Containing Russia

Any re-thinking of EU policy toward Russia should recognize that the current Russian regime’s domestic legitimacy is based, to a large extent, on the perception that it is striving to bring Russia back into European civilization. Using this fact requires basing the institutions of the new European order on the EU, not on the individual member states.

Sofia -- The post-Cold War order in Europe is finished, with Vladimir Putin its executioner.  Russia’s withdrawal from the Treaty of Conventional Forces, its deliberate efforts to block the election monitoring of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Kremlin’s refusal to ratify the reform of the European Court on Human Rights (Protocol No 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights), all marked its passing.

Today, Russia and the EU have sharply opposing views on the nature of the post-Cold War European order and on the sources of instability in Eurasia. For the EU to continue its Russia policies of the 1990’s in this new context would merely reintroduce sphere-of-influence politics rather than expand the borders of democracy. But breaking with the policies of the 1990’s also presents risks because the EU is not, and cannot be, a traditional great power.

Any re-thinking of EU policy towards Russia should recognize that Russia will remain a global player during the next decade but that it is unlikely that Russia will become a liberal democracy. The EU should also recognize that Russia has legitimate concerns about the asymmetrical impact of the Cold War’s end on its security. Russia felt betrayed in its expectations that the end of the Cold War would mean the demilitarization of Central and Eastern Europe. While NATO enlargement did not bring any real security threats toward Russia, it changed the military balance between Russia and the West, fueling the Kremlin’s revisionism.

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