Simon Tisdall of the Guardian has a column today on the Samara Summit, examining the challenge Europe is facing from Russia in diversifying its energy relations. He argues that Russia is winning this grand game in part because Moscow is not at all bothered by those pesky human rights issues that hamper EU relations with alternative energy exporting countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, or Turkmenistan. Tisdall hints that soon Europe too will go the way of Russia and begin to ignore such details.
All smiles for President Putin at the EU-Russia Summit. “Russia is increasingly setting the agenda for EU-Russia relations while EU policymakers are struggling,” said Katinka Barysch.
All the same, effective EU action to diversify energy supplies faces particular difficulties that do not trouble Moscow. These include concerns about good governance and human rights in partner countries. The political show trial of a former economy minister mounted this week by the democratically challenged rulers of Azerbaijan, a key producer and transit route for central Asian gas and oil, has highlighted these contradictions. Azerbaijan’s 2005 presidential election was blatantly stolen; it has an appalling human rights record, and the use of torture is said to be endemic. But for now at least, all this is largely tolerated in the west – just as long as Azerbaijan’s feudal oligarchs keep on the “right side” in the high-stakes energy war with Russia.