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Research Report

The EU, Russia and the Quest for a New European Security Bargain

Peter van Ham
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2015
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 32
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 3-5)

    Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea (in March 2014) and its on-going support for anti-government rebels in eastern Ukraine, relations with the EU have deteriorated. The EU no longer considers Russia a strategic partner and has made it clear that its sanctions policy will remain in place until Russia is prepared to recognize the integrity and sovereignty of its neighbours. In the meantime, eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region is slowly turning into a ‘frozen conflict’, and the possibility of resolving the annexation of Crimea is remote. It is in the EU’s interest to ensure that the status quo in the region will...

  2. (pp. 6-8)

    EU policy towards Russia is based on the premise that President Putin is squarely to blame for Russia’s aggressive and confrontational course of action, and hence for the potential destabilization of Europe. Some modest soul-searching has gone on in the classical debate on ‘what to do’ with today’s Russia. For example, Stephen Sestanovich asks ‘Could It Have Been Otherwise?’, concluding that apart from the mistake of assigning Russia a lower priority on the West’s foreign policy agenda (mainly because of the crises in the Middle East), no strategic errors were made; Carl Bildt (and many others) concur.³ Richard Sakwa is...

  3. (pp. 9-11)

    The EU and most EU member states are disillusioned by Russia, even to the point of feeling betrayed. Brussels always saw the EU–Russian strategic partnership as more than an economic relationship comprising the exchange of Russian energy for EU-made machinery. Instead, the EU’s aim was to establish a process of normative rapprochement, based on openness, dialogue and modernization. The expected end-result was supposed to be a stable, satisfied and ‘European’ Russia that is truly deserving of the label ‘strategic partner’. After more than a decade of highly institutionalized ties and biannual high-level summits, negotiations on a new EU–Russia...

  4. (pp. 12-15)

    The EU–Russia stalemate can only be broken if it serves the interests of all of the players involved, including the new, democratic Kiev government. The EU, Russia and Ukraine will all have to compromise; if not, eastern Ukraine will turn into a ‘frozen conflict’, Crimea will remain Russian, and European security will truly sleepwalk into a ‘Cold Peace’ (or worse). The EU’s dual-track approach of sanctions and dialogue has worked reasonably well, and the EU’s aim to harm the Kremlin and Russia’s oligarchy is a measured success. Helped by the collapse of global crude oil prices, Russia has suffered...

  5. (pp. 16-18)

    The EU has ruled out the use of military force in Ukraine, or against Russia. EU Council President Jean-Claude Juncker has made the case for a ‘European army’ (arguing that such a ‘common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values’32), but this plan has been discounted by all EU member states (bar Germany). So what is left in the EU’s policy toolbox? And how can (and should) the EU and its member states use the available tools to ratchet their policies up and down, depending on Russia’s actions in...

  6. (pp. 19-27)

    In September 2015, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Koenders asked ‘[i]s Helsinki [that is, the current OSCE framework] – and with it, Europe’s security architecture – lacking something?’ His answer was (not surprisingly) a clear ‘no’: ‘All the principles of Helsinki are still relevant’, he argued, suggesting that the rules and structure of European security are fine and dandy.43 Around the same time, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the EU, Ambassador Vladimir Chizkov, asked ‘whether Russia and the EU are genuinely able and willing to construct an indivisible pan-European security and economic architecture that would pursue cooperative “win–win” scenarios, or,...