Russia Drives Wedge Between EU and U.S.
Published: May 22, 2014 (Issue # 1811)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The crisis in Ukraine is giving Russia an opening to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe just as Western powers try to repair a struggling trade deal and decide how to bolster a cash-strapped NATO.
For years, the West has frustrated Moscow by offering former Soviet republics membership into economic and military alliances, undercutting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to build a regional economic powerhouse to rival the European Union and expand his military reach throughout the old East Bloc.
But sharp divisions between the U.S. and EU over how severely to punish Russia for intervening in Ukraine has given Moscow the chance to upend Western unity on other key geopolitical and long-term strategic issues. At the same time, with the West rejecting his approach to world affairs, Putin was in Beijing this week getting support from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In an interview last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the EU is kept on “a short leash” by the United States.
“The real aim of the United States is not to let Europeans to go on their own,” Lavrov told Bloomberg Television in Moscow.
Officials in Washington and Brussels insist they generally agree on how to limit Russia’s alleged meddling in Ukraine. Late last week, the top U.S. and British diplomats announced a new threat to sanction Russian business, financial, energy and mining sectors if Moscow disrupts Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine.
“It’s always a temptation to divide, to create this between the EU and U.S.,” said Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s ambassador to the United States. “Our job is to prevent that from happening and to stay united and stay focused on what we share. ...And I think as far as Ukraine is concerned we sing the same song. We want to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty; we want to help Ukraine become a full, prosperous country; we want to create a diplomatic solution. I don’t think anybody can divide us on this.”
Still, simmering tensions between the U.S. and EU have been evident for months.
Germany and France have shunned sectorial sanctions without first trying again to broker a dialogue between Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east — a step that garnered only lukewarm U.S. support. The EU can only impose sanctions by unanimous agreement from all 28 of its member states, and the Obama administration for months has pushed Europe to embrace U.S. plans for tougher penalties against Moscow.
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