Moscow blocks the path to the EU

Russia has applied more and more pressure on its former satellites to join its proposed Eurasian Union. Lithuania, which is keen to forge new ties with the EU, is also coming under increasing powerful pressure.

Russian customs-bullying of Lithuania is part of a bigger power struggle. The Kremlin is geared itself towards obstructing the European Union’s Eastern Partnership policy and forcing Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia to forsake any attempt to get close to Europe, instead seeking to push these countries back under Moscow’s rule via the so-called Eurasian (customs) Union.

Throughout September, vehicles with Lithuanian number plates have been targeted at the Lithuanian-Russian border, and subject to the most gruelling customs checks. This new crackdown started on September 11, and has targeted anyone trying to bring Lithuanian goods into Russia.

New trade front

This week, Russia announced stricter quality requirements on milk products from Lithuanian. Naturally, this is causing financial losses for Lithuanian transport companies and exporters. If this is not an example of the Kremlin punishing Lithuania for protecting Eastern Partnership states, then what is?

What is the current situation in this geopolitical tug of war? Russian President Vladimir Putin has quickly succeeded in drawing Armenia closer to the Kremlin-controlled customs union. Armenia will not be signing any agreements with EU in Vilnius.

With Armenia beaten, Azerbaijan will be next to feel the heat, according to widespread speculation following comments by Mr Putin on the Karabakh conflict. However, the actions may not be limited to simply frustrations at customs borders. Despite enormous pressure, Ukraine is still standing tall, and refusing to bow to Kremlin blackmail. The Ukrainian government has approved a draft EU association treaty, and plans to sign it in Vilnius. Meanwhile, Moldova is also coming under Russian pressure.

Indeed, the threats are getting more severe, with the Russian vice prime minister saying that should Moldova continue to follow its European aspirations, it may lose control over Transnistria and face a cold winter – implying Russia may cut Moldova’s energy supplies. Moldova has not blinked.

It does feel like EU has lost the battle in the Caucasus. Rather in the area north of the Black Sea, Kremlin pressure has rather had the opposite effect, motivating Ukraine, Moldova and the EU to work towards closer cooperation – and faster.

Full article: Moscow blocks the path to the EU (presseurop)

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