The 'Valdai spirit' is very indicative of a new code word for Western intellectuals engaging in media campaigns and publishing articles calling for restoration of normalcy in relations between Russia and Europe. Such a piece appeared in the austrian Die Presse - an interview with Mr. Ivan Krastev.
This is no coincidence or improvised one off shot as the views expressed are part of a consistant effort to portray accomodation with the Kremlin as a must ofr EU foreign policy and a much needed encore of a Real Politik, overriding disputes over Ukraine and admitting the irreversibility of Russia's annexation of Crimea. With a Russian plane shot down over Syria - the urge to seek quick pacifiers and tension reliefs has exploded. The main story line of Western adepts of appeasement with Russia is that the EU and the West in general should acknowledge Putin's right to spheres of influence starting with recognising and dealing with the Eurasian Union on a par basis.
A recent gathering of Russian top analysts in Moscow under the aegis of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP) - one of the fathers of the Valdai Group gathering made it crystal clear that the Eurasian Union is no match for the European Union. The questions is why even when Russian experts rule out setting as a promissing platform for future relations the EU-Eurasian Union level, gentlemen like Mr. Krastev keep on insisting.
No surprise such calls largely remained unheeded at EU country top level.
The new adage in the strategy of Russia's group of intellectual friends is to affrim that unless Europe comes to terms with Russia the EU will break apart under the overflow of unresolved crises and challenges. A slightly more moderate version of this main line reads that the lack of pragmatism in the West when dealing with Moscow might risk cornering Mr. Putin and leaving him no option but to be become more aggressive, unpredictable and ultimately more dangerous. The usual background of such thinly veiled scare mongering tactics are the horror stories that blend the extremities of the refugee problems with the worst scripts on terrorism in the West.
Twinning Mr.Orban and Mr.Putin is neither news nor innovative, but suggesting that they form part of the mainstream in EU-Russia relation is an exadderation. PM Orban hardly belongs to the EU main policy stream. His regular public outburst in pro-Putin or anti-Brussels rhetoric are hardly indicative of where the EU will end up in the future or even less virtuous as an insight into the Union's possible critical constraints in extending sanctions against the Kremlin or enforcing solidarity of action against Russia.
The prominence the Hungarian PM gained in the midst of the refugee crisis is bound to be short lived. Asserting that Orban is the EU's alternative to Mrs. Merkel is a gross overstatement. The reference to a multi-speed EU is more of one of many possible scenarios reflecting an instinctive reaction than a strategy or a well thought over concept.
In some quarters in Moscow, Paris and Berlin there probably are disenchanted intellectuals with the sobering role of CEE in the process of reinstating normalcy in relations with Russia. Some possibly regret the times of Catherine the Great when the leading West European intellectuals and diplomats communciated with Russia ignoring East Europe as Tartaria - the land of Chaos.
The logic behind Bulgaria's PM sudden pull out from the CEE group protest against Nord Stream-2 is well conceptualised by Mr.Krastev in his Die Presse interview. Most of what is versed fits well with the narrative that Bulgaria should pursue an independent line in its energy policies within the CEE plus Greece group and keep an open eye on any chance to reopen the South Stream project.
It is all too evident that Krastev shares Borissov's reasoning in playing on Vice-Chancellor Gabriel's overture to Mr. Putin on Nord Stream-2 and his promise to keep Brussels at bay
Mr. Krastev also plays with extreme scenarios where Germany and France contemplate to leave the EU thereby causing its break up into many speeds and zones with the CEE potentially remaining on the fringes. The relative weight of the CEE as a group in he EU will rise as the region remains in relative terms in sound financial health (a rare asset for the Eurozone), an island of stability (note the problems in the Schengen zone, old Europe's legacy of failed immigration policies and scare of terrorism). Therefore there is nothing that old Europe including Germany or even less so France could gain by redrawing the map of EU integration and alienating the CEE countries. On the contrary.
It is no secret that the Kremlin has a long history of courting Western intellectuals, but that has never risen to such heights. Being sees as close to Putin's ear or being able to publish in top notch western media is always an advantage for a foreign policy analyst. The rest is a PR job.
The final line with the forecast that Russia and Saudi Arabia are the real movers in Syria and a deal between them could will ultimately fix the Syria problem is way off mark.
Keeping air fleets at distance and avoiding clashes over the sky of Syria or on the ground would hardly mend the broken fences in Ukraine.