After 18 years of negotiations, Russia’s ongoing battle for accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization) rages onwards as Swiss-mediated talks with Georgia fail.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pointed the finger at the US and the EU, rather than Georgia, for blocking its entry.

According to Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze "The talks have failed," and cited irreconcilable differences over customs checkpoints in the two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Russia recoginezed both as independent states after the 2008 war while Georgia considers them an integral part of its territory. Kapanadze further remarked, "If Russia’s position remains unchanged, I see no reason to convene the next round of negotiations."

The diplomatic skirmish seemed to deepen when Putin blamed the US and EU for the delay, remarking that the issue was now “purely political,” and that “everything,” had been done from Russia’s side to facilitate negotiations. Putin already alleged that the West was to blame for the deadlock last week at a Moscow business forum, where he remarked, "I have a question on this: do our main partners want Russia to be a WTO member or not? No need to hide behind the Georgian question, if they want to, then they can do it very quickly.”

The accusations came despite a statement by the office of US Vice President Joe Biden which affirmed “US support for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization,” and “the successful conclusion of ongoing talks between Russia and Georgia.” Although the US blocked Moscow’s entry after the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, its position has eased considerably since President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009.

Russia remains the largest economy outside of the WTO, with accession talks ongoing since 1993. Georgia has been a member since 2000 and like all 153 members, has the right to veto any new entrant and effectively has the power to block consensus. It could thus continue to stall Russia's accession should tensions remain unresolved.