7 October, 2013 18:47 ▪
Edward Lucas: the EU has enough strength to respond to Russia’s pressure
“Russia has no desire to make friends out of its former empire. It settles for bullying them instead,“ the expert claims.
“The response from the EU so far has been modest. The EU has protested about the treatment of Lithuania, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers, and of Ukraine. Ukraine is trying to buy gas from Slovakia, reversing the normal flow of the east-west pipeline, to get round the impending squeeze from Russia. But political considerations in Bratislava are slowing this down,” Edward Lucas says.
He thinks that what the EU should do is put pressure on Russia directly. It should back those protests up with complaints at the World Trade Organization.
“The biggest weapon of all is sitting in the European Commission's arsenal, in the form of the complaint it is preparing against Russia's grotesque abuse of the European gas market. Attempts to settle this issue amicably have (predictably) broken down. When the statement of complaint is issued (which may be soon), it will not only expose Gazprom to fines, but also allow the victims of its price-fixing to launch their own civil lawsuits,” the expert admits.
READ ALSO: Is Gazprom on the Ropes?
“Another front is to start imposing visa sanctions and asset freezes against those involved in the death of the accountant Sergei Magnitsky, and the beneficiaries of the $230 million (€170m) fraud against the Russian taxpayers he uncovered. The United States has taken the lead on this; European countries should follow suit. Moreover, they should help Bill Browder, a London-based financier who is Magnitsky's former client and champion. He risks arrest when he leaves the UK because Russia is shamelessly abusing the Interpol system, claiming that Browder is a wanted fraudster. On the military front, NATO should make rather a bigger deal about Steadfast Jazz, highlighting the fact that the alliance is committed to the territorial defence of its members,” Edward Lucas says.
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