Vahl, Marius. (2001) Just Good Friends? The EU-Russian "Strategic Partnership" and the Northern Dimension. CEPS Working Document No. 166, March 2001. [Working Paper]
Contrary to official claims, Russia and the European Union are not strategic partners. The economic and political asymmetries between them and the still divergent normative foundations on which their policies are based constitute considerable obstacles to strategically significant co-operation between the EU and Russia. These obstacles are likely to persist in the foreseeable future, and prevent the emergence of a real strategic partnership. The relationship between the EU and Russia is nevertheless bound to become increasingly important. The forthcoming rounds of EU enlargement will bring them closer together geographically and economically, but will also increase the number of potential conflicts between them. The development of a Common European Security and Defence Policy will increase the significance of the EU as a strategic interlocutor for Russia. This reinforced interdependence requires new policies on both sides. This paper suggests that the current “low-politics” agenda should be given more substance and broadened to include security issues. But due to the fundamental obstacles mentioned above, more modest and more focused strategies for strengthening the relationship are required. A regional approach, focusing on areas of common interest, is suggested. The Northern Dimension initiative is the most prominent example of the regional approach, but it has so far suffered from the deficiencies of current policies. However, the Northern Dimension is ideally suited to strengthen EU-Russia relations through practical co-operation. Possible policy initiatives under the Northern Dimension umbrella are suggested, including possible content for the proposed energy partnership, renewed efforts at environmental cooperation, a substantial Kaliningrad initiative, numerous confidence- and security-building measures, and a political dialogue on Belarus.
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