The EU is losing ground in its relations with Russia and should unite behind a new strategy to secure its interests with Moscow.
Arguing the 27-nation bloc has lost leverage through disunity, a study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) called Russia the EU’s most divisive issue since Iraq war in 2003.
“Today, it is the Kremlin that sets the agenda for EU-Russia relations, and it does so in a manner that increasingly defies the rules of the game,” said former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, the ECFR’s co-chairman.
The report described Germany, France, Italy and Spain as “strategic partners” that have built special bilateral relations with the Kremlin, sometimes undercutting common EU objectives.
It portrayed EU’s ten small countries as “friendly pragmatists”, who tend to put business before politics with Moscow.
According to the report, a further nine state members are “frosty pragmatists”, critical of Russia on human rights and democracy but still keen to do business with it.
The report said the EU should push for the implementation of all international agreements and standards to which Russia is committed.
The other major industrial nations should meet at lower level in the G7 format without Russia, if Moscow does not cooperate on its commitment to the rule of law, added the report.