Beware of Smiling Bears

Europe and Russia have often referred to their desire to forge closer relations - enshrined in key bilateral treaties – as a “strategic partnership.” But Russia appears to be changing the terms of this nascent relationship, and Europeans increasingly wonder whether it can continue to develop.

WARSAW – Remember the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), aimed at enshrining “commonly-shared values” between Russia and the European Community? Signed in 1994 during the hopeful early days of Russia’s first-ever democracy, the PCA was bolstered in 1999 by the creation of the European Union’s Common Security Defense Policy (CSDP).

Both sides often refer to this desire to forge closer relations as a “strategic partnership.” But as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Deauville, it would be wise to recognize that the Kremlin appears to be changing the terms of this nascent relationship.

In the wake of Russia’s apparent departure from democratization during Vladimir Putin’s presidency, and of the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, the EU has adopted increasingly cautious language, sounding less optimistic about the prospects of a real partnership.

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