European elections: Is concern about Russia boosting EU popularity?

Russia boosting EU popularity?

European elections: Is concern about Russia boosting EU popularity?

By Ian Bond, 22 May 2014
From The Christian Science Monitor

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What is wrong with German foreign policy?

What is wrong with German foreign policy?

What is wrong with German foreign policy?

Written by Charles Grant, 06 May 2014

During the euro crisis, Germany has become Europe’s unquestioned leader on economic policy-making. Both the strength of its economy and the demands of others for its money have given Germany a pre-eminent role. In foreign and security policy, Britain and France have generally set the EU agenda. The Ukraine crisis, however, may allow Germany to lead in this field, too. Germany has a special relationship with Russia, geographical proximity to Ukraine and strong economic ties with both. Meanwhile France is busy with two wars in Africa, and Britain is constrained by its europhobic domestic debate, as well as its post-Afghanistan, post-Iraq fear of foreign entanglements.

Nevertheless Germany will not emerge as a leader of EU foreign policy unless it overcomes some of the weaknesses that hold it back. President Joachim Gauck (pictured) identified two specific problems in an important speech to the Munich Security Conference on January 30th: Germany has tended to evade some of the responsibilities that other Western powers have borne; and it suffers from a dearth of strategic thinking. Gauck did not refer directly to a third problem: in Germany, foreign policy is more commercially-driven than in some EU countries.

The horrors of World War Two left Germany understandably more interested in an economic than a strategic approach to foreign policy; and unwilling to intervene militarily in other parts of the world. Although those traits have shown remarkable longevity, the various post-war chancellors have had their own priorities. Gerhard Schröder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, tried – with the help of Joschka Fischer, his foreign minister – to make Germany more ‘normal’ in the way it handled security crises. Thus German forces took part in NATO’s bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, joined the NATO mission in Afghanistan and acted as peacekeepers in many parts of the world.

But under Angela Merkel foreign policy became more cautious, particularly from 2009-13, when the anti-interventionist Guido Westerwelle was foreign minister. This shift may have reflected the public’s lack of enthusiasm for both the Schröder-Fischer activism and the US-led invasion of Iraq. Thus during the Libya crisis of 2011 Germany lined up with Russia and China in abstaining on a UN Security Council resolution (backed by the US, Britain and France) that authorised the use of force.

Gauck’s Munich speech – supported by later interventions from Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen – argued that Germany’s foreign policy should be more like that of other countries. The president said that when others regarded Germany as a shirker, they had a point. He urged the Germans to be ready to do more to guarantee the security that others had provided it for decades. He pointed out that Germany had benefited greatly from the open global order, and warned that “the consequences of inaction could be just as serious, if not worse, than the consequences of taking action”. He said that Germany should be prepared to spend money, and as a last resort, to send in troops. He noted that “there are also people who use Germany’s guilt for its past as a shield for laziness or a desire to disengage from the world”. He said the Germans should not make special rules for themselves.

To many foreign observers, Gauck was stating the obvious. Germany contributes less to European security than Britain or France: in 2013 it spent 1.4 per cent of GDP on defence, while France spent 1.9 per cent and Britain 2.3 per cent. Nor does Germany compensate by spending more on softer sorts of security: it spent 0.37 per cent of GDP on development aid in 2012, while France spent 0.45 per cent and the UK 0.56 per cent.

Germany has provided large numbers of peacekeepers and trainers for NATO and EU missions in places such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Mali, but the caveats applying to them have often impaired their utility. In Afghanistan, for example, German troops and aircraft stationed in the north could neither undertake offensive operations nor assist NATO allies fighting in the more troubled south. France and Britain are usually more willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way (although 54 German troops died in Afghanistan).

Alongside a reluctance to use force, German foreign policy is characterised by the strongly-held principle that any problem can be solved through negotiation. Though an admirable starting point in foreign affairs, negotiation without a credible threat of sanctions or force cannot always be the solution. Negotiation tout court is a ‘post-modern’ concept that generally works well within the EU, but is less effective in dealing with the very ‘modern’ (that is to say, realist) powers in other parts of the world.

The recent history of the Germans’ dealings with Russia shows how much they believe in engagement. From Vladimir Putin’s ascent to power until very recently, they believed in Wandel durch Annäherung, change through rapprochement. They wanted the EU and its member-states to negotiate ‘modernisation partnerships’ with Russia, based on the assumption that its leaders could be persuaded to strengthen the rule of law and reform the economy.

That was probably a reasonable strategy for the EU, at least for a while. Barack Obama’s ‘reset’ with Russia produced real results on Iran, Afghanistan and arms control, when Dmitri Medvedev was president (in 2008 Putin became prime minister when the two men swapped jobs). Medvedev seemed keen to modernise Russia.

However, dark forces of atavism, nationalism and militarism were building inside Russia. Rather few Germans noticed. Merkel focused her efforts on cultivating Medvedev; like many Germans (and Obama), she over-estimated his chances of pushing aside Putin. With hindsight, some of the Germans’ faith in engaging Russia was over-optimistic or even naïve.

Since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, anti-Western paranoia has increased its grip on Russian foreign policy. His behaviour since the autumn of 2013, when he started putting pressure on Ukraine (and other countries) to shun the EU’s Eastern Partnership, has been an unexpected and disagreeable cold shower for many Germans. Some of them now recognise that there has been too much wishful thinking in Germany about Russia.

German attitudes to Russia in particular or foreign policy in general will not change rapidly. Visiting Berlin in April 2014, I found that a number of senior thinkers and officials were making excuses for Russian conduct in Crimea. They more-or-less blamed not only NATO enlargement but also the EU for some of Russia’s actions, arguing that Brussels should have tried harder to consult Moscow over the Eastern Partnership (in fact, EU officials made repeated efforts to discuss the partnership with Russia, which showed no interest in the matter until the spring of 2013).

Since Germany is a profoundly democratic country, its politicians cannot ignore public opinion. Many Germans do not want to see their soldiers deployed anywhere – and are happy that they cannot be without a parliamentary vote. The Social-Democratic Party (SPD) has always contained pacifist elements and, ever since the Ostpolitik that it led in the 1970s, has tended to favour a soft approach towards Russia. German hostility to military intervention sometimes blends with strains of anti-Americanism – perhaps because the US has several times supported interventions that proved disastrous. The recent scandal over the National Security Agency’s spying on Europeans has strengthened America’s critics across the continent, and especially in Germany, where people care deeply about civil liberties.

Gauck’s Munich speech highlighted a second problem that contributes to an over-reliance on soft power in foreign policy: insufficient strategic thinking in Germany. In this context I take strategic to mean the ability of a country to define its interests in ways that are not exclusively commercial and economic; and to set out its long-term objectives and the means by which it hopes to achieve them (even if the means involve short-term costs or commitments to deploy force).

Compared to some countries, Germany’s universities, think-tanks and ministries are weak in strategic thinking. Berlin has some fine foreign policy think-tanks, but lacks the equivalent of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies or Paris’s Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique. As Gauck noted, “A security conference in Munich once a year….is not enough”.

A third constraint on German foreign policy is its economic orientation. Every European country tries to balance commercial objectives with concerns over human rights and broader strategic goals. But they do not all strike the same balance. Germany’s industrial and commercial interests sometimes drive its foreign policy more strongly than is the case in Britain or France.

During the Ukraine crisis, Brussels officials have complained about pressure from Berlin to “de-escalate” the EU’s relationship with Russia. That pressure is not surprising: German companies have invested more than €20 billion in Russia, which also provides about 30 per cent of Germany’s gas (however, only 3 per cent of German exports go to Russia). The Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, a body that represents German industry, has lobbied the German government against EU sanctions on Russia throughout the Ukraine crisis. British firms involved in Russia have similarly lobbied their government, but arguably with less impact.

Berlin has often been reluctant to criticise Russia and China on human rights. Over the past few years, German policy on Russia has evolved, at least at the level of rhetoric, to become more critical, but the same cannot be said of its China policy. Germany’s commercial priorities were evident in the summer of 2013, when Merkel received Chinese leaders in Berlin and then visited them in Beijing. German solar-panel manufacturers had complained to the European Commission about Chinese panels being dumped on EU markets. The Commission had investigated and was threatening China with penalties. China then warned the EU about possible retaliation against exports of polysilicon (a material for solar panels) and luxury cars, which would have hit Germany. The German government criticised the Commission and undermined it by leaning on other member-states to oppose a tough response to the alleged dumping. As a result the Commission backed down.

