Thursday

8th Dec 2022

Russian document prioritises better EU relations

A classified Kremlin strategy paper has said Russia should build better relations with EU countries in order to rescue its economy. But some EU capitals, including Warsaw, are wary of the change in tone.

The document, entitled "The Programme for Effective Use of Foreign Policy in the Long Term Development of Russia," is dated February 2010 and written in the name of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to President Dmitry Medvedev. The Russian edition of Newsweek magazine on Monday (10 May) published the text on its website.

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  • Mr Medvedev (c) arriving in Italy on an official visit. The Lavrov document has come out two weeks ahead of the EU-Russia summit (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Mr Lavrov in the preamble says Russia should create "modernisation alliances" with EU states in order to help its petro-based economy emerge from the global financial crisis.

The paper highlights France, Germany, Italy and Spain for "priority co-operation." It talks of using the Franco-German "tandem" to help gain approval for new policies at EU level. It also speaks of developing the Russia-EU-US "triangle" to gain respectability on the world stage.

In terms of concrete projects with France, it envisages new Peugeot-Citroen and Renault car factories in Russia, a joint space programme in Guinea, joint renovation of the Belene nuclear plant in Bulgaria and further co-operation between Gazprom and Electricite de France.

In Germany, it lists ongoing support for the Nord Stream gas pipeline, joint work on a new electron laser and on the Airbus A350 jet.

In Italy, it seeks to attract Italian firms to upgrade Russian railways, ports and airports and to use Italian expertise on how to stage the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

EU countries Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia are named in the text as well. It does not mention the UK, one of Russia's largest investment partners in Europe, or Poland, its largest EU neighbour. Former Soviet vassals Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine also come in for special attention, however.

Meanwhile, Russia has circulated a parallel document, entitled "Partnership for Modernisation," in Brussels ahead of the EU-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don on 31 May.

The EU partnership text highlights technology transfer in line with Mr Lavrov's new programme and is designed to be adopted by both sides in Rostov-on-Don. The partnership paper is intended to stand alongside a new EU-Russia bilateral treaty, currently under negotiation, which also covers pro-democratic reform, human rights and rule of law.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday poured a little cold water on the idea of a looming Russian transformation.

He said that if Moscow is serious about nuclear disarmament it should bring its stockpile of warheads down from 2,000 to 220, the total number in EU states. He also complained that the Partnership for Modernisation is an attempt to cherry-pick subjects from the bilateral treaty, while leaving difficult issues, such as rule of law in Russia, aside.

The foreign minister of Hungary shared Mr Sikorski's reservations, an EU diplomat said.

Russia-sceptics looking at Mr Lavrov's new programme could find plenty of material to feed concern.

The Kremlin paper envisages aggressive Russian expansion in the energy sector in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia should "strengthen [its] economic presence in the Baltic states, given the sharp fall of their investment attractiveness for EU countries and a serious reduction in the price of national assets," it says.

It also advises the acquisition of controlling stakes in Belarus petroleum refineries and Ukraine's gas transit pipelines, both important strategic assets.

"If you look at what Russia has been doing in the post-Soviet countries in the past few months, it is taking back control in an arc from north to south. The Eastern Partnership is dead in the water," an EU official said, referring to the EU's flagship integration policy for the six post-Soviet countries on its eastern rim.

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