In the capitals of European democracies, leaders are hailing a new era of co-operation with Russia. Berlin claims a "special relationship" with Moscow and is moving forward on a series of major energy projects with Russian energy giant Gazprom, one of which is led by the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi traveled to St Petersburg late last year to join in the celebration of his "great friend" Vladimir Putin's 59th birthday. And in Paris, negotiations are under way for a major arms sale that would allow Russia to acquire one of the most advanced ships in the French navy.
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