Germany’s emphasis on commerce can therefore make its policies appear ‘anti-EU’. Many Brussels officials believe that, since Germany accounts for about 45 per cent of EU exports to China, it would rather have a strong bilateral relationship than a united European policy towards the country. German officials sometimes appear to think that, because most member-states do not have much manufacturing industry, the EU cannot be trusted to speak for German companies in countries like China. Similarly, Berlin has generally opposed a greater role for the Commission in managing the EU’s external energy relations, worrying that it might disregard the interests of German energy companies, many of which are active in Russia.

But is Germany any worse than its partners? When David Cameron, the British prime minister, went to Beijing in December 2013, he said proudly that he would be China’s advocate in Europe. He also said nothing (in public) about either human rights or tensions in the East China Sea – though US Vice President Joe Biden, in Beijing at the same time, spoke out on both issues. Does that not prove that all European leaders are commercially-driven? Not quite. Cameron was widely criticised in Britain for his handling of the Beijing visit, including (in private) by the Foreign Office. Britain’s response to the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006, is a counter-example. When the Russian authorities refused to co-operate with the British investigation, Prime Minister Gordon Brown reacted strongly. He imposed visa restrictions on government officials and cut off intelligence co-operation – despite the potential threat to BP’s and Shell’s massive investments in Russia.

At the time of his Munich speech, Gauck seemed to be setting out some long-term objectives for his country. But soon afterwards the Ukraine crisis escalated, presenting some immediate tests for Germany.

Though Gauck did not say so directly, he implied that in order to lead, Germany needed to be able to act – and sometimes against its own immediate economic interests. Germany would then have the credibility to win the respect of its fellow EU member-states.

In Berlin, senior officials and politicians understand that Germany cannot lead its partners on Russia policy if it is on one side of the spectrum of EU opinion on how to handle Moscow – the soft side. Rhetorically, Merkel’s tough words on Russia in recent months have positioned Germany close to the middle. As for a possible shift on substance, it is too early to tell where Germany will end up. The pressures on Germany to remain Russia’s special friend in Europe – from business, sections of the SPD (as well as some Christian Democrats) and much of public opinion – are immense. But Germany’s partners, in the US as well as in Europe, hope that the Gauck speech marks the start of a new era in Germany foreign policy – one that is less commercially-driven, more favourable to common EU policies and more willing to take on greater responsibility for European security.

Charles Grant is director of the Centre for European Reform.


Added on 08 May 2014 at 12:23 by Joachim Bitterlich

Dear Charles,
I can follow and subscribe to a larger extent to your explanations. One of the key problems of Angela Merkel (and of the German government) with regards to Russia is a bit different to those you explain. Angela Merkel understands, probably more than many others, Russia and the mind of Putin’s policy. She is probably the European leader most accepted and respected by Putin, she would even try to negotiate the future of the Ukraine with Putin, if she felt encouraged to do so by the other Western leaders and if she had a mandate to do so. But even the trip of the untypical troika, the Weimar triangle foreign ministers, to Kiev has been „disapproved“ by the majority in the EU (therefore Catherine Ashton came back into that business, but she is not accepted by the Russians as an equal partner). Merkel will not take the risk against the will of the majority of European leaders! And by the way, she is aware of another real problem which is to some extent blocking efforts: it is the US who do not understand either Europe or Russia anymore!
Best regards,
Joachim Bitterlich

BBC Radio 4 PM

BBC Radio 4 PM

BBC Radio 4 PM

By Ian Bond, 23 April 2014
From BBC Radio 4

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Western stance on Ukraine: emotional and out of touch

Western stance on Ukraine: emotional and out of touch spotlight image

Western stance on Ukraine: emotional and out of touch

By Ian Bond, 15 April 2014
From The Voice of Russia (Radio)

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Judy Asks: Can NATO help end the Ukraine crisis?

Judy Asks: Can NATO Help End the Ukraine Crisis?

Judy Asks: Can NATO help end the Ukraine crisis?

Written by Ian Bond, 16 April 2014
From Carnegie Europe

The EU and Russia: Uncommon spaces

The EU and Russia: Uncommon spaces

The EU and Russia: Uncommon spaces

Written by Ian Bond, 16 April 2014

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US asks Europe to spend more money for defence

US asks Europe to spend more money for defence

US asks Europe to spend more money for defence

By Rem Korteweg, 04 April 2014
From International Business Times

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Europe and Russia: Continental divide?

Europe and Russia: Continental divide?

Europe and Russia: Continental divide?

