the EU-Russia contemporary relations: reasons for optimism and the dark side

Russian state was created in 862 after Christ when prominent European empires like Roman or Greek have already faced a serious downturn. In terms of historical scale Russia is believed to be born quite late. For example, booming of the Hellas was in 3000-1000 B.C while Roman empire started from 27B.C. – 476A.C. Vikings created their settlements in 2500 BC in Greenland with matriarchate where only a woman could apply for divorce or possess a land etc. Slavic tribes at that time were nomadic. At the same time, Russian empire which also appeared only under Peter the Great in 1721 – 1917 existed till the Revolution. It is visible, that the birth gap between European and Russian empires accounts for several centuries. It is also visible that the perception and essence of time is changing. The Hellas existed 2000 years, Rome only 5 centuries, Russia – 200 years, USA – a couple of decades. I am not going into details with approaches to empires. There are Gumilev’s “passion theory”, Vallertsain approach (world-empires and world-economies), theory of satisfied/unsatisfied empires with the world order etc. But it is high time to mention here a famous Russian scholar and academician Sergey Kapitsa who outlines: “The world history is speeding up and almost running. This will contribute to a new paradigm creation, when many sides of the life will be changed” (S.Kapitsa, 2004). He set up a theory that centuries BC could be equal to decades AC. And it is not surprisingly anymore why the Planet had been created by the Lord only for 7 days since thousands of years ago the time was different. This theory is useful when applying for interdisciplinary approach in order to depict the research question fully.

Despite Kapitsa’s theory of time speeding, Russia, just the opposite, has been slowing down its pace during historic cycles. It faced lots of problems during its eminent history which led to political, economic, social stagnation – the tatar yoke (1237 – 1480), the serfdom 1497-1861 (almost 550 years Russian people were slaves), communism legacy of 70 years. In 1990 after the USSR collapse and failure of communism regime in Europe – I play off  “the end of history” approach by Fukuyama – Russia started to introduce capitalism. It has been involved in so far wilder form of capitalism for 20 years already. I don’t know any country in the world which is evolving and reforming its political system and political process so dynamically – in this way Russia certainly makes progress.

More or less the same thoughts on Russian mystical circulations were expressed by Russian philosophers in the 19th century. Thus, Petr Chaadaev, a famous Russian philosopher perceived this deep difference between Russia and the EU in terms of mentality. He defined the following Russian way in world politics in his essay “Filosoficheskie pisma”: “One of the  sorrowful peculiars of our unique civilization is that we are still opening the truisms that have become evident to other countries and to other nations even more remote than we are.  The thing is that we never went side by side with other nations, we don’t belong either to West or to East, we don’t have their traditions. We stand beyond the time, and universal bringing-up of human being didn’t touch us. We live in the present-day without past or future, in stagnation. Antique European  nations like Celts,  Scandinavs, Germans had their druids, scalds, bards. If we turn to indigenous people in  Northern America which have been discriminated by the US for many years– there are amazingly deep people. Now my question is where are our scholars? Who of us ever thought of something? Who is thinking instead of us? Meanwhile, locating between 2 entities – West and East, putting one elbow on China, another one – on Germany, we should have combined 2 great bases of spiritual nature – imagination and ratio, and to unite our civilization in the whole history of civilization on our planet (P.Chaadaev, 1831).

However, despite this, another brunch of Pan Slavic philosophers, for example, Aleksey Khomakov were grieved over the fact that: “Our estates  under the influence of foreign Enlightenment became imitators of everything alien. Imitation starting from external life side penetrates the outlook and actions”(A.Khomakov, 1848). As a result, Khomakov concluded «Development of world history demands from our Saint Russia  expressing of its all-sided background that grew her up».

Anyway, it is clear that Russian state is very young comparing to other European states and still now is facing confusions which  direction to move. This philosophic approach – Pan-Slavic and Pan-European – explains to large extent the fact why Russia is economically and politically was behind Europe for centuries. Meanwhile, it is difficult to become a prosperous at once. Another example I find in the Soviet Encyclopedia Dictionary where the word cooperation simply didn’t exist (Soviet Encyclopedia Dictionary, 1980). Nowadays, the world has changed. And it seems to be strange if a country today isolates or is not eager indeed to cooperate, though there are a few. Fortunately, Russia is not among them.

In this paper my attention is paid to relations with a “postmodern actor” which is the EU. Whatever leaders of the EU-27 might think of Putin-Medvedev tandem, both actors are operating in the society which is changing rapidly. Thus, the EU-Russian relations today are conditioned on by global downturn, an outbreak of fiscal crises in Greece and Irish serious budget deficit (a real concern is Spain), Turkey’ s big ambitions to enter the EU and BRIC: “It wouldn’t be surprising if we start talking about BRIC+T” (Newsweek, November, 2010), American inward turn (it is not promoting democracy and freedom outside anymore), Kosovo independence, closer bilateral agreements with some EU-member-states, like, Poland, disagreements over gas, visa regime matters, South Ossetia etc.

