In recent years, Russia has become hellbent on using every opportunity to put obstacles in the way of EU—and U.S.—policy. That’s not necessarily because Moscow has any substantial objection to or even interest in any particular question, but simply because it wants to be as much of a factor in geopolitics as it can.Case in point: Moscow is obstructing the EU’s plans to destroy ships belonging to human traffickers in Libya. The FT:
Russia on Tuesday signalled it would veto any UN resolution to authorise the destruction of ships in Libyan ports, effectively ruling out the legal authority the EU says it needs to mount such an operation.Moscow’s position chimes with more widespread reservations — shared among some officials in the EU, Washington, the UK and at the UN — over the wisdom and feasibility of intervening in Libyan ports when intelligence is patchy and the operational risks are high.Given these concerns, officials are increasingly working towards a more restricted mandate for any EU military mission, which could involve a search and rescue role alongside powers to stop and seize smugglers’ boats at sea. […]“Apprehending human traffickers and arresting these vessels is one thing,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU. “But destroying them would be going too far.”He added that the destruction of ships without a court order and the consent of the host country would amount “to a contravention of the existing norms of international law”.
However this gets resolved, the EU should not let a Russian veto decide what it will and will not do on such an important matter; the idea that Russia has anything to say about how the EU helps Italy and Spain protect and control their borders—or deal with exploitative coyotes trafficking in human desperation—is absurd. And it would be foolish in the extreme for the EU to bribe Russia for the UN’s blessing; concessions will only spur further activism from Moscow.None of this means that the West shouldn’t be seeking pragmatic agreements with Russia when they can genuinely benefit both sides, but the EU’s displays of over-scrupulousness regarding international protocol—and a conscience too delicate for the real world—make it harder, not easier, to reach an equilibrium in the West’s relations with the Kremlin.