Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins says the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny shows that the European Union must get more realistic about its dealings with Russia.
“What still has to happen to see that this is a Russia that is dangerous for Europe and for our European values?” Karins said in an interview published on September 13 by German broadcaster ARD. “We must finally open our eyes.”
Karins said targeted sanctions under consideration by the EU are only symbolic, and therefore is reiterating his call for Germany to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
Other Eastern European countries — Poland, Estonia, and Lithuania — are pressing for a halt to the project, and Karins said since the Navalny poisoning, it’s no longer possible to ignore these calls.
Latvia believes that Russia’s motive is to increase German dependence on Russian natural gas, Karins said, accusing Moscow of using Europe’s reliance on gas as a political weapon.
Some European politicians say that the EU must be use caution when dealing with Russia on international conflicts because it can use its veto power on the UN Security Council to block important resolutions. Russia also is a major ally of Syria, and the EU needs its cooperation to ensure deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Karins nevertheless said in the ARD interview that Russia today is not the Russia that many once believed would move toward democracy. Europeans must recognize that the Russian government is far from democracy, he said.
Berlin has been facing increasing calls for a sharper response to the poisoning. Some opposition politicians have called for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be canceled.
The controversial pipeline project is more than 90 percent complete. It has become controversial because it would largely reroute natural gas to Europe around Ukraine, depriving Kyiv of billions of dollars in annual transit fees.
The United States opposes the project on the grounds that it strengthens the Kremlin’s grip on the European energy market and punishes Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists in its eastern provinces.
European vessels laying the pipeline halted their work in December following the first round of U.S. sanctions that specifically targeted their activity.
Russia is hoping to complete it using its own ships, but the United States has taken steps to stop that by widening the sanctions beyond vessels to any company working on the project.
Navalny remains in a hospital in Berlin after German doctors concluded “without doubt” that he was poisoned with a military nerve agent from the Soviet-designed Novichok group. The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was flown to Germany on August 22, two days after falling ill on a flight in Siberia.
Germany has demanded that Russia explain the affair, but Russia denies any involvement and has pressed Germany to share the evidence that led to the poisoning conclusion.