Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Panel 402: Competition and Contestation in Russia’s Relations with Europe and the West
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
10:50am - 12:20pm

Session Chair: Tom Casier, University of Kent / Brussels School of International Sudies
Location: Room 12.06

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Competition and Contestation in Russia’s Relations with Europe and the West

Chair(s): Tom Casier (University of Kent)

A normative and military competition for regional influence and a global role shape the relations between Russia, on the one hand, and the EU and ‘the West’ on the other. Thus, EU and Russia compete over the ‘contested neighbourhood’, including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, which Russia sees as its ‘near abroad’, and the EU - as its Eastern Partnership participants.

As part of its self-attributed historical mission to re-emerge as a great power, a counterweight to the US, NATO and the EU, Russia has formulated an alternative integration offer for the Eastern European and Caucasian states. Representatives of Russian elites and public see foreign policy choices of states in the ‘near abroad’ in terms of Russian’s national security and integrity, and build a discourse to legitimate control over them based on the role of Russia as a civilization, a strong pole in multipolar world. The EU, struck by several internal crises in rapid succession, often finds it difficult to understand and cope with the motivations of Russia. Used to the logic of conditionality and normative superiority in relations with Eastern Europe, the EU has trouble finding common ground with Russia, which does not accept either.

The panel addresses this lack of mutual understanding between Russia, EU and ‘the West’ by analyzing Russia’s foreign policy choices and discourse. Security dilemmas exemplified by NATO’s eastward enlargement and the tension in border regions, and identity battles over values and culture are conceptually and empirically analyzed in this panel in a multi-disciplinary way.


Presentations of the Symposium


Russian Power versus the EU’s and NATO’s Fading Power? – The Case of Kaliningrad

Anna-Sophie Maass
University of Groningen

In the preparation of the EU’s eastern enlargement in 2004, Kaliningrad was a contentious topic on the agenda of EU-Russian diplomatic relations. Both Poland’s and Lithuania’s accessions to the EU and their inclusions in the Schengen zone resulted in the encirclement of the Russian exclave by EU territory; thus, having a direct impact for citizens travelling to and from Kaliningrad. Seeking to regulate this transit of people, the European Commission introduced a facilitated transit document, which was condemned by several members of the Russian political elite as an infringement of the right of the free movement of persons.

More than a decade later, Kaliningrad is not on the agenda of EU-Russian relations anymore. Instead Russia’s gradually intensifying military deployment in Kaliningrad has become a severe security concern for the West. NATO regards the Baltic States’ proximity to the deployment of missile defense systems as a threat for European security.

This paper demonstrates that Kaliningrad as a facet of EU-Russian contestation between 2002 and 2004 was replaced by the oblast as a concern for securitisation for the EU and NATO since the deployment of Russian missiles in 2013. It will be demonstrated that the case of Kaliningrad reflects a shift from the EU-Russian conflict caused by their perception of the oblast as a contested boundary to a fluid boundary characterised by the presence of a clearly delineated military sector marked by the deployment of Russian missiles. This paper will elucidate the emerging competition between the EU and NATO over securitisation in Kaliningrad between 2013 and 2017.


Russia’s Perspective on Regional Integration in Europe 2004-2017

Liudmila Mikalayeva1, Marek Neuman2
1University of Freiburg, Germany, 2University of Groningen

European Union and its wider initiatives such as the Eastern Partnership and Neighborhood Policy are not the only regional integration frameworks in Europe. The Eurasian Economic Union, with its Single Economic Space and a Customs Union, the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization are regional integration initiatives aiming at the same countries in the neighborhood between EU and Russia”, such as Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Moldova. This competition in regional integration constitutes an important background to EU-Russia relationship and to the difficult foreign policy of states in the “contested zone. The post-soviet ‘near abroad’ is of crucial importance in Russian foreign policy: according to its leadership, only via regional leadership can Russia gain agency vis-à-vis the EU and rebuild its geopolitical weight (Prozorov 2007). At the same time, such regional leadership would also inevitably enhance rivalry with the EU as a gravitation center for integration.

This research report complements the predominantly EU-centric scholarly canon on European integration by tracing Russian parliamentary discourse on the processes of regional integration in Europe and Eurasia over the last 13 years. It illustrates the importance of identity formulation and border delimitation for the understanding of international relations and regional integration dynamics. On the basis of an extensive coding of parliamentary debates on the processes of European and Eurasian integration between 2004 and 2017 as well as on expert interviews, it maps Russian institutional discourse over the periods of “pragmatic competition” and “confrontation” with the EU (DeBardeleben 2017).


To the Concept of Cultural Congruence: Tracing Media Narratives on Ukraine in Russian e-News Platforms

Natalia Chaban1, Svitlana Zhabotynska2, Michèle Knodt3
1University of Canterbury, 2Bohdan Khmelnytskyi National University in Cherkasy, 3TU Darmstadt

The debate about Russian popular news media discourses and their influence on domestic and international Russian-speaking audiences is ongoing. This paper will assess Russian e-news platforms in their reactions to the EU-Ukraine relations and specifically to several key advances in Ukraine-EU bilateral relations: signing of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and introducing a no-visa entry regime to the Schengen zone for Ukrainian citizens. These frameworks have confirmed Ukraine’s “European choice”. To understand images of EU-Ukraine relations projected by the Russian media channels, the paper employs a concept of “cultural congruence” introduced by Entman (2003) to explain flow and activation of foreign policy frames in a given society. Cultural congruence (which departs from historically and culturally established frames) is argued to become a means to inform – as well as mis- and dis-inform. The paper offers a novel comprehensive method to trace and measure an under-operationalised concept of cultural congruence accounting for a set of cognitive and emotive mechanisms in image formation. Empirical evidence comes from daily observation of popular Russian e-news platforms with a wide reach in Russia and among Russian-speaking population worldwide. Theoretically, the paper is informed by the intersection of the Cascading Activation Framing (Entman 2003) and Strategic Narrative (Miskimmon, et al. 2013) theories. The paper contributes to the debate on conceptual relationship between frames and strategic narratives in IR research.


Russia in the Liberal World Order

Maxine David1, Ruth Deyermond2
1Leiden University, 2King's College London

Talk of the demise of the liberal world order is increasingly prevalent among politicians, academics and journalists and Russia often takes the role of villain of the piece. What is all too often forgotten, however, is that Russia itself benefits from the liberal world order. This paper argues that Russia certainly challenges aspects of it, especially the USA’s hegemonic role, but it is not looking for a radical reworking of that order, rather it is focused on the place of itself and others within it. Nevertheless, its actions have had effects on order in global politics and very immediate effects on its relations with the EU, some of them unintended.

This paper takes four parts. It begins by delivering a brief discussion of what we reference when we speak of the liberal world order, including the place of the EU within it, before moving on to the discussion of the various sites of Russian activity, which cover a range of issues, including: responses to conflict, especially the Responsibility to Protect; nuclear proliferation; internet governance; as well as more conceptual matters, e.g. what it means to be sovereign and legitimate. Understanding Russia’s position in relation to the liberal world order should additionally take in an analysis of its allies and alliances, as well as its competitors and the third part of the paper will focus on this before a concluding section raises questions about the intended and unintended consequences of Russia Foreign Policy in respect of its impact on the liberal world order and its relations with its European neighbours.

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