How the Kremlin may enhance its energy leverage in the West and what should we learn from Central and Eastern Europe
The EU has been increasingly caught up in its own internal struggles over the past years . As usual, Moscow has three main instruments to exert significant political influence. Its main weapons to do so are: – direct military intervention and conflict fueling in ex-USSR states; – “hybrid war” methods such as cyberattacks, disinformation, trolls, covert financing of extremist parties and the like; and – its energy leverage.
Naturally, the intensity with which these three instruments are used is much stronger in Russia’s geographic proximity. However, they can be employed to a fuller extent in this region only because of the vacuum created by poor governance, as well as extensive dependency on Russian energy supplies or transit fees.
Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine are the “laboratory” where Kremlin flexes its muscles by taking advantage of the countries’ increased energy dependence, combined with institutions systematically weakened by breaches of the rule of law. Only EU’s strong safeguards against abusive anticompetitive behavior, alongside its support for key institutions, administrative controls, regulators, judiciary etc. protect its members, so these safeguards must themselves be carefully protected behavior in eight member states resulted in no more than a slap on Gazprom’s wrist5 for its well documented abuses: the Russian state company sought to segment the EU market in order to increase market domination through long term rigid contracts to foreclose markets, apply restrictions on re-export.