Congratulations, all those bozo nationalists working to keep Europe divided - you're doing a great job.
Meanwhile, the countries of the European Union have been at sixes and sevens in their relations with Moscow. It's a general rule that if you want to see the EU at its most divided, supine and implausible, you should look at it from the vantage point of a rich, large, powerful country, be it Russia, China or the United States. Policymakers in Beijing, Moscow and Washington share views of the EU ranging from the sceptical to the contemptuous, for they see each national government privately coming, cap in hand, to make its own deal. Small wonder that Putin's Russia feels it can pursue its own national interests better by dealing with individual European powers. Europe, as it currently behaves towards Russia, China and the US, is a standing invitation to "divide and rule".
The kow-towing is personal as well as national. The former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, having smoothed the way for Russia's Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic sea while in office, is now chairman of the pipeline consortium. In an interview less than 18 months ago, he was still publicly sticking by his claim that Putin is a "flawless democrat". Oh yes, and black is white.
A recent report by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a pan-European thinktank (full disclosure: on whose board I sit), documents this pathetic disarray. It also points out that if you treat the EU as a unit, it is potentially far more powerful than Russia. Its total economy is 15 times the size of Russia's, which barely outstrips that of Belgium and the Netherlands combined. About half Russia's trade is with the EU, while Russian gas supplies only 25% of current EU gas needs. As for "soft power" - the power to attract - Russia does not begin to compete. It's only because Europe is so divided that the tail wags the dog.
September 17 in history
3 hours ago