When the Russians look at Europe, primarily they still see the nation states. They see Germany, they see France, Finland and Poland. At some point they see the EU, but it often comes as an afterthought.

When you mention the words “European Union” to people, do they react positively or negatively?

If you say Europe, the reaction is very positive. If you say the European Union, then people tend to think in terms of a bureaucracy. The EU is something that normal people do not readily understand.

Why are people positive towards the idea of Europe?

They are positive because it’s... It’s the people who are closest to them, beyond the former Soviet Union, so this is a part of the world which they’re familiar with and one which they think they understand better than any other part of the world. It’s culturally close, but it’s also non-aggressive. It’s not like the United States, it’s not throwing its weight around. People are also very appreciative of the kind of prosperity and affluence that Europe has built. People are appreciative that these countries are peaceful and even pacific.

Do you think the Russian elites take the EU seriously?

They take the EU seriously on issues such as trade and economic issues. They don’t take the EU seriously as a strategic player in great power games.