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The European Council on Foreign Relations published this analysis of EU-Russia relations just before last year's Russian elections. I found it very informative on how Russia has managed to crash out of the BRIC category (the other three being the rising economies of Brazil, India and China) to the point where the Putin machine has become exhausted, unable to deliver due to rampant corruption and a captive, stagnant economy, with the glory days of the 2008 military victory over Georgia forgotten and the far east being surrendered economically to Chinese domination. It is a compelling picture of a state in crisis and although the authors did not predict the remarkable outcome of the elections, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who had read the booklet.

The authors are on less sure ground in proposing how the EU should react. The good news is that there is less divergence among member states than was the case a few years ago; now that the Poles less hostile to Russia and the Germans less complacent, they have converged around a pragmatic yet mildly principled centre of gravity. The ECFR trio propose some fairly sensible measures to crystallize this convergence, including anti-bribery measures, sanctions against the murderers of Sergei Magnitsky, but also a drastic easing of the visa regime for Russians visiting the EU.

Unfortunately it is not at all clear where the leadership for taking these sensible measures might come from. EU external policies are in crisis, with twelve out of twenty-seven foreign ministers demanding that the beleaguered Baroness Ashton up her game. This year's EU presidencies are held by small countries whose governments are both deep in domestic crisis, and one of which is anyway notoriously pro-Russian. In any case EU leaders will be fully occupied with the new eurozone treaty for the next few months, whether or not they intend to sign it. So this is a set of good ideas which sadly have nobody caable of implementing them.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
What's bad news for Putin may be good news for the manufacturers of cheap ballpoints.
Jan. 10th, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
I would argue that Russian military power recovered quite a bit as a result of the BRIC-phase, and if Russia is now post-BRIC, it will be a while before the benefit from this erodes. Of course, a new surge in energy prices could BRIC up the window at any time.

So we have a challenged Russia with a political system under strain, but which has reorganised its army, topped up its arsenal, and flushed quite a bit of old equipment from its fleets in favour of new. Lovely! And the Americans are cutting back their commitment to NATO.

Of course, as North-West European offshore wind builds out, a lot of natural gas will be displaced from electricity generation (like gas, wind generation is considered a peaker source). And if the shale gas thing works out, we're going to have lots of the stuff on hand, so much so that the North Sea basin may end up staying a big exporter, ironically down the same tubes but in the opposite direction.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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