Ahead of the EU's Eastern Partnership summit in May in the Latvian capital Riga, Russia considers the cooperation between ex-Soviet eastern European states as an "anti-Russian move," which contradicts Russian interests in the former Soviet countries. "We will be following how the Riga summit proceeds, but it is already obvious that our reaction will be quite tough and principled," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich, according to Kyiv Post. "We see where this ‘partnership' is moving and what kind of color it is gaining, taking into view the position of participants of this program, first and foremost, of the EU," he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz on Monday, aiming to build strong diplomatic and economic cooperation against Russia in the east of Europe. During Merkel's visit, the latest preparations of the upcoming summit were revised and the two leaders discussed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, transportation issues between the two countries and the minimum wage for long-distance drivers in Germany. As a NATO member with anti-Russian sentiment spreading across the country, Poland has been a strong ally of the EU bloc against a possible Russian threat to the eastern European countries bordering Russia.
The EU's Eastern Partnership brings together ex-Soviet countries Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Eastern Partnership initiative seeks to strengthen cooperation with European countries.
Yet, Russia has long been a considerable influence over these ex-Soviet countries - Armenia and Belarus are members of both the Eastern Partnership and the Eurasian Economic Forum chaired by Russia. The EU has been struggling to break Russian influence over the region.
Armenia's vital alliance with Russia would be strengthened by accession into the Eurasian Economic Union, as it would be expected to become more dependent on Russia in commercial and political matters. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia has maintained its influence over Armenia through the energy, infrastructure, and transportation sectors. Armenia purchases Russian gas at a 50-percent discount, which has helped build up bilateral ties with Russia.
In the face of Georgia's commitment to a pro-Western path, Russia has strengthened bilateral relations with the self-proclaimed South Ossetia by increasing its military presence, thus expanding its sphere of influence. As a result, there has been a strained relationship between Georgia and Russia. Relations became tense in 2008 after Russia went to war with Georgia over the two break-away regions - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Since then, Russia has provided significant backing and support to the separatists in the self-proclaimed regions, while enhancing its influence over these separatist regions.
Ukraine has become a major area of conflict between the EU and Russia. Both sides have accused each other of violating the cease-fire agreement. Russia has faced sanctions, as it allegedly continues to provide support to rebels in eastern Ukraine.
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