-Russia relations have been increasingly tense since Russia’s annexation of Crimea. EU policy, once focused on cooperating with Russia, has begun to focus on containing, countering and changing Russia. Nearly all talks and joint projects between the two nations have been suspended. However, no new formal policy has been adopted against Russia. It would be challenging to do so, for the EU must consider a diverse set of viewpoints: Poland, the Baltic nations, and the United States are wary of Russia and eager for an approach to make Moscow back down in Ukraine; Germany, Italy, France, and Spain have economic ties to Russia and favor a more economically strategic approach; while, lastly, weaker nations (Greece, Hungary and Cyprus) look to President Vladimir Putin as a potential ally and financial donor and seek an approach that places less pressure upon Russia.
Although the EU has not yet emerged with a formal policy, it has been utilizing its economic sanctions against Russia to accomplish various short-term goals. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say whether or not the sanctions have been truly effective. They have certainly had a negative effect upon the Russian economy, but Putin may be willing to sacrifice a great deal of economic pain in order to achieve his geopolitical goals. In addition, his state-controlled media is highly adept at manipulating citizens’ perceptions through propaganda. For example, Russian media blames the West for the country’s economic downturn as well as the Ukraine crisis. The combustible mix of anti-Western rhetoric, deteriorating economy, and nationalist propaganda is a dangerous combination for Europeans and Russians alike. With this, and the two sides inability to see eye-to-eye, talk of a second Cold War might not be so unwarranted after all.