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Europe Divided, Russia Grinning

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In today’s FT: The Putin strategy is to divide Europe over missile defence

Ms Merkel wants to defuse the issue by passing it to Nato. But senior Christian Democrats voice private anxiety that they are on the wrong side of public opinion. Ms Merkel has invested much in rebuilding relations with Washington. She has eschewed the subservience to Moscow often shown by her SPD predecessor, Gerhard Schröder. But she will find it hard to ignore domestic opinion ahead of big regional elections in 2008. All this leaves Russia’s Vladimir Putin with a broad smile. Mr Putin’s foreign policy is shaped by a desire to reverse what he sees as the national humiliation inflicted by Boris Yeltsin’s tenure in the Kremlin, a period that saw Russia flirt with the idea of joining the western alliance. The Russian president describes the expansion of Nato during that period as a “provocation”. He rejects the idea of institutional links between Moscow and the European Union. Russia must be seen again as a great power, rather than an adjunct of the west. To that aim, Mr Putin has deployed Russia’s oil and gas resources to sow discord among his energy-dependent neighbours. In missile defence, he sees another opportunity to create division.