EU, Dependent on Russian Energy, Balks at Georgia War Sanctions
2008 09 02

By James G. Neuger | bloomberg.com


Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, left, speaks with Gordon Brown, U.K. prime minister, before the start of the European Union's summit meeting in Brussels on Sept. 1, 2008. Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg News

European Union leaders refused to impose sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Georgia, acknowledging their reliance on Russian oil and gas at a time of faltering economic growth.

EU leaders took the symbolic step yesterday of suspending talks over expanded trade ties with Russia, fearing that tougher measures would expose the energy-dependent bloc to Russian retaliation.

Russia is the 27-nation bloc's main supplier of oil and gas and third-biggest trading partner, giving it leverage at a time when the European economy threatens to tip into recession. Europe's determination to maintain business links also undercuts U.S. efforts to line up allies against the reassertive Russia.

"What, beyond rhetoric, do the Europeans have to offer?'' said George Friedman, chief executive of Stratfor, a geopolitical-risk analysis company in Austin, Texas. ``How do you have a diplomatic initiative with a group of Europeans whose primary goal is to avoid a confrontation?"

EU governments yesterday put the trade talks, under way since June, on hold until Russia makes good on pledges to end the military occupation of parts of Georgia.

"We unambiguously condemn Russia's disproportionate reaction, and we are conscious of our responsibility to maintain dialogue with our Russian neighbors," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a news conference yesterday after chairing an EU summit in Brussels.

Backed by U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, eastern European governments overcame initial resistance by France and Germany to freezing the talks, launched after 18 months of inner-EU wrangling over what kind of deal to seek from Russia.

Unity
"You have an EU of 27 members showing unity of purpose," Brown said.

Stopping the negotiations might work to Russia's advantage, enabling Moscow to play European governments off against each other in energy and business dealings.

"I am not inclined to overdramatize the results of the summit," Vladimir Chizhov, Russian ambassador to the EU, told Interfax. "But if they want to re-evaluate relations with Russia, then we'd have to do that as well."

The EU said it is counting on diplomatic isolation to force Russia to pull troops back from Georgian territory and prevent the Moscow leadership from bullying other ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine.

"I'm against any kind of escalation," Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said. Russia and Europe have "strategic reasons for reasonable cooperation."

Cease-Fire
Sarkozy, holder of the EU's six-month presidency, will lead an EU delegation to Moscow on Sept. 8 to demand that Russia pull back behind the pre-war lines. He defended the cease-fire that he brokered, which was criticized for vague language that allowed the Russian army to remain on Georgian soil. Russia calls its troops in Georgia "peacekeepers" and says they are in a buffer zone allowed by the cease-fire.

Russia went on to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian republic. The EU condemned the attempt to dismember Georgia and urged the rest of the world not to recognize the two separatist regions.

Opposition to the scaling back of economic ties is widely shared across the western European countries at the heart of the EU, led by Germany, the country with the deepest business connections to Russia.

Europe's weak hand in confronting Russia "could lead to a trans-Atlantic rift, but it would be a pointless rift because both sides are equally powerless," Jan Techau, an EU and security expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said in an interview.

Growing Clout
In a sign of their growing clout within the EU, eastern European countries once under the Soviet yoke pushed through a harder line. Some 53 percent of Poles favor imposing sanctions on Russia, with only 30 percent against, according to an Aug. 30 survey published today in the Dziennik newspaper.

The EU toughened up its declaration yesterday in a way that "definitely moved toward Poland's position," Polish President Lech Kaczynski said. The EU eyed a Nov. 14 summit with Russia as a deadline for Russian leaders to recommit to good neighborly relations.

Still, no government leader called openly for sanctions against Russia, a sign of Europe's addiction to Russian energy. Russia delivers over 40 percent of Europe's gas imports, a figure that will rise to 60 percent in 2030, the European Commission says. A third of Europe's imported oil now comes from Russia.

Energy Markets
"Russians need our energy markets and we need Russian energy -- it's as simple as that," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Russia said it won't let up until Georgia ousts its president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who has sought closer ties with the U.S. and is bidding for Georgia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney departs today for Azerbaijan and Georgia, which are crucial to the westward flow of energy via a corridor that bypasses Russia. He also will stop in Ukraine, whose desire to join NATO is opposed by Russia.

Indicating that regime change in Georgia is the ultimate goal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Russian television for an arms embargo on "this regime until a different authority turns Georgia into a normal state."

EU leaders pledged to help repair the damage to Georgia's infrastructure, plus more humanitarian aid on top of at least 14 million euros ($20 million) delivered already. The EU will also organize a donors' conference.

"We are very encouraged by the firm statement," Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said in Brussels yesterday.

The bloc also promised to establish a free-trade zone with Georgia and to make it easier for Georgian citizens to travel to Europe. It didn't set a timetable.

Article from: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?
pid=20601102&sid=aOEc0FqqXxHg&refer=uk



Related Articles
“Reuters” faked images of Georgian victims allegedly killed by Russian attacks
Putin: U.S. Staged Georgian Conflict
The puppet masters behind Georgia President Saakashvili
Why was Cheney's guy in Georgia before the war?
How Israel Trained and Equipped Georgia's Army
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Staring Down the Russians
Russia threatens nuclear strike on Poland as Cameron demands withdrawal from Georgia
EU wants peacekeepers 'on the ground' in Georgia
It is time USA should call a spade a spade
US warns Russia of lasting impact
War in Georgia: The Israeli connection
BP shuts down Georgia pipelines
American Mercenary Captured By Russians
Operation Sarkozy


Latest News from our Front Page

Pentagon launching missile defense blimps to patrol East Coast
2014-12-19 19:21
The US Army is set to begin testing its blimp-like surveillance airships, designed to help the military detect and destroy cruise missiles from attacking the nation’s capital and other East Coast cities. The blimps at the center of the tests in Maryland are unmanned, 80-yard long, helium-filled aircraft that can float up to 10,000 feet in the air. At that height ...
Sony Just Canned 'The Interview' in the Wake of Terrorist Threat
2014-12-19 18:31
Sony has cancelled the cinematic release of The Interview in the wake of its cyberattack after the five largest cinema chains in the country decided not​ to run the film. "Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business," Sony wrote in its first statement on the matter, ​as reported ...
Sweden is so deranged, there are no words to describe it – Danish politician
2014-12-19 1:53
Politically correct Sweden is such a deranged society that there is no term in social science sufficient enough to describe it – argues Pia Kjærsgaard the Danish People’s Party former leader In this article in Den Korte Avis, Kjærsgaard marvels at the fact that the politically correct are so desperate that they have graduated from using worn-out epiteths such as neo-fascists, ...
U.N. sending thousands of Muslims to America
2014-12-19 0:44
The federal government is preparing for another “surge” in refugees and this time they won’t be coming illegally from Central America. The U.S. State Department announced this week that the first major contingent of Syrian refugees, 9,000 of them, have been hand-selected by the United Nations for resettlement into communities across the United States. The announcement came Tuesday on the State Department’s ...
Why You Should Watch Beheading Videos
2014-12-17 21:13
Modernity is a dream. It is a dream that we can make the world something other than what it is through technology, prosperity, and above all “education.” People will able to pick their own “gender.” Different cultures, races, and religions can blend into one seamless, corporate-friendly whole. And violence and death, it is implied, will be wished out of existence. Today, a ...
More News »