The “Russia First” Syndrome

Adrian Blomfied at the Independent hits the nail right on the head in explaining how Vladimir Putin and Gazprom have recruited such expensive and powerful cheerleaders in key Western countries – the process Bob often calls disaggregation and co-optation. One does wonder what kinds parties Putin and Berlusconi will throw together on their jointly owned private island….

For much of Verdi’s opera, Nabucco is struck by madness, initially believing he is God before losing his senses entirely after being struck by a thunderbolt. Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, has frequently mocked the Nabucco project for suffering similarly grandiose delusions – and not without reason. He has found it relatively easy to woo big energy companies in powerful EU countries with lucrative contracts to the detriment of both Nabucco and collective energy security.

Mr Putin has compounded this by courting powerful European politicians. Gerhard Schroder, the former German chancellor, is now in the pay of Gazprom, Russia’s state gas monopoly, while Mr Putin has forged so close a bond with Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, that the two men are planning to buy an island together, sources in Moscow claim.

As a result, France, Germany and Italy have, to varying degrees, adopted what pundits at EU headquarters in Brussels call a “Russia First” policy. Wary of upsetting the Kremlin on its most sensitive subjects, the three have often distanced themselves from former Soviet states seeking to draw closer to the West.