Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, with Russian Vice Prime Minister Igor Ivanovich Shuvalov, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Jan. 28, 2014. Putin arrived in Brussels on Tuesday amid tension between Russia and the European Union over the crisis in Ukraine. (Yves Logghe/Pool via The New York Times) -- EDITORIAL USE ONLY
BRUSSELS – President Vladimir Putin for years trumpeted Russia’s grand ambitions for improved relations with the European Union. He not only pushed to break down visa barriers across a vast expanse of territory covering more than 6,000 miles, but also urged the creation of what he calls a “harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”
On Tuesday, Putin arrived at the Brussels headquarters of the 28-nation bloc. But he will not even get dinner. That customary courtesy got yanked from the program — a small sign of how escalating tensions over Ukraine have chilled relations between Moscow and Brussels.
Russia and Europe have for weeks been trading accusations over Ukraine, where violence has raised the unnerving prospect of chaotic civil strife on Europe’s eastern border. And instead of the wide-ranging meetings that are usual at the twice-yearly summit meetings, Putin faces a truncated session lasting just a day, instead of two. Officials in Brussels insist that they still want to develop a “strategic partnership” with Russia, but say that they first need to clear a thicket of mistrust.
E.U. leaders “don’t know how to deal with Putin. They can’t deal with him: They are 28 and he is one,” said Amanda Paul of the European Policy Center. “Frankly, I doubt Mr. Putin cares at all whether he gets dinner or not. He has his own chef.”
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