So much for a Russia reset. Observers are already declaring the death of EU foreign policy following a humiliating trip to Moscow by European High Representative Josep Borrell. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has warned the Kremlin is ready for a complete “break” with the EU, severing existing ties should Brussels dare to implement a new round of targeted sanctions.
Lavrov is (probably) bluffing. Russia is dependent on energy exports to the EU in order to prop up a corrupt and inefficient economy. Yet, at the same time, the EU also depends on Russian energy to keep the lights on; Russia is the EU’s main supplier of crude oil (30%), natural gas (40%) and solid fossil fuel such as coal (42%). Both partners need one another (though that mutual energy dependency may change as the EU transitions away from fossil fuels).
Should the EU work to reduce its dependency on Russia? French President Emmanuel Macron has argued there cannot be peace in Europe without engaging Russia. Others, however, have criticised this approach, with some describing it as engagement for its own sake without any broader strategy behind it. The humiliation of Borrell in Moscow has hopefully demonstrated that Europe first needs to work out what it wants to say to Russia, and talk only when it is appropriate to talk.
Can the EU afford to cut ties with Russia? Should Europe cancel the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project and work harder to reduce its energy dependence on the Russian Federation? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!