EU's Juncker Says "Russia Bashing" Must End, Putin Visiting Austria on April 5

On Tuesday Putin will meet with Kurz, and they'll have plenty to discuss. On the agenda: the Turkstream pipeline project that will bring more Russian gas into Europe through the Balkans, as well as the Nordstream 2 feeder into Germany that is already connected to Austria's Baumgarten gas storage facility. Austria has been a terminus for Soviet/Russian gas piped to Europe for nearly 50 years, with a contract signed between the two sides on June 1, 1968. The Russians emphasis on their reliability as economic partners, particularly at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), is a calculated contrast to the confrontational trade and sanctions policies of the Trump Administration, which Kurz took to Twitter to criticize in mid-May.

 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on February 28, 2018. Photo by: Kremlin.ru http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56951

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on February 28, 2018. Photo by: Kremlin.ru http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56951

Kurz repeated his criticism of the U.S. under Trump as an unreliable and erratic partner in a May 2018 interview with the Financial Times, emphasizing (non-NATO member) Austria's traditionally good relations with Russia as integral to solving problems in Ukraine and Syria. Austria notably rejected public pressure from the United Kingdom to expel Russian diplomats after the alleged nerve agent poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal this spring. In the same FT interview, Kurz also defended the tough migration policies of Austria's old Hapsburg allies the Hungarians, even as his government tightens restrictions on welfare benefits to non-German speaking foreigners.

Not surprisingly, Kurz as a young, fresh face in European politics has received favorable coverage from Russian media -- through Austria's press has not always reciprocated with a softer view of Russia, given the pressure on the press in neighboring Germany to maintain an anti-Moscow line. What is clear is that, after hosting U.S. allies Angela Merkel, Emanuel Macron, and Shinzo Abe, the diplomatic momentum is on Putin's side -- or at least not with the Anglo-Americans and their sanctions -- as the Russian leader flies to Vienna this week.