EU-Russian Relations: Structures, Actors, Issues I
Russia is the EU’s third trade partner and therefore, notwithstanding the deleterious state of relations since 2014, remains an important economic partner (especially when it comes to energy). It is also an essential partner for any security debates in wider Europe as well as for political cooperation in the continent and globally. Events since 2014, however, have brought EU-Russia relations to a low point, to the extent that the EU no longer considers Russia a strategic partner. It is not only the EU that is grappling with the question of what kind of relationship is possible with Russia today, of course. Russia has challenged the key premises of the world order, particularly following the 2014 events in Ukraine, bringing it into collision also with many key actors within the United States. It is therefore unsurprising that Russia’s resurgent foreign policy should figure so highly on the agenda of so many European and international actors but most particularly for the EU. For these reasons, Routledge commissioned the writing and publication of a handbook on EU-Russia Relations. Here, authors of chapters in the forthcoming volume, Handbook on EU-Russian Relations: Structures, Actors, Issues, will talk through their research and findings. This, the first of three panels, is focused on theories, norms, values, ideas and concepts, and what these mean for EU-Russia relations in a cross-border context.
Presentations of the Symposium
The Failure of Constructivism as a Critical Project. The Case of EU-Russian Relations
The paper argues that, in spite of the early hopes for constructivism as the newest embodiment of critical theorizing, the theory has failed to fulfil its critical role, and instead, it has become just another traditional theory that focuses on problem-solving rather than opening up the horizons for radically new perspectives on international relations. Exploring the role constructivism has played in the study of the EU-Russian relations, the paper shows how constructivism evolved in line with the expectations of policy-makers rather than challenging them. While in the 1990s, the theory focussed on explaining cooperation, and the soon-to-be-expected Europeanization of Russia, in the last fifteen years, it has turned into a theory explaining why the growing differences between the EU and Russia have, in fact, always been necessary. Although this change is explained in theoretical terms as a shift from a strongly structural approach towards more attention to agency, it is conspicuous that the shift happened at exactly the same time when the political moods changed too. Constructivism has thus, at least in this particular field, been definitively “normalized”, losing the last vestiges of its emancipatory potential.
Ideas and Normative Competition in EU-Russian Relations
With the eruption of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, relations between Russia and the EU have been widely interpreted in geopolitical terms, as a conflict about influence in a region of economic and strategic importance to both parties. However, an underlying divergence between norms and values of the two parties set the trajectory for the conflict much earlier. Scholars working out a constructivist theoretical framework have paid particular attention to the important role that ideas, perceptions, and misperceptions have played in shaping the ideational construction and interpretation of events and actions. Over time, disagreement over the interpretation and application of both fundamental political values and sectoral technical norms has increased, as the Russian government has become more assertive in articulating a distinctive ideological and normative position. This paper analyzes change in the nature, extent, and substance of discord over norms and values between the EU and Russia over time, with attention to the altered nature of normative discourse that has emerged in the context of the Ukraine crisis. Various facets of normative and ideational conflict are explored, including possible differences in values of the elites and publics, the degree to which normative stances are instrumentally driven, and the role of misinformation in shaping public perceptions. The paper concludes that the initial hope that an EU-Russian partnership could be firmly grounded in a set of shared political economic and political values has been dashed, and that future cooperation will likely have to rely on reaching a common understanding of shared interests.
Resilience in Present and Future EU-Russian Relations
Resilience became central for the EU’s external relations in 2016 when it was incorporated in the EU’s Global Strategy (GS). The concept of resilience entered EU-Russian relations when Federica Mogherini formulated five principles of the relations with Moscow. The GS refers to the concept of resilience when threats to the EU and its Eastern neighbours are discussed in energy, information and cyber- spaces. The 2017 Communication on resilience confirmed this link between Russia and threats to resilience of the EU and its eastern neighbours.
The goal of the paper is to investigate what quality of the relations emerges between the EU and Russia as a result of the introduction of resilience concept. The EU’s current understanding of the concept of resilience draws on the legacy of its relations with third countries. For this reason postcolonial approach is applied. Firstly, it illustrates how the EU colonised “resilience” and provided it with a normative connotation. Secondly, the postcolonial approach demonstrates how the EU as a hegemon defines the system by identifying where the vision of resilience will be exported and who generates threats to the system. As a result the EU hierarchically includes eastern neighbours and Russia.
Resilience in its original meaning is an attractive concept for EU-Russian relations. First, it emphasises that Russia and the EU are parts of the same system. Secondly, resilience is probably the only way to deal with the security threats of today. Yet for the concept to fulfil its potential, the EU’s understanding of resilience has to be decolonised, it has to go through provincialisation and engagement. More specifically, the EU has to accept in reality (and not only on paper) that there are varying ways to resilience and to engage with relevant visions. Decolonisation also means admitting that security threats do not come solely from Russia.
EU-Russian Cross-Border Cooperation: from 'Spill-Over' to 'Spill-Back'?
The paper traces the evolution of cross-border cooperation and cross-border regions on the external border of the European Union with Russian Federation, i.e. their transformation from the post-Cold war loose structures to more integrated partnerships, or from “security community” type to “functional” type regions. The role of the EU and the Nordic countries as drivers for paradiplomatic activities of Russian border regions is depicted, as well as the re-active policy of Russia in the field of CBC is reasoned. It also shows how the system of subnational cooperation on the EU-Russian border, which started as normative “pedagogy” of supporting postcommunist transformation in Russia and its border regions with Interreg and Tacis initiatives, has evolved to the implementation of jointly financed and managed cross-border programmes in the framework of the European Neighbourhood (and Partnership) Instrument. In the latter part, the current challenges to the development of EU-Russian relations in the field of cross-border cooperation are discussed. This includes both the inefficiency and bureaucratisation of cross-border governance and imperfection of legislation in Russia, as well as the influence of the ongoing turbulences of the international relations, caused by the Ukrainian crisis, to the subnational level of cooperation. The constellation of factors makes optimistic scenarios of EU-Russian cooperation in the field of cross-border cooperation obsolete and suggests the possible “spill-back” of the cross-border structures to the “security community” type of relations.