May 25, 2007
RFE/RL: PUTIN SEEKS TO SPLIT EUROPE. Pres. Putin said in Luxembourg on May 24 that "there are fewer and fewer ways to influence and pressure Russia," whose economic position is becoming ever stronger, news agencies reported. Seeking to play up differences between Western and Eastern Europe, he told his hosts that "unfortunately, some countries have transposed their bilateral problems with Russia on to the European level. Those in Central and Eastern Europe...should play according to common rules." He also attempted to drive a wedge between the US and its European allies. Putin also participated in the signing of a power-generation joint venture between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Soteg, Luxembourg's main gas and electricity supplier, and a Russian-Luxembourg banking cooperation pact. Luxembourg's banking and financial-service sector is becoming increasingly attractive to Russian business interests. Luxembourg's PM Jean-Claude Juncker said that "we owe it to Europeans to conduct our relations [with Russia] rationally instead of indulging in the pleasure that some take in dramatizing them." On the subject of missile defense, Juncker said that "you haveto take Russia seriously and not play with fire." The Russian daily "Kommersant" wrote on May 25 that Juncker is "practically the last European politician for whom Putin remains close."