Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

By Marko Lehti; David J.Smith | Go to book overview

12

Clash of the Boundaries? The European Union and Russia in the Northern Dimension

HISKI HAUKKALA

Foreign policy with us does not proceed from the directions and priorities of a developed statehood. On the contrary, the practice of our foreign policy…will help Russia become Russia. (Sergei Stankevich, March 1992, cited in Richter, 'Russian Foreign Policy', p. 96)

The European Union welcomes Russia's return to its rightful place in the European family in a spirit of friendship, cooperation, fair accommodation of interests and on the foundations of shared values enshrined in the common heritage of European civilisation. (Common Strategy of the European Union on Russia, 1999)

Democracy in Russia is neither likely nor necessary for Western interests; but moderation is. (Robert O. Keohane, 'Redefining Europe: Implications for International Relations', 1994, p. 239)

As the first quotation above illustrates, in 1992 Russia was a new state with new borders and, perhaps most importantly, it was without a historically determined role for foreign policy. In other words, Russia was without an identity. 1 As James Richter has quite rightly pointed out, the situation had changed by 1994, when Russia had once again 'become Russia' as a country that wanted to preserve its great power status. This assessment is, however, only partially right. It is true that Russia has become more assertive vis-à-vis its 'Near Abroad' and taken a more independent stance on issues of wider international significance. Yet the process of forming the identity of Russia is far from complete. The recent policies of the Putin regime have shown that Russia is still seeking its place in the world. 2

Unlike the beginning of the 1990s, when the United States was the focal point for Russia's foreign policy, it is now the European Union that seems to be the most important interlocutor. This could reconfirm the comment by Sergei Stankevich, quoted at the start of this chapter, that Russian identity could still be-and indeed quite likely is-shaped by

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