Juncker’s Meeting With Putin: Is EU Bracing to Lift Russian Sanctions?

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Amid an unexpected meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear analyzes the prospect of a thaw in EU-Russia relations.

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The news of Juncker’s meeting with Putin was met with apprehension in the United States, political analyst Dmitry Babich tells Loud & Clear, as it could be an indication that the Russian leader’s attempts “to mend fences with the West” are now bearing fruit.

“[Vladimir Putin] did his best to keep good relations with the EU and with the US,” Babich says. “This is why many in the US are unhappy with JCJ’s visit to St. Petersburg. They are afraid that Putin can strike what they call ‘a separate deal with Europe,’ bypassing the US and improving relations with the EU.”

However, Washington politicians should not be concerned given that the European Union has pursued anti-Russian policies even more harshly than the United States.

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In the EU, political decisions are made by “20 commissioners who are not elected and who fulfill the orders of an anonymous bureaucracy,” Babich explains. This council fails to take into account the will of ordinary Europeans and the economic interests of its member countries. Even Germany, which appears to be a dominant power within the bloc and is increasingly dissatisfied with anti-Russian sanctions that contradict its own economic interests, cannot reverse the current trends.

“[Political] decisions are taken behind closed doors at the meetings of the so-called European Council, where Germany plays a certain role, but very estranged bureaucratic forces are at work. And there sometimes some reactionary forces from the United States are in play.”

This system of policy-making is harmful to the interests of European nations that carry the burden of ongoing sanctions. The EU blocked, for example, the “South Stream” project which would have provided Russian natural gas to “impoverished” Southern European nations like Greece and Italy.

“The EU has been irrationally anti-Russian for at least the last 20 years.”

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EU bureaucracy is “very insensitive” to economic interests of European countries, Babich said, which is why a change of relations can only be expected from outsider politicians.

“There are many anti-systemic politicians from both left and right who are becoming more popular. It’s because people in Europe are fed up with ‘politics as usual,’” he said. “Little by little they are going to be worried about the developments in the relations with Russia, and there is going to be more pressure from public opinion on the EU.”

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