From Obsolete Normative to Realpolitik in the EU and Russia Foreign Policy Relations

By Pasatoiu, Florin | Romanian Journal of European Affairs, December 2014 | Go to article overview

From Obsolete Normative to Realpolitik in the EU and Russia Foreign Policy Relations


Pasatoiu, Florin, Romanian Journal of European Affairs


Florin Pàsàtoiu1

Introduction

The ex-ante bewilderment that the EU leaders faced before the third Eastern Partnership Vilnius Summit, failing to bring Armenia to the table to sign the agreements on association and free trade and eventually its withdrawal from the Association Agreement (despite the fact it completed negotiations!), and the last minute refusal of Ukraine to conclude the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) with the EU, represented a heavy blow for the EU flagship foreign policy initiative to the Eastern EU border and the lack of capacity to provide a tailor-made policy within an international subsystem of inter-state relations.

The EU hesitation to respond to the US call to impose sanctions on Russia and a still divisive standing among Member States in adopting a common EU position towards the crisis in Ukraine, augmented by distinct bilateral relations that few EU Member States pursue with Russia, are clear indications on the failure of the EU foreign policy to pursue a joint strategy to safeguard the interests of Member States and to achieve predictable goals within the international relations system.

Both the EU and Russia had quite an institutionalised relation up till late 2011 (summits every six months, with the Cooperation Council transformed in the Permanent Partnership Council, and in May 2003 adopting an integral framework of Four Common Spaces covering all the main sectorial directions, and two years later designing even roadmaps etc.). And yet, despite the cumulative and socializing stances, both Russia and the EU defaulted again. This time, power politics!

In the article we seek to answer a two-fold exploratory interrogation: how do we explain the causes of the tensed relation between the EU and Russia as well as the dynamics that radically transformed the status quo into a nuovo modus operandi? What are the circumstances that triggered "power shocks" for Russia to undertake an extreme position in managing international relations towards Ukraine and the EU?

In the end, we engage prospectively at least to answer one question and that is what sort of re-alignment, if any, both the EU and Russia may be engaged with?

In the analysis we look at the relations between Russia and the EU with a particular focus on the power dynamics. Due to the resources limitations, most of the data gathered relies on secondary conventional data sources, yet from reliable sources such as the EU, Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia Presidency, official statements from the top politicians and policy papers analysis. Therefore, interviews were conducted with scholars from Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) during the author's research fellowship in the fall of 2014.

Essentially, we challenge the western wide spread caveat that the crisis in Ukraine is the sole fault of Russia's imperialist quest to rebuild the Soviet Union and re-incorporate all the actual independent republics.

Our central argument is that the recent crisis in Ukraine has evolved due to the lack of policy congruence in between the EU regional integration policies, particularly the European Neighbourhood Policy and Russia foreign policy towards its "near abroad".

In terms of content flow, we start by giving an overview to the EU institutional "advancement" to the Eastern border line pointing to the critical junctures that lead to a change in both EU's and Russia's foreign policy; we continue to develop the theoretical paradigm through the lens of which we filter our analysis on the causal chain that led to the tensed relations between Russia and EU. Then, we argue that a patterned conduct in Russia's foreign policy could have been a clear indication of potential scenarios on Russia's responses towards the EU European Neighbourhood Policy and which turn the Russia-EU relation may take.

Facing the risk of developing a reductionist approach in explaining the causes, chain-reaction attitude and the effects of the EU - Russia foreign relations, we deliberately take a shallow causal exploration on other context based variables such as the domestic environment reflected in various stakeholders' actions (for instance NATO pursue of a certain policy towards Russia). …

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