Research toolkit:

This paper presents analyses on political environment in the EU-Russia contemporary relationship. On the basis of interdisciplinary approach, I play off geopolitics, game theory, political realism, constructivism, a little bit of empire theory and Russian philosophical approach, Kapitsa’s time speeding approach, historic approach, theory of speech acts. As a whole, I apply systemic approach to the current paper.

Research toolkit is the following: analyses of official documents and normative documents both Russian and European, processes tracing, qualitative method, content analyses, statistics. Content-analyses is widely used since it is the prominent method in social inquiry. Processes tracing requires case studies research.

I outline historic approach, which helps me better analyze the origins of Russian foreign policy and mentality of the Russian starting from the year 862 AC when Russian state was created. The empire theory and Russian philosophical approaches to Pan-Slavic and Pan-European together with Kapitsa’s approach of time speeding are also important while theorizing the role of Russia in relationship with the EU.

I also commend geopolitics. The EU and Russia share common juxtaposition, historically a number of hiatus and hurdles took place in cooperation especially under the Cold War. Thus, I found out that Russia is facing the “clash of civilization”. In accordance with Huntington,  main clashes happen between states confessing various religions: “The main split runs between Finland and Russia, between the Baltic States and Russia, divides Byelorussia and Ukraine, then turns to the west, separating Transylvania from Romania coming to the former Yugoslavia separating Croatia and Slovenia from the rest. To the west and north from this split protestants and catholic live, to the east and south orthodox and Muslim live” (Huntington, 1995). Another prominent geopolitician L.Gumilev also stated that “Europe (mostly Western) is divided from the rest by the negative isotherm in January” (Gumilev, 1979). This means that countries located to the east from this demarcation line have the average temperature in January below zero. If we turn to famous geopolitician N.Spykman and his concept, we’ll find out that “Location with reference to the Equator and to oceans and land masses determines nearness to center power, areas of conflict, and established routes of communication, and location” (N.Spykman, 1944). He also mentioned that topography and climate are very important. In his concept he comes to the conclusion that Rimland is much more powerful and significant than Heartland (Siberian vast land). This predominant importance of Rimland is still topical nowadays.

Political realism is also crucial in terms of “hard” and “soft” security issues between the EU and Russia. Still, security matters are inalienable parts of beneficial relations and concentrating upon economic ties only would be deeply wrong.

I also play off speech act theory in the framework of Political Discourse Analysis. It is applied to  the part where I am depicting Russia as it is seen by scientists and politicians from the West.

The EU-Russian relations are also seen in the framework of a game theory. As it is well-known, game is a model of people’s interaction in a conflict or in cooperation. Games have always existed in economics either latently or openly. In accordance with the game theory, there are three types of games – gambling, combinatory games (for example, chess) and strategic games where a player can’t predict what tactics the opponent will choose, thus, the outcome is uncertain (A.Fon Neyman, O.Morgenshtern, 1970). I bet the EU-Russia are playing a strategic game which is a “non-zero sum game” when the parties to the game have common interests, not controversial – they have a common wish how to get benefit and a controversial interest how to share it. The EU-Russia relationship is a coalition of actors for aiming at the goal of economic sustainability, first of all. Neyman and Morgenshtern also stressed that such economic games could be “in the form of cooperation, collusion, treaties and agreements, threats (to make someone leave the business), fraud, probability and trust, honesty and justice, competition, monopolies, oligopolies, cartels, favoritism, discrimination, services for a service, bonuses and premiums, discounts and deductions, return of a  part of income as bribes, tips and as well as other additional payments, lost of political events, manipulations with market rules etc” (A.Fon Neyman, O.Morgenshtern, 1970). Theorizing this concept, they highlighted that economic and political games are different by their natures. Political games tend to be unsustainable while economic are. They also claimed that as soon as the coalition being created, a new “powerful” element appears – a struggle how to unite and get more benefits. Such games are latent, they are not like chess where you know all the moves which were done or could be done. And another important factor in game theory is “social rationality”. Scholars claim it to exist when all actors are satisfied with the game.

Constructivism is also important, it goes through the whole paper trying to construct the attitude of the actors – “postmodern” (the EU) and “traditional” (Russian state). Constructivism which implies that international relations depend not only upon certain objective processes (cooperation, for example) but also on perception of the concept of it (A.Wendt,1999). Sometimes such definitions may seem to be vague. But despite this fact the approach stresses the importance of ideas that people think and talk about. What people say – definitely exists. People talk about Russia-EU cooperation, if they talk about it, then it is real. A vivid example will be Northern region, a prosperous one on the border with the EU and Russian north-western part. Constructing its Northern identity – peace and sustainability – became a bullet point. As a result of creating such common identity, Finland’s president Tarja Hallonen is among those high officials who are in favour of visa-regime removal with Russia. Such common identity brought about the “Nord stream”, a big gas project which runs over Swedish, Danish, Finnish parts of the Baltic Sea. Lots of Finns start confessing orthodox instead of Protestantism. In my point of view, constructing identity led to constructing reality and such kind of common identity should be also created between the EU and Russia.

