Washington, 29 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- European anger at Moscow's
policies in Chechnya and Yugoslavia suggests that today's summit
between European Union leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin
will not produce the breakthrough agreements many on both sides had
But the likelihood of such an outcome does not mean that the meeting will be a failure for either side. Instead, this development
highlights the increasing importance and independence of the European
Union, something both the EU and Moscow have long sought.
As part of their effort to raise the profile of the European Union
and to demonstrate its ability to pursue a collective foreign policy
more independent of the United States, EU leaders had looked forward
to the meeting in Moscow as a chance to expand trade and political
ties with the Russian Federation.
But Russian actions in Chechnya, and more recently Moscow's hosting
of Yugoslav Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, who has been indicted
for war crimes, have raised doubts about progress on this agenda.
In an article published in Friday's "Izvestiya," the EU's foreign
policy coordinator Javier Solana said European leaders consider it "a
moral duty to protest against the fact that innocent people are
suffering" as a result of Russian counterinsurgency actions in
And other European diplomats said last week that their governments
were concerned that Moscow's reception of Odjanic reduces the pressure
on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at a time when the EU wants
him "to be made to feel more isolated." That issue too will be on
today's agenda, these officials said, even though Russian officials
have apologized for allowing this meeting.
As a result of both these actions, one European diplomat pointedly
said, the EU governments now "feel the Russians are not behaving the
way they should," a conclusion that he said is generating "a feeling
of malaise" over the future of the EU's relationship with Moscow.
At the same time, the Russian government appears to feel equally
unhappy with what for it is a somewhat unexpected turn of events.
Continuing a longtime Moscow goal of trying to separate Western Europe
from the United States, the Russian president has lavished attention
on Europeans, such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, clearly
hoping to gain sympathy and support.
But that has not happened. Indeed, the EU's toughness on Chechnya and Yugoslavia not only reduce the chances for the kind of outcome Putin and the EU had wanted from this meeting, but may also have the effect of restricting the chances still further for progress at Putin's upcoming summit meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton.
On the one hand, a less than fully successful meeting with the
Europeans may make Putin even more unwilling to reach accords with
Washington. After all, doing so after a tough meeting with the
Europeans would reduce Moscow's chances of winning their support on
issues where the EU disagrees with the United States.
And on the other hand, Clinton likely will be less willing to make
concessions to Putin after the Europeans have maintained a tough line
on issues such as Yugoslavia, where the U.S. and the EU generally have
been in agreement and where Washington clearly wants to maintain a
These immediate consequences of the EU-Russia summit are likely to
attract the most attention this week, but there are three longer-term
ones that may make this meeting a turning point in international
relations even if the two sides are unable to reach the agreements
they had hoped for.
First, this meeting demonstrates that the EU can act in a far more
disciplined and unified fashion on foreign policy questions than many
had thought. Second, it shows that Solana, who earlier served as NATO
secretary general, is able to serve as the point man for such an
And third, the meeting underscores the increasing independence of European foreign policy, not only from the United States but from Russia as well.