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Russia and its Near Neighborhood: Competition and Conflict within the EU. Natolin Research Paper 04/May 2011

Adomeit, Hannes (2011) Russia and its Near Neighborhood: Competition and Conflict within the EU. Natolin Research Paper 04/May 2011. UNSPECIFIED.

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    Russia in 2004 politely rejected the offer to become a participant in the European Neighbourhood Policy, preferring instead to pursue bilateral relations with the EU under the heading of ‘strategic partnership’. Five years later, its officials first reacted with concern to the ENP’s eastern dimension, the Eastern Partnership initiative. Quickly, however, having become convinced that the project would not amount to much, their concern gave way to indifference and derision. Furthermore, Russian representatives have failed to support idealistic or romantic notions of commonality in the area between Russia and the EU, shunned the terminology of ‘common European neighbourhood’ and replaced it in EU-Russian documents with the bland reference to ‘regions adjacent to the EU and Russian borders’. Internally, the term of the ‘near abroad’ was the official designation of the area in the Yeltsin era, and unofficially it is still in use today. As the terminological contortions suggest, Moscow officials consider the EU’s eastern neighbours as part of a Russian sphere of influence and interest. Assurances to the contrary notwithstanding, they look at the EU-Russia relationship as a ‘zero-sum game’ in which the gain of one party is the loss of the other. EU attempts to persuade the Russian power elite to regard cooperation in the common neighbourhood not as a competitive game but providing ‘win-win’ opportunities have been to no avail. In fact, conceptual approaches and practical policies conducted vis-à-vis the three Western CIS countries (Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova) and the southern Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) confirm that, from Moscow’s perspective, processes of democratisation, liberalisation and integration with Western institutions in that region are contrary to Russian interests. In each and every case, therefore, the area’s ‘frozen conflicts’ have not been regarded by the Kremlin as an opportunity to promote stability and prosperity in the countries concerned but as an instrument to prevent European choices in their domestic and foreign policy. The current ‘reset’ in Russia’s relations with the United States and the ‘modernisation partnership’ with the EU have as yet failed to produce an impact on Russia’s policies in ‘its’ neighbourhood. The EU is nevertheless well advised to maintain its course of attempting to engage that country constructively, including in the common neighbourhood. However, its leverage is small. For any reorientation to occur in Moscow towards perceptions and policies of mutual benefit in the region, much would depend on Russia’s internal development.

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    Item Type: Other
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > EU-Eastern Partnership
    Countries > Russia
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > College of Europe (Brugge) > Natolin Research Papers
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2014 11:49
    Number of Pages: 82
    Last Modified: 02 Apr 2015 12:00

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