Relations chill between EU and Russia


Richard Moore

The greatest fear of US foreign policy is the rise of a Eurasian power that 
could challenge US supremacy. Already the cooperations between China & Russia is
beginning to make that fear a reality. As a countermeasure, the US is doing 
everything it can to prevent closer ties between Russia and Western Europe. It 
seems the US is achieving some success in this area. See also:

  07 Oct 2005   Neoliberalism : Merkel : attempted regime change?


Original source URL:

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    The Russia-Europe Chill
    Le Monde | Editorial
    Wednesday 09 May 2007

Several days before the semiannual summit between the European Union and Russia,
which will be held May 17 and 18 in Samara (along the banks of the Volga), 
tensions have never been so intense since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The list 
of contentious subjects lengthens, and the tone of the statements emanating from
Moscow is ever less amenable.

The first signs of cooling appeared at the beginning of 2006, when the Russians,
in order to pressure Ukraine, closed the natural gas pipelines that cross that 
country, striking several clients in Western Europe. At the same time, Russia 
closed its borders to Polish meat: the pretext was hygiene, but in reality, it 
was a matter of punishing Warsaw for its support of the Orange Revolution in 
Ukraine and of the democratic movement in Belarus. Under these conditions, it is
difficult for the European Union to support Russia's candidacy for the WTO, the 
credo of which is free trade.

The decisions by Poland and the Czech Republic to welcome elements of the 
American anti-missile shield on their territories has done nothing to make 
things easier. After a speech that was very Cold War in its tone, at the 
beginning of the year in Munich, Vladimir Putin threatened to withdraw from the 
two arms-limitation treaties that hallow the disappearance of blocs in Europe. 
The conflict in recent days between Estonia and Russia over the transfer of a 
statue of a Soviet soldier from the center of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, to 
a cemetery on its outskirts has poisoned relations with the entire European 
Union still further, despite Brussels' moderate reaction.

These are not just simple squabbles, but the consequences of the 2004 entry into
the European Union of countries from Central and Eastern Europe, especially the 
Baltic States. Whatever they say, the Russians have never really accepted those 
entries. As for the countries in question, they bring into the Union an 
experience of relations with Moscow marked by over a half-century of domination.
That sensitivity, which Western Europeans do not share, makes the new entrants 
more leery - or less naive - with respect to Russia's intentions.

Meanwhile, as the EU and Moscow are supposed to negotiate the renewal of their 
association agreement, or even a strategic partnership, the "friends" on whom 
Mr. Putin used to be able to count are leaving power one after another. Angela 
Merkel does not have Gerhard Schroeder's admiration for this "pure sugar 
democrat," and Nicolas Sarkozy has promised not to follow Jacques Chirac's 
example with respect to personal relations with the Kremlin chief. The German 
chancellor and new French president do not underestimate Russia's weight in the 
world, but they have decided not to allow themselves to be intimidated.

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