Russia's Great Gas Game

BERLIN – Russia and the European Union are geopolitical neighbors. Whether or not their relationship is in fact neighborly, rather than tense and confrontational, is of critical importance to both.

Unless it modernizes its economy and society, Russia can forget its claim to status as a world power in the twenty-first century and will continue to fall behind both old and newly emerging powers. Moreover, Russia needs partners for its modernization, because its population and economic potential are too small for it to play an important role by itself in the emerging new world order. Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons will be insufficient to ensure it a place among first-rank powers.

But where can Russia turn? Towards East Asia? To the south and the Islamic world? Neither of these is a serious option. As it is, Russia can turn only towards the West, and to Europe in particular.

For Europe, however, Russia’s role is of critical strategic importance. Even a partial revision of the post-Soviet order in the direction of an increased Russian grip on ex-Soviet states or satellites would drastically change EU strategy and security policy.