Russia’s bilateral dialogue with European countries continued, with the President of Austria (which currently chairs the Council of EU) and the Prime Minister of Italy (currently OSCE chair) visiting Russia. The progressive strengthening of their bilateral economic engagements was noted. Austria supports the trans-Baltic sea Nordstream 2 pipeline; Russia was also pleased that Austria supported (as President Putin announced) extension of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, including in areas under the control of the Syrian government – the US has pressured other Western countries to oppose this. Italy has also expressed the hope of dialogue leading to early lifting of sanctions against Russia.
Multilaterally, the Russia-Germany-France-Turkey summit in Istanbul (October 27) also showed some Russian success in getting France and Germany to share some of its perspectives on the Syrian political process (next section).
Meanwhile, both President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke at length in media interactions about how myopic US actions were driving Europe to seek political and economic independence of action vis a vis the US. FM Lavrov said President Macron’s ideas for EU reform, including the concept of a “multi-speed” Europe and independence of action in defence and security, are “very interesting” and “overdue”, adding that Russia is in favour of “a powerful and independent European Union” – the independence being of course from the US. President Putin was more forthright in describing as “certainly right” President Macron’s views on “the need to enhance the economic sovereignty of the European Union and reduce its dependence on the United States”, opining that it was an obvious consequence of the US effort “to gain competitive advantages in business by using political instruments”. He said the US was committing a huge strategic mistake by its coercive sanctions, which are leading countries to seek dollar-free settlement arrangements, thus undermining the position of the dollar as the sole global reserve currency. He attributed it to the over-confidence of an empire, unwisely over-confident of its own strength.
October 30, 2018