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Now let’s head back east, almost all the way. To talk about the west, of course.
The EU and Russia por the Spanish, per the Italians
Reminiscent of Russian reactions to NATO influence in former Soviet territories, the Kremlin has recently responded with understandable concern to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Initiative, a plan to tighten political and economic ties between the EU and a number of erstwhile Soviet nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. According to La Stampa, in “Niente disgelo tra Bruxelles e Mosca,” this “thorny theme” added to the backdrop of discord that characterized the recent summit held, with suggestive symbolism, in Khabarovsk, and although the EU hopes for Russia to somehow “participate in” the Partnership – where ‘participate in’ could only mean something along the lines of ‘not get too pissed off about’ – Moscow doesn’t seem convinced:
The Kremlin continues to see this as an ‘anti-Russian’ alliance and not as an attempt by the EU to accelerate democratic and economic reforms… encourage regional cooperation and foster closer ties to the European block. To Moscow, all these things stink of new spheres of influence.
Yet as stated, that’s just part of the backdrop. The goal of the summit was not to wrangle with catch-all diplomatic differences, rather simply to agree to new terms regarding energy provisions. As quoted in El Mundo, Sergei Prijodko, a Kremlin advisor for international affairs, said, speaking of their common goal of signing a new contract, “Our optimistic prognosis is to have the document ready by the end of the year.” The article goes on:
[Prijodko] indicated that Moscow would like to edit ‘as soon as possible’ the new agreement to take the place of the current one, which will come to term by year’s end, but he also admitted that differences yet persist between Moscow and Brussels regarding the document’s format and content.
Nonetheless, the ‘persistent differences’ between Moscow and Brussels that make ‘simply agreeing’ on a mutually beneficial energy pact problematic stem from a prodigious tinderbox of related factors: Europe imports 42% of its gas supplies from Russia; the pipelines that supply it run through Ukraine; some of Europe’s flow was cut off in January thanks to alleged Ukrainian delinquency; Ukraine denies its delinquency, citing instead a deep reluctance to pay higher prices; Europe knows it’s risky to take sides too decisively but can’t risk losing those supplies; Moscow knows it’s risky to react too menacingly but can’t risk not showing its mettle.