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For far too long, the West has harbored illusions about Vladimir Putin's Russia – illusions that have now been shattered on the Crimean peninsula.The West could (and should) have known better: Ever since his first term in office as Russian president, Putin's strategic objective has been to rebuild Russia's status as a global power.To this end, Putin used Russia's energy exports to recover gradually the territories lost when the Soviet Union collapsed a generation ago. Indeed, whether or not its leaders acknowledge it, the European Union is now in direct conflict with Russia over its enlargement policy since the end of the Cold War. That is because Russia's re-emergence as a global power requires not just the reintegration of lost Soviet territories, but also direct access to Europe and a dominant role there, especially in Eastern Europe. Europe will reduce its energy dependence on Russia, review its strategic alignment and priorities, and scale back investment and bilateral cooperation.Russia is completely dependent, economically and politically, on its commodity and energy exports, which go primarily to Europe.The question of peace in Europe has returned, and it must be answered by a strong and united EU.
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