Dr Fraser Cameron, Director, EU-Russia Centre
27 March 2009
Seminar Room 3-1, Manasseh Meyer Building, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS
The 5th public talk organised by the EU Centre took place at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 27 March 2009 and threw the spotlight on EU, Russia and US relations. Dr Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Russia Centre and former Political Counsellor at the EU Delegation in Washington DC, reviewed the prospects for what he dubbed the “lop-sided” triangle of the EU, Russia and the US cooperating in foreign policy. In describing the relationship, Dr Cameron highlighted that the three entities are increasingly dependent on one another, especially in wake of the current economic and financial crisis. However, the dependency is taut with discomfort and distrust, particularly between the US and Russia, possibly a Cold War after-effect. The three hold differing perspectives on global ‘events’ such as terrorism. The US, triumphed at least initially in culminating public support against the so-dubbed “Axis of Evil” (North Korea, Iran and Iraq) and war against Iraq. The European public in general however did not support the war, particularly with Russia and the US having fought a complicated ideological struggle by proxy in Afghanistan.
A more overt unifying event may be the current financial crisis. In the 15 years or so following the collapse of Communism, Russia has found itself faced with the daunting task of providing economic prosperity for its people and proving itself as a democratic nation. While the political system in practice can be politely be assumed to be a brand of democracy, Russia’s economy is anything but prosperous and relies on its export commodities of oil, minerals and gas. Russia has demonstrated it can play ‘political poker’ with these commodities as more recently seen in the case of the Georgian conflict. Russia might well set aside its former power elitism and be more open to collaboration with both the US and the EU, US suspicions over nuclear armed nations notwithstanding. Russia is also of strategic value, and can extend a hand of ‘aid’ to the US in engaging countries such as Iran. For the EU, member states have to bear in mind the cost of a high dependence on Russian energy source.
Another player within this triangle can be said to be China and its goals and objectives. Russia is geographically closer to China and can choose to be more allied with Beijing, and it can play this card. With this as an additional factor, a unified perspective across the regions is unlikely in the short term.