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The Daily Vertical: We Break It, You Pay For It (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

So, 2018 is only a couple weeks old, but the diplomatic signals coming out of Moscow suggest there will be nothing new about this new year.

Speaking to The Financial Times last week, for example, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s representative to the European Union, said Brussels would "bear the responsibility" for what happens in Syria if the EU didn't cough up "dozens of billions" of euros for reconstruction.

Nevermind that most of the destruction resulted from Moscow's intervention in Syria's civil war on the side of Bashar al-Assad over the objections of the the EU and the United States.

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

The message to the West was as simple as it was brazen: We break it, you pay for it.

Or consider Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks at his annual press conference today.

Lavrov told reporters that: "Russia respects the Ukrainian borders."

But just to be clear, he stressed that he was speaking about the borders "that have been formed" after Moscow annexed Crimea.

And he spoke even as Russian troops and Moscow-backed separatists continue to operate in the Donbas.

The message to Russia's neighbors is as clear as it has always been: What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.

These signals came even as some Western officials were holding out hope for a new detente with Moscow.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, for example, called last week for a phased easing of Western sanctions against Moscow in the event of a lasting cease-fire in the Donbas.

Russia clearly wants a thaw in its relations with the West, but it wants one on its terms and on its terms alone.

It wants a reset, without resetting any of its own behavior.

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