The EU, Russia’s No. 1 customer and investor, was set to give its neighbor a boost yesterday by resuming cooperation talks suspended after Russia’s war with Georgia.
Critics say it is too soon to forgive Russia because its troops remain implanted and unchecked in the two breakaway Georgian provinces at the core of the war.
But with the financial crisis shaking global markets, officials of the 27-nation EU say reaching out to Moscow is crucial to ensuring stability and to keeping Russia from shutting off its economy to outsiders.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy — whose country holds the rotating EU presidency — were to meet in Nice yesterday in a summit expected to formalize the resumption of talks.
“The conflict in Georgia has emphasized the crucial need for permanent political dialogue between the EU and the Russian Federation, while the global economic crisis has underlined once more the interdependence between the EU and Russian economies,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said ahead of the summit.
EU foreign ministers agreed earlier this week to resume talks with Russia, put on hold in September. They aim for an agreement that would increase economic integration, tighten relations on justice and security and boost cooperation in education and science.
Russia recently threatened to install short-range missiles close to EU borders in response to US plans to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic — though Medvedev has since scaled back the threat.
“We cautioned the EU and its member states about starting the partnership and cooperation negotiations in light of Russia not fulfilling the ceasefire agreement” ending the Georgia war, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Merkel said in a statement.
In related news, Russia will pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty if ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia are set on the path to NATO membership, Interfax news agency quoted a government official as saying yesterday.
“If Ukraine and Georgia are granted NATO Membership Action Plans [MAP], then the revised CFE treaty will be doomed,” Interfax quoted an official as saying.
“If MAP starts being implemented for Ukraine and Georgia, Russia will not only continue the moratorium it imposed on the CFE, but will ultimately pull out of it.”
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