Written by Ian Bond, 01 April 2014

In annexing Crimea, President Vladimir Putin violated a powerful post-1945 taboo against incorporating other countries’ territory into your own. So far, not only does he seem to be getting away with his land grab, but he has moved on to demanding that Ukraine becomes a looser federation and gives Russia a veto over its international relations. The EU and the US should be united in rejecting this attempt to reduce Ukraine to a satellite of Russia; and they should ensure that any larger ambitions Putin may have are contained.

Putin’s March 18th speech to Russia’s Federal Assembly should have triggered a comprehensive reappraisal of the West’s relationship with Russia. Through it ran a worrying thread of ethno-nationalism. Putin claimed that in creating Soviet Ukraine after the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks incorporated in it territory from the “historical south of Russia”, inhabited by ethnic Russians. He expressed his resentment that Russians had become the world’s largest “divided population” after the fall of the Soviet Union. And he spoke of “the striving of the Russian world, of historical Russia, to re-establish its unity”.

The West has consistently underestimated the extent to which Putin means what he says: he told George W Bush in 2008 that Ukraine was “not even a state”, and he is now acting accordingly. In 2006 he said that Russian ‘peacekeeping’ forces would stay in the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia despite Georgian “provocations”; in 2008, using the excuse of such provocations, Russia took military action against Georgia, effectively annexed the two enclaves and strengthened its forces there. In 2005 Putin denied that Estonia had been occupied by the Soviet Union after the Second World War, and suggested that it had only existed as an independent state between 1918 and 1939 because of a deal between the Soviet Union and Germany (when in fact it fought a war of independence to escape from Russian control).

Despite Estonia’s NATO and EU membership, the West should not wholly discount the possibility that Putin still thinks of the independence of the Baltic States as a mistake that could be reversed. Indeed, Andrei Illarionov, a former senior economic adviser to Putin, believes that Putin’s ultimate aim is to re-establish Russia’s rule over the lands it held before the 1917 revolution – which would include Finland, the Baltic States and part of Poland as well as the former Soviet Union.

Given the state of Russia’s economy, such a goal would be pure fantasy; but Eastern and Central Europe, as well as Russia itself, would suffer enormous damage from any attempt to make it a reality. Both the EU and NATO need therefore to take measures to deter further intervention by Russia, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere; to reinforce the freedom of action of allies and partners in Europe; and to encourage change in Russia itself.

The immediate need is for deterrence. The Western response has to change Putin’s calculus. The US and Europe need to make clear that if Russia moves into more Ukrainian territory, they will deny Russian financial institutions access to dollar- and euro-denominated financial markets in a way that will cause serious damage to the Russian economy and specifically to the elite around Putin. Russia’s economy barely grew last year, and the World Bank has forecast a contraction of 1.8 per cent and record capital flight of $150 billion this year (capital flight in the first quarter of 2014 was $70 billion). As a result of the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s cost of borrowing is rising, and downward pressure on the ruble will lead to increased inflation. But these effects may not last if the West returns quickly to business as usual.

It will be hard to get agreement on more comprehensive economic sanctions against Russia, particularly in the EU, where countries like Italy (heavily dependent on Russian gas and industrial contracts) and Cyprus (still tied to Russia through its off-shore financial services sector) will resist. Germany is Russia’s largest trading partner in Europe, and German businesses would clearly prefer to avoid further action against Russia; a number, including Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, Adidas and Deutsche Post have publicly criticised the EU’s approach. The German government is sending mixed signals, with Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel telling ARD TV that Germany did not want sanctions but had to show that it did not accept Putin’s “imperial policy”.

The risk is that the limited measures taken so far and the obvious divisions in the EU may lead Putin to think that the West will in the long term tolerate action in Eastern and Southern Ukraine as well as Crimea. One element in achieving agreement on tougher sanctions may be a ‘solidarity package’ to support states which would suffer disproportionately from their imposition, at the expense of others who are less affected. Lithuania is already feeling the economic impact of Russia blocking some imports via the port of Klaipeda; and the Latvian Prime Minister has indicated that in the worst case scenario a total shut off of trade with Russia could reduce Latvia’s GDP by 10 per cent.

