Russian President Vladimir Putin had dedicated himself to rebuilding Russias lost outhority. But his attempts this year to tighten Moscow´s grip on Ukraine came at a heavy price for Russia and the world. A country can compel others to advance its interests in three main ways: through coercion, payment, or attraction. Putin has tried coercion – and been met with increasingly tough sanctions.
There are growing signs of trouble, especially in Russia´s rules. The sanctions were imposed by the West because of his conduct in the Ukraine, where he has, among many things, seized territory, wngineered war and refused to investigate the shooting down of civilian airliner MH17.
Putin’s covert aggression in Ukraine continues – and so do Western sanctions against his country. Already expelled from the G8 club of wealth nations after the annexation of Crimea, Putin was futher ostracized at the G-20 summit held in Nobember in Austrialia, which lost 38 of its citizens on Flight MH17.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in greeting Putin, “I guss I´ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin’s main European interlocutor, seemed to be the only one willing to hear him out. Next day Merkel delivered a speech predicting a drawn out confontation with Moscow.
In recent days the rouble has colapsed, losing almost 40% of its value over three weeks and in early December, Putin was forced to cancel one of his legacy projects, the South Stream natural gas pipeline into Europe. This is the biggest crisis of Moscow and it is entirely Putins fault. In the short term, there is not a great deal that Putin can do to get his country out of the mess that he has made. But to improve the long-term prospects of Russian economy that is heading into a deep recession, Putin knows what to do and what to avoid. To build an economy based on the Rule of law and to pull back from eastern Ukraine would be first step and seek some accommodation with the government in Kiev and the EU that could lead to the lifting of sanctions.
Not without significance is also the EU´s energy diplomacy, which aims to maintain mutually beneficial cooperation with its existing suppliers. The crisis in Ukraine has heightened concerns that the flow of Russian gas passing through this country may be interrupted and has reignited calls for dependency on Russian gas to be reduced. Secure, sustainable and competitive energy is of fundamental importance to the EU economy, industry and citizens. Diversification of gas supply has been a strategic priority for the European Union since its dependence on imports began to grow in the early 2000s.
The EU should look for alternative energy sources in different regions to enhancing energy security. Achieving these policy objectives reguaires EU action internally and the appropriate instruments to promote EUs interests abroad. We could not agree more then the conclusion of the 18 December European Council: “The EU and the US should make all efforts to conclude negotiations on an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial TTIP by the end of 2015”.