Energy’s latest chapter of EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

The present global energy crisis might offer an opportunity for EU and Russian to move towards a softer dialogue after years of tensions, during which gas has been an increasing element of distrust, among many others. Progress will require to move away from mutual accusation of blackmail and of weaponing energy, and a radical change of mindset from two partners entrenched in a zero-sum game.

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The multi-faced Russian Duma election

By Nina Bachkatov

The importance of the Russian parliamentary elections, held on 17-19 September, is not so much a question of counting the level of participation, the percentage obtained by different parties and the number of seats attributed in the next Duma. Nor the level of indignation and protests expected from the West and the Russian opponents after the publication of official results. It will not say much about president Putin’s personal support. But, in a system where the president is the supreme referee, the electoral results will be used by competing groups to turn the compass of Vladimir Putin in their direction.

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Russia’s awareness of regional around Afghanistan

By Nina Bachkatov

For those waiting for clear Russian signals about Afghanistan, the clearest one came from President Putin himself on 3 September when he addressed a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum. The Forum has been established by presidential decree in 2015 to support the economic development of the Eastern part of Russia and attract foreign investors. Putin’s message to the West, with whom Russia had tense relations, was to remind that the Russian eagle on the flag had to heads, one looking West and the other East. By chance, it was from Vladivostok that Putin found himself explaining Russian positions, about Afghanistan, after a Western debacle.

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Nord Stream 2 future settled in Washington

For years, Kiev had perceived the internationalisation of its energy issues as the ultimate means to keep Ukrainian economic and national projects safely away from Moscow influence. Lately, all its efforts have been centered on preventing the construction, then the exploitation, of Nord Stream 2, the 1.200 km gas pipeline which, in a few months, will export Russian gas directly to Germany, circumventing Poland and Ukraine. Ukraine has felt over-confident that the strong Western backing should suffice to sink Gazprom chances and the Kremlin ambitions. In fact, doing so, successive Ukrainian presidents have turned their country into a pawn between Moscow, Washington, Brussels, and different EU members ‘states. At their risks and perils.

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The end of an epoch

By Nina Bachkatov

The stepping down of Grigori Yavlinsky as the head of a party he co-founded in 1993, provides fodder for a reflection on the deep transformation that the Russian political landscape has undergone since the early 1990s. On 3-4 July, Yabloko party has opened its pre-electoral Congress with a statement that the veteran liberal figure Yavlinsky will not run in the 17-19 September election for the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. It ended with a declaration by Yavlinsky that Yabloko chairman Nikolai Rybakov could be the only person to head the party to the elections. He explained that “everybody knows” that there cannot be elections in Russia anymore, after the amendments to the Constitution and the new elections laws. In the same time, he encouraged young people to engage in politics.

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EU-Russia: no Biden effect

By Nina Bachkatov

The last-minute proposal of German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron on the eve of the 24-25 June EU summit backfired, exposing the growing inability of Europeans to find a common foreign policy, notably with Russia. Their intent was noble; their method wrong. Their clumsy, and arrogant, attempt to extract a new framework for EU relations with Moscow was breaking all EU protocol rules, showing the limits of the much tutted “Franco-German couple” and the emotional dimension that still drives new members towards Russia. Continue reading “EU-Russia: no Biden effect”

Afganistan’s shadow on Geneva summit

By Nina Bachkatov

Both presidents Biden and Putin wanted to meet ‘face to face’, for their own national and geopolitical reasons. The Geneva summit can only offer a mix of “though messages” and basic discussion on matters of “mutual interests”. Among them, Afghanistan, a theme largely absent in European media coverage. Biden wants to fulfil his electoral promises to withdraw from Afghanistan and Putin is seriously concerned about stability on its southern borders. Continue reading “Afganistan’s shadow on Geneva summit”