EU-Russian Relations: Structures, Actors, Issues II
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 second of three panels, focuses on policies, including the general policy arrangements between the EU and Russia, before moving on to discussions about External Relations, Economics and Security.
Presentations of the Symposium
The Making of an EU Policy towards Russia: The Triangulation of Interests, Solidarity and Resilience
Since the entry into force of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1997, the European Union (EU) has developed institutionalised forms of engagement with Russia. These are characterized by a balancing between strategic interests and convergence goals based on EU standards. More than twenty years later, the suspension of the framework of cooperation after the annexation of Crimea, and the sanctions against Russia, assert a new EU position. The chapter aims at identifying the main EU players (institutions, member states and others) and how their interplay affects the making of an EU policy towards Russia. We argue that the EU actors impact on policies towards Russia by advancing three interrelated goals: (1) the promotion of interests (in particular economic and security ones), (2) normative convergence and (3) the creation of a system of EU governance where institutions and member states produce a coherent approach. We highlight that the evolution of EU players’ positioning has been driven, in an identifiable timeline, by the triangulation of interests, solidarity and resilience. At the bottom-line, looking at the convergences and divergences among actors, the EU has improved internal coherence but continues to lack of a common strategic approach towards Russia.
Is there Economic Rationale Behind the Low Level of EU-Russia Integration?
Despite numerous proposals for Russia-EU economic integration put forward during the 2000s, progress has been very limited and underwent another setback in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. Economic relations between the two sides are now reduced to a bare minimum and are essentially regulated by WTO norms. The present paper is an attempt to analyse whether there is economic rationale behind this state of affairs, using a range of economic theories and methods. It argues that the positions of both sides have been to a large extent shaped by the pronounced economic asymmetries, which arguably explain the fundamental differences in the perception of what constitutes reciprocity. However, our analysis also demonstrates that neither side’s position appears to be entirely rational from the economic point of view. For instance, the immediate gains for Russia from ‘simple’ trade integration with the EU, which Russia has been advocating, would be at best modest. More promising for Russia would be opening up to investment from the EU under an ‘asymmetric’ integration scenario, which would involve adopting large parts of EU norms into domestic law. However, it would also result in Russia ceding control over large parts of its economy, which is part of the reason why Russia has been reluctant to go this path. For the EU, in turn, integration with Russia would be economically beneficial both in the short and in the longer run – even under the ‘symmetric’ integration scenario advocated by Russia, which the EU has been paradoxically reluctant to accept.
Five Years of Confrontation over Ukraine: a Systemic Crisis?
The Ukraine crisis has been going on for over five years with no prospect of a solution. Trust remains at an all time low and the rhetoric of confrontation rules. This paper argues that the confrontation between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic Community has taken the form of a systemic crisis, in which we face the risk of running from incident to incident. There are three reasons for the systemic character of the crisis. First, the erosion of the structures of pan-European cooperation (Council of Europe, OSCE) and of the principles of the Paris Charter (the indivisibility of security in Europe). Second, the crumbling of the post-Cold War arms control regime. Out of the four pillars on which it rested (START, ABM, INF, CFE treaties), only the new START agreement survived. Third, the absence of effective collective security mechanisms in Europe which allow to contain crises and prevent further escalation. Tackling some of these issues is particularly complicated because some, such as arms control, require a global approach, involving China. Drawing on theory on the preconditions of collective security, the question is raised what role the EU can play, in a context of trans-Atlantic divisions, in developing new long term visions to overcome the systemic crisis.
Triangulating EU-Russia-US relations
Relations between the European Union (EU) and Russia are affected to a great extent by the way both these two actors interact with the United States (US). The US is historically a traditional ally of the EU, and a core member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the major organization providing for security in the European space. Russia’s suspicion towards NATO is well-known and relations with the US have been balancing between cooperation and competition, just like with the EU, though relations between Washington and Moscow have followed more difficult terms. The triangulation of these relations historically and thematically shows that these are not part of an equilateral triangle, but instead the differences and asymmetries point more to a scalene triangle, where all three sides are different. Taking stock of the state of the art of relations between EU, Russia and US, this paper seeks to map these relations since the end of the Cold War highlighting the issues that make of this triangulation both a challenge and an opportunity. The paper is organized around three main sections. The first one briefly maps relations between these three major players along time showing how dynamics of cooperation and competition have persisted in their relations. Different typologies have described Russia relations with both the EU and the US – the West –, as well as between Russia and each of these actors. After ‘romantic’ periods and more pragmatism in relations, Ukraine marks a more profound change to Western relations with Russia which have since 2014 become frosty and changed the cooperation-competition format that had characterized relations since the end of the Cold War. Security issues have returned to the forefront of relations with the crisis in Ukraine consolidating a more assertive and aggressive trend in Russian foreign policy that impacted on EU-Russia and US-Russia relations. Following on this, the second section focuses on security as a topical issue area in these triangular relationships, grasping these actors’ readings about the European security architecture and the management of security issues. And finally, the third and final part discusses possible future developments in face of a strained context for relations between these three players, focusing in particular on implications for the EU.