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EU Decision a Hard Nut to Crack for Russia

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posted on Sep, 2 2008 @ 06:41 AM


The EU's signal to Russia might seem harmless at first sight, but it's tougher than it looks, says DW's Ingo Mannteufel.

At their emergency meeting on the Cacasus conflict, EU leaders decided to continue their negotiations with Russia about a partnership agreement only after Russian troops have been withdrawn from the Georgian heartland. Considering the sanctions against Russia that had been discussed and called for by some EU states ahead of the meeting, this decision seems like a relatively harmless reprimand. But it isn't.

The EU's course of action is sensible, because the bloc has avoided escalating the charged atmosphere between Russia and Europe even further. Sanctions would have simply escalated the situation, which would have been harmful for Russia and Europe. The EU, in its entirety, did not continue the "war of words" waged by Georgia, Russia and some European countries.

But the EU's decision is also harsh, as heads of state and government basically presented Russian President Medvedev with the choice of burying a political partnership with the EU or suffering a serious setback domestically.

Russia has agreed to the six-point-plan as a ceasefire agreement, but it's not that easy for Medvedev -- according to his own logic -- to recognize Georgia's territorial integrity and pull back Russian troops that have moved into Georgia to behind the old front line.

It's a harsh and equally sensible reaction.

The Russian population and especially the Russian military would not understand a withdrawal in light of the Kremlin's massive information campaign and a demonstratively displayed self-righteousness as far as the Russian actions are concerned.

The own propaganda is coming back to haunt them. An order to withdraw could be interpreted as a sign of weakness of the president, who was only elected a few months ago.

That's why this seemingly harmless decision by the Europeans is really a hard nut to crack for the Kremlin, which is now finding itself between a rock and a hard place.

The decision has shown that the EU -- despite its differences -- is capable to have a tough and smart Russia policy. For Russia, there's more at stake than simply an agreement with the Europeans on paper that doesn't blush.

President Medvedev has to decide now whether Russia wants to be the European Union's partner -- or not.

Interesting opinion of Ingo Mannteufel, who heads the Deutsche Welle's Russian online and radio departments.

Already yesterday, prior to the meeting, I knew no sanctions would follow as the EU could simply not afford, and would not be willing, to damage its political relations with Russia, to an extend that it would hurt our economic ties.

However, Russia should know it cannot do whatever it desires without facing the consequences. Yes, Saakashvili is a madman, but Russia should have withdrawn its troops in accordance to the treaty it signed.

As the author says, Medvedev will find himself between a rock and a hard place. Withdrawing its troops from Georgian soil, thus obeying EU demands or facing the economical consequences.

Russia needs Europe and Europe needs Russia. No one could possibly deny that EU is heavily dependent on Russian gas/oil imports. However, the majority of Russia's oil and gas transport infrastructure leads to Europe. These pipelines are billion Dollar projects, thus making it impossible for Russia to suddenly switch to other customers - it lacks the infrastructure to do so.

What they could do, though, is temporarily close the gas/oil tab to Europe, which is why the EU decided not to implement sanctions.

This political co-operation agreement is of bilateral importance, but eventually of greater importance to Russia. One of the most important reasons being that it would allow the Russian economy to benefit much more from foreign investment.

I wonder how this will develop.

[edit on 2-9-2008 by Mdv2]


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