Russia's Energy Holds Powerful Sway Over Europe
GerhardSchroeder, the German chancellor, described Vladimir Putin as a "dyed-in-the-wool democrat" during a television show last year, the audience struggled to contain a chuckle.
For energy experts, politicians and diplomats across Europe, however, Germany's growing dependence on Russian energy supplies, and the effect it seems to have on Mr Schröder's foreign policy, is no joke.
"Schroeder never speaks out on Putin's human rights abuses in Chechnya or his interference in Ukraine's affairs," says Friedbert Pflüger, member of parliament for the opposition Christian Democratic Union. "And there is a suspicion that this has to do with oil and gas."
Mr Putin's increased authoritarian style at home and with neighbours has raised concern and prompted a re-examination of Europe's links with Russia.
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