EU Greenlights Russia Talks

The EU member states just greenlighted the opening of negotiations for a new cooperative framework agreement between the EU and Russia. The talks had been blocked less than a month ago at the EU foreign ministers’ summit by Lithuania, which had several outstanding grievances against Moscow, including resumption of interrupted oil deliveries. Those disputes have been included in the mandate of issues to be resolved in the new negotiations, which (barring any surprises) will open next month at the EU-Russia summit. That the negotiations’ opening rounds will take place under the French EU presidency is a stroke of luck, because France has recently been expressing a desire for closer cooperation with Russia.

The logic of the relationship is obvious, and its potential impact could be enormous if, 1) the Lisbon Treaty is ratified; and 2) the new EU-Russia cooperative framework creates the necessary foundation for a more stable tactical partnership. Those are two very big ifs, and the reality is that Russia’s military capacity is outdated and its energy infrastructure rusty. That means that it can more effectively wield its influence by causing trouble (Iran, Georgia) than by actually defending its interests (Kosovo). As a result, it is considered unpredictable, and viewed with a bit of suspicion and distrust among the hardliners here in France. Another case where values trump interest, although that could change.