Interview with Dmitry Suslov

Dmitry Suslov is Deputy Director of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy.  He identified for RT the issues that most divide the two leaders and pointed out the areas where they might reach agreement.

Russia Today: French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on his first official visit to Russia in this capacity. Tell us a bit more about the talks, especially what we can expect to come out from the talks, and the issues that the two leaders are split on?
Dmitry Suslov: Well, I think that the main result of the talks will be the confirmation of the fact that despite certain corrections in Russia-France dialogue, which are quite natural and which are corrections rather than changes, Russian-French relations continue to develop in the framework of strategic partnership.  And France remains one of the closest allies, and friends, and partners of Russia inside the European Union.
You mentioned splits – there are some, and the most crucial ones are energy and Russia-EU energy relations.  There are also certain international issues like Iran. But again, I want to stress that those corrections and those splits are quite natural, because the Russia-France alliance under Chirac was exceptional in international relations. It was caused by specific U.S. policies – and now the U.S. policies are changing – and by general agreement in energy issues in the Russia-EU dialogue. But now energy differences have moved to the top of the Russia-EU dialogue. And now those corrections reflect those changes.  But still the partnership is being preserved.
RT: So, at this stage there is a strategic partnership between the two countries. You mentioned the Russia-EU relationship, and in this context I would like to ask a question about the stalled EU treaty. Do you think France will help to push forward negotiations on this issue?
D.S.: I think Russia really hopes there will be some progress during France’s presidency [in the second half of 2008]. However, I wouldn’t expect much. You know, Germany is considered to be an even closer partner of Russia in the EU.  However, Germany’s presidency didn’t help a lot. And as we see, there are certain differences and tensions between the French approach towards energy and the Russian approach. There is lots of partnership in the energy field – the Shtokman field and the Total investments in the Shtokman field and so on and so forth.  But still, Mr Sarkozy wants Russia to liberalise its trans-continental pipelines and Russia is opposed to that. So I don’t think we will have a breakthrough, but let’s hope for it.