Russia and the EU
Tensions between Russia and Europe have been on the rise this year. Riots over a war memorial in Estonia. Trade disputes between Russia and Poland. Russian bombers back in the air. And these problems are reflected in increasingly fractious summits between the EU and Russia. It may just be a coincidence that these tensions have got worse since the former communist countries which border Russia joined the European Union.
Is it something to do with their experience of their giant neighbour or the reaction of some Russians to what they may see as defection to the other side?
And it is not over yet. While the Soviet Union once extended its power deep into Central Europe, now the EU is toying with allowing membership to countries that have long been considered within Russia’s sphere of influence.
I decided it would be a good idea to have a look at countries along this age-old fault-line.
After all, Russia has been critical to Europe’s history, and not necessarily a force for ill. What would Europe be like if Russia had not crushed Napoleon and Hitler?
It was hard to decide where to go, and I could quite happily have spent the rest of the year travelling this long border. It seems a miss not to go to the Ukraine. Georgia is fascinating. I had a visa ready for Kaliningrad, that little Russian island, landlocked within the European Union. But time and money are limited so this is a limited snapshot. I went to Latvia, Poland and Lithuania. The Russians, in the form of the ambassador to the EU, get their say in the third article.