Alwaght- The Russian-European relations have always been overshadowed by some concerns, and the European leaders always suffered mistrust and doubts in dealing with Russia. But the exchanged needs of Moscow and Brussels have prevented them from cutting off ties and putting each other aside as key partners. Actually, the EU cannot disregard one of the world’s biggest countries standing just next to its borders.
Russia as an important EU’s trading partner
Russia ranks third after the US and China as key trading partner of the European bloc. The EU relies on Russia for 44 percent of its imported natural gas. Additionally, 67 percent of the total exported Russian gas goes to Europe. The successes of the Russian President Vladimir Putin in terms of foreign policy and gaining potentials to influence the global developments largely rely on the country’s vast natural energy resources. The increasing gas prices and the huge incomes from its exports have firmed up Moscow’s position as a global energy superpower in the 21st century.
Using this strong pressure tool, the Russian president managed to embark on a new well-backed foreign policy. President Putin turned off gas tap on Europe to display to the EU his determination in his new foreign policy.
Holding relations with the EU but staying independent in policy
Relations with the Union are very crucial for Putin. The Russian embassy in Brussels, as the capital of the EU, is Russia’s largest embassy in the world. Over 40 Russia groups have the duty of working with the EU on bilateral ties. Moscow looks at the EU as the main source to meet its economic and technological needs as it presses ahead towards all-out growth. This expectation from the European bloc comes while Moscow does not want to integrate into the Union’s standards and values.
On the opposite side, the EU is concerned about Moscow’s potentials and capabilities and its likely turning into a global power and so becoming a serious rival to the bloc. Furthermore, Europe’s dependence on the Russian energy resources prevent any firm strains from the EU on Moscow. As a result, Europe does its best to change Russia into a trustable trading partner and ready to move in line with the Western values.
Is West Asia a field for better EU-Russian ties?
The main strategy of the European Union is to provide stability in the West Asian region because it feels that stability in this region produces high levels of security in the countries of Europe, as at the same time could prevent further illegal immigration to Europe. So, the EU more than any other time needs Moscow’s cooperation to provide security of West Asia.
Ukraine’s crisis and separation of the Crimea Peninsula from this Eastern Europe country drew a new red line in the EU principles, making it very hard for the Union to show flexibility in dealing with Russia. The evidences clearly show that Moscow will not retreat from firm positions in this peninsula and even seeks further cementing of Crimea’s integration into its territories.
Russia now plays a leading role in the battle against terrorism and radicalism, and EU, despite a lot of differences with Moscow in many cases including the Ukrainian conflict, cannot ignore this Russian role. Actually, the European bloc sees no other way but cooperation with the Russians to fight terrorism.
US’ fueling of tensions in West Asia: EU’s big challenge
As it was mentioned above, the distrust in Russia keeps obsessing the EU. NATO’s and US’s moves on Russia’s western borders have fueled tensions and caused Russian doubts. The Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu in an interview with the Russian Interfax news agency announced that Moscow had to take measures to confront NATO’s military build-up near the Russian borders because the Western military organization was building new military bases on the western borders of Russia and Belarus and continued strengthening military infrastructures.
The EU had always tied its security to support from the US, so it must move in accordance with the American main and strategic goals and, therefore, tolerate the US’ fanning of tensions in West Asia.
The EU on the one hand sees it unavoidable to cooperate with Moscow geopolitically and to ensure orderly supply of energy from Russia and on the other hand seeks adopting policies that prevent the Russian domination. To these ends, it needs the partnership with Washington.
The Syrian crisis, on the other side, has pushed the EU into a state of uncertainty. This uncertainty continues for three reasons: first, any confrontation between Russia and the US is in no way of avails to Europe because it destroys the stability in West Asia, something that directly risks damaging security of the EU. The second reason has something to do with the American backing for the radical groups in the region that could damage the European security.
The third reason is linked to Russia’s role in Syria’s developments. In fact, possibility of Russian military expansion in West Asia region has more than ever worried the European leaders. An example of this worry is reflected as some European ports avoided refueling the Russian warships heading to Syria to bomb terrorists, according to a statement by the Russian defense ministry. This lays bare the fact that the Western countries are unwilling to work with Moscow to face terrorism.
The EU wants quick end to insecurity and chaos in West Asia but Washington’s policy of pressing to remove the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an ally of Russia and Iran prevents this from happening. So, it appears that dialogue over a settlement for the Syrian conflict is necessary for the European bloc. This is one of the main drives of visits of Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, to Iran and other countries of the region.
In general, the Russian relations with the EU are based on fear and optimism. This fact forces the European leaders to be very obsessed with regulating ties with Moscow to guarantee strategic and trading interests and at the same time work on preventing the Russian domination over the Western Europe. Any tensions in these ties work against the EU and West Asia. Actually, Europe should take a specific policy to steer clear of grave events in the future.