Deterrence should not be limited to financial steps. Though the immediate threat is to Ukraine, Russia has also made threatening moves in the Baltic, with surprise military exercises including amphibious landings in its Kaliningrad exclave. In an interview with German ARD TV on March 23rd, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen urged increased NATO support for the Baltic states. She was right. NATO has already increased the size of its air policing mission, based in Lithuania (the UK will send four aircraft to join the mission in April), and the US has moved 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland. But so far NATO has not deployed any ground forces in the region. It should place small multinational contingents near the eastern borders of the Baltic States and Poland, as a visible statement of intent to live up to NATO’s Article 5 commitment to assist any ally subject to armed attack.

President Barack Obama and other Western leaders have made a serious mistake in categorically ruling out military involvement in Ukraine on the grounds that NATO’s security guarantee does not cover non-members. In doing this, they have reassured Putin that the West’s reaction will be diplomatic and economic; knowing that so far the EU has been split on imposing tough sanctions, he may feel that the price of further intervention is worth paying. Obama might instead have reminded Putin that Kuwait was not a NATO member, but the US-led coalition nonetheless intervened to restore its independence when Iraq sought to annex it in 1990. Western leaders should follow the Royal Navy motto: “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (“If you want peace, prepare war”). They should state publicly that if Ukraine were attacked and called for assistance in exercising its right to self-defence, they would be ready to deploy NATO forces. And to underline that this is more than empty rhetoric, they should open discussions with the Ukrainian government on concrete arrangements for such a deployment.

If such deterrent measures succeed in preventing any rash Russian action in the immediate future, they will still leave a changed security picture in Europe. A quarter century of (relatively) low levels of tension between the major powers in Europe is over. As long as Putin or others with similar views are in power in Russia, there will be a military and political threat to Russia’s neighbours.

In the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, NATO stated that “in the current and foreseeable security environment”, it would carry out its missions without “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces”. Both sides agreed to respect the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security”. NATO should announce that it is revisiting its policy in view of the changed situation. It would be imprudent for the alliance to abide by an agreement that Russia has abandoned.

NATO should review its relations with Georgia and Ukraine. Obama was clearly trying to reassure Putin when he said after the EU-US Summit in Brussels on March 26th that Georgia and Ukraine were “not currently on a path to NATO membership”; but he was ignoring the fact that successive NATO summits since 2008 have said that the two countries “will” become NATO members. NATO could withdraw that commitment, but that would merely reinforce Putin’s sense that former Soviet states are his to deal with as he wishes.

Georgia has consistently backed NATO membership and has been a major contributor to ISAF in Afghanistan; it should be rewarded at the NATO Summit in September with a Membership Action Plan (MAP) and a clear and short pathway to full NATO membership. There has never been a popular majority in Ukraine for joining the alliance, but after the Presidential election in Ukraine, once a new government is in place, NATO should discuss with Kyiv how the NATO/Ukraine relationship should develop. At least one recent opinion poll in Ukraine shows a sharp increase in support for NATO membership since the Russian intervention in Crimea, but at this stage membership remains a divisive issue and an unnecessary distraction from solving pressing economic and political problems.

The threats to Europe’s neighbourhood are not only or even primarily military. The prospects of all the EU’s Eastern Partners (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) have been blighted by corruption, poor governance and economic mismanagement. Ukraine would not have been so vulnerable either to internal instability or Russian meddling if it had been better governed and economically stronger. Moldova, though less corrupt than Ukraine, is still in 102nd position in Transparency International’s annual ‘Corruption Perceptions Index’. Georgia has done considerably better, but the rule of law is still weak there. And all three countries, lacking Russia’s mineral wealth, remain relatively poor.

Ukraine will need massive international assistance simply to meet its obligations this year; but financial aid should come with strict conditions, and with hands-on technical help. The priorities are to make state finances transparent and limit the opportunities for corruption; to establish courts that decide cases on the basis of laws, not in favour of the highest bidder; and to sort out Ukraine’s energy sector.

Ukraine’s gas industry has been a notoriously corrupt sector in a notoriously corrupt country. Energy inefficiency reduces competitiveness and increases dependence on Russia. Before the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian government had signed contracts with a number of Western oil majors to explore for both conventional and shale gas. Over time, these will enable Ukraine to buy less Russian gas; but reducing wasteful consumption will bring benefits more quickly and at lower cost. EU member-states like Denmark and Sweden have already identified energy efficiency as a priority area for investment.

