Unfortunately, not much progress was made at the 30th EU-Russia summit. Russians in general
have a rather positive view of the EU, and lifting the visa requirements for travel should be a simple thing to bring about more contact. The Peace Prize to the EU should also remind Brussels that keeping out the largest power on the continent will not result in long-term stability and peace. Some of the former Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland and particularly the Baltic States do not seem able to shed historical ballast. Even Germany, where both the president and chancellor are from the former East, is a far cry from the politics of Brandt.
It was a mistake to grant the Baltic countries membership without properly addressing the issue of the sizable Russian minority. The biggest mistake was likely to follow the lead of NATO in the 1990s. While NATO is based on military-strategic thinking, steeped in cold-war mentality, with an evident aggressive and expansionistic streak, the EU should be based on human rights with a specific focus on protection of minorities. This principle was thoroughly compromised. What is needed is to create a climate of trust in which it will be easier to take up these issues with Russia. Of course, the example of Turkey should not have been lost on the EU leaders. While of strategical importance to NATO, it also has an abysmal record on minorities (Kurds and Armenians), clearly showing the qualitative difference of requirements for NATO vs. EU membership.
Strategically, cooperation with Russia is of importance. Considering the much advertised US 'pivot to Asia', where does that leave Europe? The large mineral and energy supplies of Central Asia could just as well be exploited by China. The EU's attempt to cripple Gazprom will not be helpful. Their own project, Nabucco, isn't going anywhere, for instance. Again, it will be counterproductive to follow the US lead with their cold-war inspired containment of Russia, their misguided focus on Georgia as a pipeline transit country and their irrational hatred of Iran. Without the inclusion of Russia and Iran as a producer, the EU energy supply will be strategically unsound.
If the EU wants to play a constructive role, in particular in central Asia other than killing Afghans, the gateway will be Russia. There are thousands of highly educated engineers, scientists and businessmen in central Europe who speak Russian and could be useful in opening markets in Russia and Central Asia. Russia needs capital and technology to develop the vast expanses of Siberia. Does the EU want the Chinese to do that job? Do the Russians? Why not establishing closer relations? Is it because of the paranoia of former Warsaw Pact countries? Is it because of some leftover cold warrior mentality of the NATO dinosaurs? Or would closer relations between Brussels and Moscow and an Asian pivot of the EU upset someone else's plan?