Fraser Cameron, the director of the EU-Russia Centre, has a good opinion column in the Moscow Times today taking a look at the various “carrots” available to Europe to improve relations in Russia, as they meet for their Summit today way, way, way out east in Khabarovsk (nine time zones from Brussels). Unfortunately the early reports from the summit don’t look so good, at least on energy.
How should the EU react to inevitable Kremlin pressure and attempts to divide it? The first step is for member states to recognize that the EU has a number of strong cards to play in negotiating with Russia. The EU has almost 500 million citizens compared to Russia’s 140 million. The far wealthier EU has the largest and most attractive internal market in the world, and Russian companies want a slice of this pie. Europe pays top rates for Russia’s natural resources, and Gazprom gets 70 percent of its profits from sales to the EU. The EU buys nearly 60 percent of Russia’s total exports. Moscow wants to join the WTO, and the EU can help facilitate this process.
Although the EU has no single big carrot, it has many things that the Kremlin would like. EU policy, therefore, must be based on a firm understanding of its common interests and then pursuing these interests with a single voice. It is difficult, but not impossible.