It’s not just the rise of the far right parties that could make cobbling together a tough Russia policy a difficult proposition for Europe. Many EU states have close ties with Russia—and Vladimir Putin knows this. Exhibit one: Slovakia. This excellent report by EurActiv and Reuters explains what’s going on extremely well and is well worth your time:
At the start of this week, while the European Union’s major powers were keeping up the pressure on the Kremlin over its intervention in Ukraine, Miroslav Lajcak, the foreign minister of EU member Slovakia, headed to Moscow. Without fanfare, he met Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, who days earlier had threatened to fly over a NATO state in a bomber jet and who under EU sanctions is banned from entering any country in the bloc.The meeting with Rogozin came several weeks after Slovak diplomats in Brussels had tried and failed to have Rogozin’s name kept off the EU’s sanctions list, three EU diplomats told Reuters, though the Slovak government has disputed that account. […]Slovakia is not the only country with torn loyalties. EU diplomats said Cyprus, Bulgaria and Hungary are particularly ambivalent about the bloc’s tough line on Russia over Ukraine. France, for example, went ahead with a €1.2 billion contract to sell helicopter carriers to Russia because cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow, sources told Reuters.But Slovakia, a euro zone member and ex-Communist state of 5.4 million people, stands out for two reasons. First, because about 40% of the gas Europe imports from Russia flows via Ukraine and into Slovakia, giving Slovakia a potentially decisive role if Russia goes through with its threat to turn off supplies to Ukraine. Secondly because Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, has been outspoken in his view that trade ties and imports of Russian gas should come before punishing the Kremlin.
Do read the whole thing. It’s essential to figuring out how EU policy might go in the coming weeks and months following elections in Ukraine.