A number of EU countries, particularly in Central and Northern Europe, are even more dependent than Ukraine on Russian gas. Reducing this dependence will take time, but is vital if the potential for Russia to use gas as a geopolitical tool is to be reduced. In a forthcoming CER insight Stephen Tindale will set out the options in detail. Europe needs more LNG terminals, and freer access to LNG, including from the US (which, thanks to shale gas, now has a surplus of gas). It needs more interconnectors, both for gas and electricity, particularly between the countries of Central Europe. These countries rely on pipelines from Russia but are largely isolated from each other and from other sources of gas and electricity. Interconnectors would support diversification, increasing both security of supply and competition. Europe needs more pipelines from the Caspian Sea and Iraqi Kurdistan. And it needs to overcome its fear of fracking and of nuclear power.

Europe is also losing the propaganda battle with Russia, not only in Ukraine but in some EU member-states. Russia has a number of means to get its messages across. Many Western articles on events in Ukraine are influenced by Russian reporting on the supposedly deep linguistic and ethnic divide between Eastern and Western Ukraine – a divide which Ukrainian census data shows is very blurred. Because Russian leaders constantly repeat that the Crimean ‘referendum’ reflected the will of the people, most Western media are now uncritically reporting this line without commenting on the shortcomings in the process. Outlets like RT, the Kremlin-controlled English language TV channel, though ridiculed by experts for their misinformation, still get quoted in social media; their views are given the same value as more objective journalism. And Western populists and anti-Europeans, including Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party and Lord Tebbit of the Conservative Party, are promoting the Russian narrative that EU ‘expansionism’ has created the problems in Ukraine.

Western media should not stoop to propaganda, but Western governments should be more active in ensuring that objective information is available – including through direct engagement on social media. The US embassy in Kyiv has done a better job than most of trying to counter propaganda directed at Ukraine; the EU Delegation there could do a lot more. If Russia’s version of the story is allowed to dominate, it will foment division not only in Ukraine but also in Latvia and Estonia, where Russian TV is widely watched; and Western publics will be less likely to back strong action if Russia continues to expand into its ‘historical’ territories.

A return to some form of implicit containment and East-West competition may be the most likely short- to medium-term scenario, albeit this would (and should) fall far short of a comprehensive ‘Cold War’. But much better in the long term, both for the West and Russia, would be a constructive, win-win relationship. This seems out of reach as long as Putin is in power, or the oligarchic concentration of political and economic power around the Kremlin and the securocrats continues. Putin has been paranoid about attempts by the West to engineer a revolution against him. Perhaps it is time the EU gave up trying to reassure him, and instead worked on a long-term programme to support democratic change in Russia. Elements of this might include:

* Strong enforcement of the international ‘rules of the game’, including in the WTO. EU member-states should also make full use of existing anti-corruption and anti-money laundering legislation, and publicise examples of those in Putin’s circle who have grown rich in suspicious circumstances (the explanation by the US Treasury of the links between Putin and some of those sanctioned by the Americans in relation to the annexation of Crimea provides an excellent model).

* Investment in the next generation of Russians through scholarship schemes and increased links between universities. The more that ordinary Russians are exposed to the realities of life in the West – and particularly in former Communist countries which have benefited from economic and political reform – the harder it will be to mislead them with propaganda, and the more they will understand how free societies work.

* Support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Russia. SMEs suffer from weak rule of law in the current system; entrepreneurs have a strong interest in change. There is funding available for help to SMEs in the framework of the EU-Russia ‘Partnership for Modernisation’, but there should be more.

* Support to civil society organisations – not necessarily political ones, but those working in areas such as protecting the environment, aiding vulnerable groups or identifying and combating corruption. This would be deeply unpopular with the Russian government, which has tried to brand NGOs that work with international donors as ‘foreign agents’, but it should be left to the NGOs themselves to decide whether to run the risk of taking Western funding or advice.

* Long-term political and economic engagement with Russia’s neighbours. If the EU can help the countries of the Eastern Partnership move from basket-cases to success stories, that will show that post-Soviet countries, including Russia, have alternatives to the way they have done things for the last 20 years, and undermine Putin’s argument for the system he has created.

* Consistent messaging to Russian society that it was not democracy and the free market that left Russia chaotic and impoverished in the 1990s, but the legacy of autocracy and communism, the worst elements of which Putin is now perpetuating with his imperial adventures.

Ian Bond is director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform.

Europe fears its dependency on Russian natural gas as US, EU sanctions near

Europe fears its dependency on Russian natural gas as US, EU sanctions near

Europe fears its dependency on Russian natural gas as US, EU sanctions near

By Ian Bond, 16 March 2014
From &news

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