European unity is indivisible. When one nation is intimidated or ostracized, all are not free. Every aspect of our shared culture, if not the last century of shared suffering, confirms that for us.
So a prime objective of the European Union is to promote stability and security through a dynamic structure of economic and political inter-dependence in which all nations have a vested interest. But such a structure is lacking today between the EU and Russia, to the detriment of all the countries that lie between them. Thus it is vitally important that Germany has made this a central issue for its EU presidency, which is just beginning.
With high prices for crude oil and natural gas bloating its coffers, Russia is once again aggressively confronting the small and still relatively weak states that fled the eroding Soviet empire 15 years ago. Given the residual economic and institutional ties born of the Soviet era, Russia’s external influence in this region remains enormous. But Russia is also now extending its grasp of energy markets beyond those of its immediate neighbors.
Europe’s relationship with Russia is too important for it to be developed in an ad hoc fashion through bilateral arrangements. Today is Europe’s moment of maximum flexibility; as dependence on Russian energy supplies grows, the EU’s leverage weakens. So Europe’s strategy cannot be to take the historically well-trodden path of least resistance.