Competition in the Arctic

By Nina Bachkatov

Russia seized upon the incident in the Suez Canal to remember the world that it exists another shipping route between Asia and the European continent – along its northern coast. It diplomatically stated the Arctic route as “a complement, not a rival, nor an alternative” to Suez. In the present tense relation between Russia and the West, with China’s growing assertiveness in the background, this shipping route, entirely on Russian territory, was added to the long list of “Russian threats” to the “free world”. Paradoxically, the opening of a complete Northern sea route would result from the global warming that international cooperation is supposed to fight and the consequent acceleration of Northern seas’ melting – not from Kremlin’s plots. Continue reading “Competition in the Arctic”

The endless debate about EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

With the European Council of 25-26 March in sight, reports and proposals about Russia-EU relations have been piling up, creating the impression that something new were brewing. In fact, most of those texts attest that, despite ups and downs, the fundamentals of those relations did not change much during the two last decades: both ‘partners’ still need to adjust to each other, without wishful thinking or bitterness, and doing so open their mind to really new formula. At the light of past crisis all pretty predictable. Continue reading “The endless debate about EU-Russia relations”

Sanctions, actions, counter actions

By Nina Bachkatov

Unsurprisingly, the EU ministers of foreign affairs meeting on 22 February have given the green light for freezing the assets and banning entry of four officials of the Russian police and justice they consider responsible for the “unacceptable treatment” of Alexei Navalny. In October, the EU had sanctioned 6 individuals and one entity for their alleged participation in the poisoning of the opponent. And each 6 months since 2014, it has been prolonging sanctions taken to punish Russia for its Ukrainian adventures. Continue reading “Sanctions, actions, counter actions”

A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

The 5-6 February meeting, in Moscow, between Josep Borrell, the EU Commission Hight representative and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has opened an unparallel crisis in the rocky relation between Moscow and Brussels. Ups and downs have been part of that relation since the end of the Cold War. But, even at the most difficult moments, the partners would never have indulged in the stream of emotion that followed this extravagant meeting. The deluge of sharp, undiplomatic, declarations reduce the chances to step into a normalisation process in the short time. It would involve a capacity, and a will, to take the risk of being confronted with charges of being sold to the other, or of accepting a humiliating defeat. Continue reading “A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations”

A full reintegration, a half success

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The return of Russia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is not the Russian victory declared by those who opposed the measure. It was an act of pragmatism by the Assembly that means nothing in terms of rapprochement between Russia and EU, the latter being a body totally separated from the Council of Europe. Continue reading “A full reintegration, a half success”

Geopolitical election in Ukraine

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

If someone is tempted to ignore we are living in a fudgy post-Cold war atmosphere, suffices to look at Ukraine’s presidential elections. Those have been turned into a geopolitical game by outsiders, but also by the candidates. Part of that singularity is linked to the country’s war condition, but only part. Continue reading “Geopolitical election in Ukraine”

Crimea for ever?

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Celebrations in Crimea lasted 4 full days and included a visit of president Putin. In Moscow, there were a few flags, but no official celebrations. Seemingly, the Kremlin wants to show that Crimea is just another member of the Federation, no more no less. Continue reading “Crimea for ever?”

The symbolic visit of Putin in Paris

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Vladimir Putin occupied a prominent place in the great international gathering in Paris to mark the century of the 1918 armistice. His presence led to odd moments, especially when the Russian President, so often accused of threatening peace on the Continent, attended the opening ceremony of the Forum for Peace. Continue reading “The symbolic visit of Putin in Paris”