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The Russian superpower cudgel

Russia is currently putting great pressure on its direct neighbours in the Baltics, and at the recent Russia-EU summit tried to drive a wedge between the new and older EU members. It achieved precisely the opposite - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission head José Manuel Barroso declared that the argument between Moscow and Tallinn and Warsaw is "a European problem".

Russia is currently putting great pressure on its direct neighbours in the Baltics, and at the recent Russia-EU summit tried to drive a wedge between the new and older EU members. It achieved precisely the opposite - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission head José Manuel Barroso declared that the argument between Moscow and Tallinn and Warsaw is "a European problem".

The message was that tiny Estonia is a full member of the EU, which is important news for Slovakia. We also saw a new European foreign policy triangle emerge between Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Barroso, replacing the pro-Russian tandem of Chirac and Schroeder.

Putin still has the last word, as Moscow has a few tricks up its sleeve to destroy European unity. Slovak PM Fico is helping the Russians in some of this. While the Hungarians are wisely increasing their contacts with the US while their dependence on Russia deepens, Slovakia under Fico is being lured into greater energy dependence for the sake of a few arms contracts.

The problem is that European solidarity means nothing to Fico, while his mental makeup is more suited to separate agreements with Putin. During a recent visit Fico made to Moscow, it became clear that Slovakia has two foreign policy lines, with Foreign Minister Kubiš trying desperately to maintain the pro-European direction. The stormy expression on his face was a clear indicator of the success he is enjoying.

Slovakia is finding itself in an increasing strategic imbalance in which it is taking steps against its own interests. The main goal should be entering the euro-zone, but based on European solidarity - the same principle that Fico does not understand and Putin is trying mightily to sabotage.


Sme, May 21

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