Oil as Weapon: Russia Again Threatens Europe

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has attacked the European Union for seeking to forge closer relations with former Soviet states.

By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
Telegraph, London

A summit between the EU and Russia designed to promote closer ties failed to disguise a widening rift. Divisions over a new EU partnership with six ex-Soviet states is complicating a drive by Barack Obama, the US president, to seek reconciliation with Moscow.

Highlighting the most visible area of discord, Mr Medvedev claimed it was anti-Russian in its makeup. “We tried to convince ourselves that it was otherwise but in the end we couldn’t,” he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stand with World War II veterans during the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow's Red Square.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stand with World War II veterans during the annual Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square.
Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA-Novosti / AP

The EU held its first summit with Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the six members of the Eastern Partnership, earlier this month. The project meant to provide aid and support to boost to ex-Soviet nations on Europe’s periphery.

But the partnership has been denounced in Moscow as a contravention of the “Medvedev Doctrine”, laid out by the president last year, which claims that Russia has privileged interests in all former Soviet states.

Jose Manuel Barosso, the president of the European Commission, sought to alleviate Mr Medvedev’s concerns by inviting Russia to participate in the partnership, but the offer is likely to be rebuffed.

Mr Medvedev also gave warning of the possibility of a new European gas crisis by claiming that Ukraine may be unable to meet its payments for Russian energy.

Millions of Europeans were left without heating in January after Moscow cut off gas to Ukraine, which acts as a conduit for 80 per cent of Russian supplies bound for the EU, over a politically-tinged payment dispute.

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