Russia's political and strategic accommodation with the West continues apace. Day by day, relations with NATO grow stronger. The new orientation is irrevocable. But despite the price that President Putin is paying at home for his pro-Western policies--which are not nearly as popular in Russia as they are in the West--scant economic rewards, particularly from the European Union, have appeared.
Europe, indeed, seems to be in no hurry to give Russia improved access to its markets. European Commission President Romano Prodi confirmed Russia's status as a "market economy" at last May's EU-Russia summit, a move that should have improved Russia's access to European markets. But it now seems unlikely that individual EU member states will approve this designation by September 18 th , which they must if it is to enter into force.
Instead of opening the door, the EU seems determined to find covert ways to close its markets to Russian goods. Since May, the EU commission on trade policy has been preparing strict new rules to manage Russia's exports to the Union. These new regulations may turn the promise heralded by Russia being accorded "market economy status" into a mere formality that will not increase Russia's access to the EU market by a single iota.
Among the tactics the EU is using to retard Russian trade are numerous antidumping investigations aimed at Russian companies. These probes, which have the effect of blocking exports from targeted firms, cost Russian businesses $1.3 billion a year in lost exports--a huge loss in an economy that is hurting as much as Russia is.