EU-Russia Détente

Over the objections of Lithuania, the EU has decided to unfreeze partnership talks with Russia. By a happy coincidence, on the same day, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller announces that natural gas prices for Europe will decline in 2009.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Russia is willing to respond to favorably to engagement. That leaves three questions that the West needs to ask itself. First, is that likely to reverse Russian policy in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Second, is that likely to make future Russian behavior more responsible and predictable? And third, do the areas where Russia is willing to behave cooperatively outweigh the areas where it isn’t?

The answer to the first is, Most probably not. The answer to the second is, There are positive signs (Trans-Dnieper and Nagorno-Karabkh) but no real way of knowing til we get there. And the EU’s answer to the third seems to increasingly be, Yes.

Setting aside the potential impact of the financial crisis and the drop in energy revenues on Russia’s prospects for a return to great power status, I continue to maintain that, like it or not, the Georgia War was a strategic success for Moscow.

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