Leshoukov, Igor (1998) Beyond Satisfaction: Russia’s Perspectives on European Integration. ZEI Discussion Papers: 1998, C 26. [Discussion Paper]
Introduction. "Devising an EU strategy for relations with the new Russia is a challenge. It calls for a complete break with the perceptions inherited from the Cold War. At the same time it must be remembered that Russia, in spite of its current difficulties and the uncertainties of transition, remains a great power in both political and military terms. It would be a fundamental error to underestimate it.... The West in general, and the EU in particular, react to events in Russia rather than trying to anticipate them. The Western countries have always been fascinated by Russia but at the same time they do not know how to behave toward this country which is both very European and very Asian." In my view, the given abstract from a European Parliament report is amazingly accurate and instructive in reflecting the state of affairs of the EU-Russia relations. Much is said and written on this subject, yet it is short of being exhausted. First, the bilateral relations primarily concern trade or technical assistance, thus many publications are mainly of a technical or descriptive character. Second, most of the writing concentrates on the EU perception of Russia, rather than vice versa. Last, much of the paperwork is sooner an exercise in political correctness, than a sober expertise. One could feel an apparent need for better comprehension of how the Russians themselves perceive the historic endeavour of European integration. Sir Winston Churchill once pronounced a phrase which has been widely quoted ever since: "I cannot forecast you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Regretfully, its final part is often forgotten: "But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian self-interest." This, in my view, should be a guiding sign for all pundits of the Russian policy. Short as it is, this paper does not claim to offer an exhaustive analysis of the Russian attitudes toward the EU and the integration process. Following Churchill's advice, I will seek to emphasise a few points that, in my view, are essential for comprehension of the subject. This genuine attempt aims to make the Russian moves and intentions understandable (not necessarily acceptable) to an external observer. I view it as a decent and necessary step to bridge the gap between the European and Russian perceptions. This is my aspiration behind this paper.
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