift action of the European Commission to introduce emergency market measures.

How would you lke to respond to the notion that the entire sanction saga against Russia was well choreographed by the US and its allies to wipe out Russian companies from the European Hydrocarbon market and also a move to counter the growing Russian primacy in the Middle East and Asia Pacific ?
The EU and its Member States do not have any interest in weakening or downplaying Russia. True, it is difficult today to see if and how successfully the EU relations with Russia will continue under the label of a "strategic" partnership in the short term. Much more effort is needed to reach a comprehensive conflict resolution in Ukraine, and Russia should prove in deeds its respect for international law and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its neighbours. EU relations with Russia have still a huge untapped potential and the solution to the conflict in Ukraine is a test for launching a deeper dialogue. The EU is determined to avoid creating a lasting rift on its continent. On the energy side, the EU continues to encourage all possible forms of dialogue with Russia and is engaged in trilateral talks on trade and gas related issues with Russia and Ukraine. The last meeting was held in Moscow on August 29, with the EU as the moderator of this important process.

What will be the right choice for the emerging economies of South Asia, including India, to go for in the long run to meet their energy requirements: is it Eurasia led by Russia or European Union led by US ?
The EU has technical know-how and expertise which it could usefully share with India; I think more specifically about renewables where India has a declared interest and much could be done in terms of business development and research. In strategic terms, India is also confronted with a number of bilateral, regional and international factors that leaves limited room for manoeuvring; India's efforts to enhance its relation with Iran being the most evident illustration of the complicated regional setting where India’s diplomacy evolves. As an increasingly important element of both the EU’s and India's diplomacy, energy issues should definitively be included among the key topics in our high-level meetings. Diversification of routes and suppliers is a common priority both for India and the EU and where convergence could be found. While engaging at political and diplomatic level with India on this issue, two strategic questions should be taken into account: stabilising Afghanistan (as a gateway to energyrich Central Asia) and engaging with Iran. These are two priorities where the EU is actively involved and both India's and the EU's have convergent interests.

What should be the wise approach of India in this East-West stand -off, which has brought us back to the Cold War Era?
We have no advice to give to India, which is strongly committed to the respect of international law and the United Nations Charter, but we very much encourage an exchange of views on the evolving situation.

"Europe Union and US should respect the International Law"
How justifiable is the Western Sanction on Russia especially by the same European Union which usually endorses trade Liberalization and Globalization?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that any sanctions lack legitimacy without a mandate of such universally acknowledged authority as the UN. The sanction is not even in compliance with the EU policy with its traditional values and ideals, better to have comments of those responsible for the policy. Interestingly, the recent days saw a number of articles in the European mass media assuming that the sanctions were promoted from the outside in order to hit European economy through degrading strategic ties with Russia.

How will the Kremlin react against the sanction besides a ban on certain import from Europe and the United States?
President Vladimir Putin has already made it clear that Russia will never follow the pattern of some Western countries sacrificing its core economic interests and interests of its people to precarious political speculations. Reciprocating measures taken by Russia on import of certain goods can't be considered a "ban" or "sanction" in return. They were primarily driven by the idea to exploit the situation to upgrade the goods basket of a Russian consumer and to draw to the market only the highest-quality products manufactured in Russia as well as in other countries.

Can you brief our readers about the notion which is engulfing in some of Russian Media that the entire sanction saga was well choreographed by the US and it allies to wipe-out Russian Companies from the European Hydrocarbon Market and also a move to counter the Russian primacy in the Arctic & Asia Pacific?
Actually, Western think-tanks themselves initially voiced a suggestion that the sanctions were well choreographed on the grounds of protecting interests of some countries and were hardly concerned with international law. Whatever intentions the above-mentioned countries have towards Russia, we can always ensure realization of our vital interests, despite any external factors.

With the sanction in place, Russia will certainly look to explore the Asian market and at the same time US led western allies will use all the diplomatic might to foil the Russian proximity with the Asian & Indian market, so according to you, who will be the right choice for these emerging economies of south Asia including India to go for in the long run to meet their energy requirements?
We always appreciate the ability of rising South Asian economies to promote an independent policy. At the same time, I believe that those who understand the needs of their nation in economic sphere, including energy, will grasp all the advantages stemming from cooperation with Russia. And they hardly need any advice. We expect important documents in a wide range of avenues, including energy, might be signed during the regular biennial visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India in early December.

What should be the wise approach of India in this East-West stand -off, which has brought us back to the Cold War Era?
As I have already said, we appreciate the unbiased stance of India in political and economic affairs. We expect this tendency to prevail in the long-run. In hindsight, in the traditional East-West competition India has always made a wise choice guided by its own interests and its people’s aspirations. This attitude typical of India was presented in a number of statements by respected vigorous grouping BRICS.

How would you like to respond to a premise that Sanctions, Terror & War has become an inevitable aspect of the west in preserving its supremacy in the geopolitical sphere which has clear connotation with the Hydrocarbon Business? Would Russia follow the same?
The leading world think-tanks cast doubt on the concept of Western supremacy in hydrocarbon area. The majority of Western countries are hugely dependent on import of oil and gas. Rather probably, this very circumstance was conducive to the recent crisis situation. As far as our perspective is concerned, Russia, which is abundant in hydrocarbon resources, always uses transparent and fair market approach dealing with energy-dependent countries without stigmatizing any state for particular properties of its political or cultural sovereignty. Moscow has never used oil and gas as a means to press any country. As for terrorism, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined that we need a general criterion: if we do fight terrorism – we do it everywhere and always. One can't divide terrorists into good and bad, only because some of them are helpful to oust a legitimately elected leader of a UN member country that one does not like.