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#12 - JRL 7066
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
No. 29
February 14, 2003
translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
Isabelle Facon, expert of the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS), Arnaud Dubien, expert of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS)

By signing the joint declaration with France and Germany on Iraq, Russia has displayed solidarity with the key European countries in the most acute issue of international politics. It seems that this event is at variance with the apprehensions of a number of European observers and politicians with regard to Americocentrism, which has strengthened in Russia after September 11, 2001.

There are quite a few reasons for an obvious turn of Russian diplomacy to Americocentrism. In Russia, a part of the diplomatic and military establishment and experts in international affairs are still nostalgic for the relations between the two superpowers of the Cold War times. September 11, 2001 seemed to them "a good chance" to confirm the hope that their country will again become a priority partner for the USA. The inequality of the opportunities of the two countries in their eyes would "disappear" against the background of a common threat of international terrorism. In the eyes of this part of the Russian elite, this has played down Europe's importance, which is being accused of the lack of understanding of Russian realties and inability to efficiently act in the international arena.

No doubt, the European Union has difficulty working out a common stand now, something that has been demonstrated by differences on Iraq in recent time, while the European policy of security and defense seems to be marking time. However, the opinion of Russian authorities and experts that the future development of Russian-European cooperation depends only on the EU is explained not only by the sluggishness of the European Union but also by the temptation on the part of Russia to give preference to cooperation with the USA, because politically it seems to be more "rewarding," while the EU remains less complaisant than Washington with regard to the files that are seen by Moscow as ticklish (human rights and the freedom of the press, Chechnya, corruption, etc.). Obviously, high tension on the Kaliningrad issue in 2002 should also be included in this delicate context.

The European side is afraid lest the self-confidence that Moscow draws from its "strengthened partnership" with the USA should contribute to the weakening of its attention to the positions of the main partners in the European arena - the European Union, OSCE, Council of Europe.

What is more, Russian-US partnership itself is not devoid of frictions when the point at issue is Central Asia and the Caucasus, NATO, the relations that Moscow maintains with Iran, arms deliveries to China. A number of experts also ask the question of the consequences of a potential takeover in Washington in 2004 for Russian-US partnership, for it largely depends on personal relations between Bush and Putin.

What may be the prospects for political cooperation and Russian-European security?

First of all, it is to be hoped that Russian politicians will continue to believe in the efficiency of the factors that prompted them to look for the ways of strengthening cooperation with the EU in 1999-2000. Apart from that, many of these factors are not linked with the problems of Russia's relations with the USA. This refers, in particular, to the economic might of the European Union and its weight in Russia' foreign trade.

No doubt, France has been allotted a special role in order to give "a new lease of life" to Russian-European cooperation. Paris, which still confirms its intention to vigilantly follow internal changes in Russia, is simultaneously very attentive to the position and sensitivity of Moscow on a number of files (on Kaliningrad in recent time).

So, France is a country that may contribute to getting Russia involved in European processes - both in the political and economic fields (indicative in this respect is the example of cooperation between the European aerospace concern EADS and Russian enterprises). It is to be hoped that the recent visit of Vladimir Putin to France will really lead to the strengthening of Franco-Russian relations, which is so needed now that Europe is in search of unity.

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