Will Russia broadly fit in with the Western world in the 21st century?

Russia is seen in the West in many ways. It had always had ideology to export to its satellites. It embraces 11 timing zones. The territory is the biggest in the world. Is seen as “mystical, authoritarian” by famous American scientists H.Kissinger (H.Kissinger, 2001). Russia is a gas and oil superpower with GDP estimated at 1.67 trillion dollars (J.Kulhanek, 2010). Russia during 20 years in its foreign policy have been pursuing liberal, nationalist, great power activist and assertivist concepts what confused its foreign policy to some degree (D.Rome Specher, 2010). Russia is having its multivector move, however, some observers claim, that these are only the motos. Thus, for example, in BRIC it has the worse economic indexes among its members for the last year. (The Economist, November 2010). “The EU is perceived quite positively by 42% of Russians, only 15% harbor negative feelings about the European Union. The EU is seen as important world player in the  future by 39% of respondents. 96% believe that relationship between Russia and the EU should be strengthened (M.Morini, R.Peruzzi, A.Poletti, 2009). Russia is also perceived having great power status, multipolarity, and quite reluctant developing links with the European Parliament and the European Commission, Russian elite prefers bilateral relations.

This is very true that Russia prefers bilateral relations with the EU countries. It is also evident from Medvedev’s address to the Federal Assembly 2010 when only close partners like Germany, France, Italy, Finland were mentioned: “Such partnership will be aimed at 5 steps of  Russian modernization” (Poslanie, 2010). Indeed, Germany has seriously turned to Russia, seems it is less interested in the EU nowadays. However, “under Schroeder and Helmut Kohl, Germany sought tight ties with Russia. Under Angela Merkel, relations are still cordial, but Poland has become a lot more important” (The Economist, November 2010). Germany sometimes keeps talking privately with Russia, for example, on Deauville summit on the 20th of October in 2010: “Both Sarcozy and Merkel agreed that in the post Cold-War era, Europe and Russia face common threats and should reinforce cooperation to jointly tackle them. They expressed support for closer EU-Russia relations and better arrangement of Russia into NATO framework” (Deauville summit, 2010).

A famous American scientist Robert Kagan stressed “Power changes nations. It expands their wants and desires, increases their sense of entitlement, their need for deference and respect. It also makes them more ambitious” (R.Kagan). Russia is ambitious in a way it possess large stocks of oil and gas and has support of the European locomotives. Russia knows that many European countries are severely dependent on its energy supplies. For example, today Latvia pays 30% more than Germany while Estonia pays  50% more than Italy for Russian gas. The law of “Primus inter parum” is still ruling. Germany and Italy are in Russia foreign policy priorities, especially after launching 2 vast projects – “Nordstream” and “South Stream”. The “Nordstream” goes through the Baltic Sea to Germany covering Finnish, Swedish, Danish bottoms. The “South stream” will be built by 2015 and aims at Bulgaria, Italy, Austria through the Black Sea.

It is also visible from the exit palls of 2009 Russia is willing to cooperate with the EU increasingly. In this paper I argue that Europe and Russia have been strategic partners for years already since the important Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was reached in 1994 and took its effect in 1997. I am turning to article 1 of the Agreement, where we could observe the main objectives of this cooperation: “To provide an appropriate framework for the political dialogue between the Parties allowing the development of close relations between them in this field,  to promote trade and investment and harmonious economic relations between the Parties based on the principles of market economy and so to foster sustainable development in the Parties,  to strengthen political and economic freedoms; to support Russian efforts to consolidate its democracy and to develop its economy and to complete the transition into a market economy, to provide a basis for economic, social, financial and cultural cooperation founded on the principles of mutual advantage, mutual responsibility and mutual support, to promote activities of joint interest” (Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, 1994). This agreement was a good start in 1994, afterwards a number of other normative documents was also adopted, they seem to be also very important in perception of mutual relations. Hereby, I mean “The EU Common Strategy on Russia” in 1999 and 4 road maps in 2005 on common economic space; on freedom, security and justice; on external security; on science and education appeared. In 2008 Russian president D.Medvedev initiated a draft of the Treaty on European security. All these documents are aimed at  “a stable, democratic, prosperous Russia, firmly anchored in a united Europe free of new dividing lines, is essential to lasting peace on the continent. The issues which the whole continent faces can be resolved only through ever closer cooperation between Russia and the European Union” (The EU Common Strategy on Russia, 1999). As a result, both parties on the basis of these documents are eager to pursue interests commonality in creating a single European humanitarian and economic space.

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