The situations in Ukraine and in Syria have shown both the EU and the U.S. that Russian authorities have chosen a bluntly conflicting stance and strategy. This will not be "business as usual;" it will remind us of the Cold War. There are too many issues at stake to be able to disregard Russia and establish a "containment" policy that ostracizes the Putin administration.
First of all, the situation during the Cold War was totally asymmetrical, with the USSR needing to import huge amounts of cereals from the U.S. and Canada, which never used this situation as a real instrument of pressure. On its part, NATO alliance countries did not really depend on anything from the Soviet economy. Only the Federal Republic of Germany, within its "Ostpolitik" approach, was financially supporting the German Democratic Republic for reasons that had nothing to do with the economy.
Today the situation is totally different. Most of the energy that Northern EU countries import transits through Russia, which badly needs this income for its economy. But given the embryonic civil war in Ukraine and the bloodshed in Syria, there is no political normalization possible in the foreseeable future. Therefore, a number of structural adjustments will have to take place, starting by redefining energy routes. Any alternative energy route to partially replace the Russian/Ukrainian infrastructure has to go through Turkey. In that sense, the Caucasian, Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean regions have gained unexpected importance. A more "military" understanding requires a deeper integration among countries in the region. Some important bottlenecks appear in front of Turkey, whose persistence can prevent the restructuring of the whole continent:
The first issue is the normalization of political relations between Turkey and Israel. After a long period of very tense diplomacy and mediations, there is a possibility that both countries might resume their diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. That is required to pave the way for the implementation of a very strategic pipeline junction between Israel and Turkey, beneath the Mediterranean, to transport Israeli natural gas. The paramount goal remains to establish this pipeline.
The second issue is the situation in Cyprus that remains the Gordian knot of the whole structure in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek Cypriot government has at last taken some steps towards accepting an institutional modus vivendi with Turkish North Cyprus, but this has to come to a solution as soon as possible, if democratic countries wish to see a stable regional situation in that part of the globe.
The third issue is that the Turkish position for Syria, for Egypt and, as a whole, for the Middle East has proven to be much more realistic than the policies and stances adopted by the U.S. and by a number of other EU countries. Much-needed deep cooperation between Turkey and its NATO allies has become imperative to forge a solution to the growing instability in the region.
Last but not least, the perennial attitude of delaying Turkish accession negotiations has become unsustainable both for Turkey and the EU. We will be entering the 10th year of our so-called negotiations in a few months, and there are still two thirds of the acquis communautaire that are not on the table. This has lost its momentum and motivation and become a subject of conflict between the two partners at a time when increased cooperation is required.
In light of all these steps, it would not be presumptuous to expect important steps to be taken jointly by the U.S., the EU and Turkey in coming months. A hot summer very likely awaits us.