Russia is hosting a summit with the EU in a city that is about as far from Moscow as it is possible to get. They have gone to Khabarovsk on the border with China, 8,000 kilometres east of Brussels. The idea, according to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, is to show EU leaders just how vast his country is. But there is distance, as well, between the two trading giants, and some diplomats say there’s discord simmering below the smiles.
The leaders are trying to overcome deep differences over commerce and energy supplies – particularly the delivery of Russian gas. A row between Moscow and Kiev cut deliveries to many EU countries, shaking Russia’s reputation as a reliable supplier. The EU upset Moscow by striking a deal with Ukraine to refurbish old pipelines. A senior Kremlin official joked that maybe Brussels should settle Ukraine’s bill for Russian gas instead. Ties were strained still further when Russia engaged Georgia in a war last summer to protect the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia has made little attempt to hide its anger at the EU’s support for Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili.