Why Russia Is Watching EU Elections Closely

Sergei Naryshkin, former speaker of the State Duma — the lower chamber of the Russian parliament — and a member of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, once condescendingly noted that the European Parliament "can hardly be considered a real parliament", referring to its limited powers within the EU bureaucracy.

Still, the upcoming EP elections and the potential strong showing of EU's populist parties attract Russia's attention much more than in previous years as it will very much affect EU's position on the global scene, as well as in Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans. 

Ukraine still No. 1 issue

The crisis in Ukraine remains the most salient issue in Russia's relations with the European Parliament.

It was Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 that led to the European Parliament suspending all formal ties with Moscow, and the work of the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee has not resumed to this day.

The European Parliament continues to draw public attention to the Kremlin's malign role in the Ukraine conflict, even if its parliamentary declarations and resolutions rarely result in practical steps being taken by the EU.

The new European Parliament, with its inevitably stronger populist representation, is likely to tone down its support for Kiev: both right- and left-wing populists have repeatedly expressed misgivings about Ukraine.

The former are hostile to the idea of the EU making any new financial commitments in Eastern Europe, while the latter tend to see Ukraine's post-Maidan revolution leaders as radical nationalists and quasi-fascist. Combined with growing Ukraine fatigue in the West, this may create an opening for Russia to try to...

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