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May 30, 2006

On 'Europe's Weakness For Russia' - Implications For The U.S.?

Topics: International News

Evgeny Morozov's piece at TCS today opines on the upcoming Russia-EU summit, which takes place this week in the Russian resort town of Sochi. He says that the Kremlin has already turned most of the communication between the EU and Russia into a minefield, where nation-states walk on tiptoes to compete for Putin's heart, often ignoring orders from Brussels. So what's Russia's stick? One word - energy:

The old joke has it that Adam and Eve were Russian; why else would they think they were in Paradise when they were homeless, naked, and just had one apple for both of them? Substitute "Gazprom" for "apple" -- and you will understand why Vladimir Putin is so popular in today's Russia.

Now that Gazprom's "apples" have made every Russian if not rich then at least happy, Moscow can embark on a luxurious foreign crusade under the motto of "restoring everything that we lost in the 1990s". That includes territory, influence, money, and, perhaps most important for Russians, respect. The EU, which spent a good part of the 1990s lecturing the Kremlin on every possible subject, might be its first victim.

On the eve of the Russia-EU summit, which takes place this week in the Russian resort town of Sochi, the EU is not in the mood for Russian jokes. The summit's agenda is hardly inspiring and includes a host of leftovers from previous gatherings that all need to be resolved this year.

Welcome to Russia 2.0: the Kremlin is waving an energy cudgel at EU national capitals, with them ready to serve, pay up, and perform. Brussels has no choice but watch the show and attend bilateral summits to talk about subjects like visa facilitation.

The real significance of the EU's dependence on Russian energy is not simply economic. It also has destructive potential for what used to be a well-orchestrated policy on Russia. Now, while nobody has abandoned that policy in principle, it has given way to bilateral deals between Moscow and national capitals, with the EU desperately trying to hold power.

Gee, Putin wouldn't really use energy as a tool to whip up on the Europeans, would he?

Sounds as though the Europeans have a serious problem with trusting Russia as a source for energy. And the Europeans aren't the only ones that have problems with the Russians - with energy perhaps being the least of the issues to be considered.

Take for example what some consider as an emerging repeat of a "Cold War" between the U.S. and Russia. And we're trusting these guys on dealing with Iran?

And if Russia will use energy as a weapon against Europe, what does that say about U.S. dependence on Russian oil?

Posted by Richard at May 30, 2006 10:21 AM

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