Getting Tough With Russia


Russia under President Vladimir Putin is growing more assertive, and Europe is reacting. European Union foreign ministers discussed how to curb Russian aggression at a meeting in Viana Do Castelo, Portugal, September 7. In addition to working toward a common position on the issue of Kosovo, the ministers called for a stronger stance in dealing with Moscow.

“In the past, Poles were accused of Rusophobia, and their doubts concerning Moscow were ignored in the EU,” said Polish Radio (September 10). It is not the case anymore. Fears over Russia’s growing influence in the energy sector, as well as its aggressive maneuvers over the past year, have brought Eastern Europe’s “Rusophobia” more into the mainstream.

From the assassination of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko to the missile that landed in Georgia, events over the past 12 months have given the EU great cause for concern.

“Our eastern neighbor creates a political problem,” said France’s head of diplomacy, Bernard Kouchner (ibid.).

“Russia should behave like a responsible state if we have to cooperate,” said British Foreign Minister David Milliband.

The EU’s external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, raised concerns about Russia’s human rights record and its questionable democracy. Russia has also frustrated Europe with its opposition to independence for Kosovo.

Although EU foreign ministers at the Portugal summit were unanimous in wanting to take a harder line toward Moscow, some EU states believe the Union still needs to be more unified in its policies on Russia. Several nations were disappointed that the EU did not censure Russia over the Georgian missile incident, for example.

“This systematic slowness is because we cannot agree [on] a common approach as we try to make the best deals on a nation level,” Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks said. “This makes the EU vulnerable” (Reuters, September 7).

Fear of Russia is sure to prove an important catalyst for European integration. Few things cause nations to set aside their differences and to unite more than a common threat. Watch for Europe to unify in order to deal with Russia, first by seeking a treaty with Russia to secure its eastern flank, and later, the Bible prophesies, through war.