THE failure of last week's EU-Russia summit to tackle any of the major issues between the two sides has been fully reported. However, one important and potentially dangerous matter was brought clearly into the open for the first time at the summit. President Putin complained about Estonia's controversial removal of a Soviet-period war memorial in Talinn and the subsequent death of an ethnic Russian protestor at the site.

These incidents have been followed by a siege of the Estonian embassy in Moscow and also by cyber-attacks on Estonian websites. Putin's complaint was answered by Jose Manuel Barrosso, the President of the EU Commission, in blunt terms. He said that a problem affecting any one EU state affected them all. This was, in effect, a warning to Russia that it cannot pick a quarrel with individual EU states without risking the involvement of all 27 members of the EU.

Currently, Moscow has outstanding quarrels with two other EU countries over which it formerly exerted considerable influence. The export of Polish meat to Russia has been stalled for eighteen months and Lithuania is being subjected to what seem like politically-motivated cuts in energy supplies from Russia.

Although Russia may seem to be in a position to act as it wishes, in reality it is constrained by the fact that the EU is its biggest trading partner and that it needs the EU's support for its application for membership of the World Trade Organisation.


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