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Russia’s Long Shadow

The view from Estonia.

Mar 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 24 • By JEFFREY GEDMIN
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Part of the strategy, of course, is to use energy as a weapon. Russian energy giant Gazprom serves Kremlin foreign policy goals and can punish, or please, at any given moment. Putin employs trade, including import restrictions, to show pique and apply pressure, recently blocking milk from Lithuania and brandy and wine from Moldova. The Kremlin also knows how to work internal divisions. In Georgia, for example, this means aggravating relations between Abkhazia, Ossetia, and the central Georgian government. As a former KGB hand, Putin must adore every trick of the trade. Note the recent leak of that call between a senior State Department official and the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, designed to embarrass Americans with the EU and show Washington as a meddling force in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Rich, that.

“Tight integration with our neighbors is our absolute priority,” Putin told international Russia experts last fall at a conference in Novgorod. Russia had repeatedly warned Ukrainians to choose carefully. Russian customs began exhaustive checks of imports from Ukraine last year, creating long lines at the border. Kremlin economic adviser Sergei Glazyev said at the time this was Russia “preparing to introduce tougher customs administration in case Ukraine [made] the suicidal move of signing the EU association agreement.”

Back to plucky Estonia. Some might have thought that NATO and EU membership settles everything. Courtesy WikiLeaks, we know that at least some U.S. officials have considered Estonia paranoid about Russia. It seems instead that recent events in Ukraine and Russian policy toward this small Baltic nation well might concentrate our minds on Kremlin strategy toward Eastern Europe—and on the sad fact that we don’t seem to have one.

Jeffrey Gedmin is a senior fellow at Georgetown University and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London.

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