Session Summary: Václav Havel Transatlantic Dialogues: The Russia Challenge - Where to Now?

Andrey Kortunov, Director General, Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow

Andrew Weiss, James Family Chair and Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C.

Alena Kudzko, Director, GLOBSEC Policy Institute, Bratislava  

Amb. Michael Žantovský, Executive Director, Václav Havel Library, Prague  

Led by: Elena Lazarou, Head of External Policies Unit, European Parliamentary Research Service


The relationship between European states and the Russian Federation has been on GLOBSEC’s agenda for a long period of time. The recent events, such as Navalny’s poisoning, the Russian involvement in a 2014 attack on a Czech munition depot, or the alarming deployment of thousands of Russian troops towards Ukraine all indicate the Kremlin does not seek a constructive dialogue with Europe.

The fundamental nature of Russian adversarial politics is still dominating global issues. Due to the lack of motivation from the Russian side and persisting destabilising behaviour, it is unlikely that it will cease to present a challenge. Russia will continue to attempt to change the international system as much as possible and in this context, it will be inherent for the European states to develop capabilities to quickly react to the changing environment. 

Though the European states, mostly CEE and Western Balkans have been contested territories, they also have some means to put in the play against Russia. The Russian trade strongly relies on the European states, leverage that can be used with the help of Biden’s administration. In the light of the global events happening alongside the 2021 Bratislava Forum, the panellists have even concluded that convergence can be found in several global issues, such as arms control, position on North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan. On the other hand, both parties will need to be making statements on issues they disagree on such as human rights, Ukraine or Navalny. 

A joint approach of European states, however, might be very difficult to achieve. It is observable that there is no unity in the European society towards Russian politics. Alena Kudzko pointed out three major reasons for these incoherent positions. Firstly, it is the different history and perceptions of experience with Russia. Secondly, it is the in-betweenness between the West and the East. Finally, it is the role of disinformation and the ability of Russia to create and sell narratives. 

Russia will continue to present an adversarial actor in international relations and despite the ongoing meetings, it is not presumed that this situation will change in the near future.  It is unlikely that the meetings could reset the relationships due to fundamentally different world views and perception of the world order.