CHAPTER 3: THE STATE OF THE EU-RUSSIA
23. The early promise of warmer EU-Russia relations,
which was evident after Russia's emergence from the Soviet Union,
has disappeared. This has happened despite the deep economic relations
and energy dependence between EU Member States and Russia.
24. His Excellency Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent
Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union,
saw the crisis in Ukraine not as the cause of the decline in relations
but rather as exposing existing problems.
Dr Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate, Russian Domestic Politics
and Political Institutions Program, Moscow Centre, Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, noted that the "warm season"
in relations, around 2001 and 2002, had declined to the point
where, by the end of 2013, both sides felt "mutual frustration,
disappointment and even disgust regarding each other."
His Excellency Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Ambassador of the Russian
Federation to the UK, informed us that "Russia-EU co-operation
was grinding to a halt even before the current crisis in Ukraine",
and highlighted the lack of progress on the energy dialogue and
the new EU-Russia Agreement.
25. The early post-Cold War years were marked
by significant political, economic and social change within Russia
itself, as the country instituted a multi-party electoral system,
privatised and liberalised its economy, and began to recover from
Soviet-era economic stagnation. Throughout this initial period,
the EU played an important roleunderpinned by the Partnership
and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and other agreementsin
supporting institutional and market reform, infrastructural investment,
civil society development and other aspects of Russia's transformation.
More than ever before, Russian and European individuals, businesses,
goods and culture travelled in both directions.
26. Simultaneously, the EUalongside other
regional institutions, including NATOdeveloped closer relationships
with other states emerging from the Soviet Union and the Eastern
Bloc, several of which took the decision to become NATO and EU
members. Thus, as Russia was changing internally and regaining
its economic footing, the geopolitical context around it was also
27. According to Mr Ian Bond CVO, Director of
Foreign Policy, Centre for European Reform, what began in 1994
with the EU-Russia PCA "at a high point, a moment of great
optimism when things seemed to be moving forward and reform was
progressing very rapidly", had by the announcement of the
2010 Partnership for Modernisation descended into "full self-deception
mode" on the part of the EU.
This, he and other witnesses argued, resulted from a long process
marked by divergent political and economic agendas, and incompatible
interpretations of geopolitical realities.
28. This chapter sets out possible causes for
the decline of relations between the EU and Russia, particularly
evident in the last decade, and assesses the role of the Member
States in driving EU policy on Russia.
OF THE RULE OF LAW
29. Witnesses identified internal changes within
Russia as a critical factor which had driven the recent decline
in the relationship. Mr Bond told us that "the majority of
reflects developments within Russia itself."
He identified rising levels of corruption and the "general
decline in Russia's progress towards standards of the rule of
law" in particular.
30. Mr Mikhail Kasyanov, former Prime Minister
of Russia (2000-2004) and co-leader of the Republican Party of
People's Freedom (PARNAS party), put to us that the decline in
relations between Russia, the EU and the West was a result of
changes in both "internal policy and external policy"
of the current Russian government. By 2008, he explained, Russian
politics had become characterised by "managed democracy and
capitalism for friends, redistribution of property in a very intensive
manner and human rights violations."
31. Witnesses drew attention to three consequences
of these political changes within Russia.
32. First, a divergence of values between the
EU and Russia. Mr Alexander Kliment, Director, Emerging Markets
Strategy, Eurasia Group, saw on both sides a "failed expectation
of convergent values."
Mr Bond added that the problems had arisen because the EU and
Russia were working to fundamentally different goals. Mr Bond
highlighted the fact that by 2010 the EU was talking about a partnership
"based on democracy and the rule of law with a country that
very clearly had neither."
Sir Andrew Wood GCMG, former British Ambassador to Russia
and Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham
House, said that without shared values, the words "strategic
partnership" were "pretty words but they lack concrete
33. A second consequence was a ratcheting up
of the Russian security architecture. Mr John Lough, Associate
Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, informed
us that Russia had seen the "security apparatus return in
a very significant way", which had "managed to impose
on society a certain view of the outside world."
Sir Tony Brenton KCMG, former British Ambassador to Russia and
Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, told us of the reliance
on "securocrats" as advisers to President Putin, who
were "intensely focused on Russian security to the exclusion,
probably to the disadvantage in the long term, of developing relations
in other ways with the West."
34. Third, changes in the way in which Russia's
economy was now managed had made economic co-operation with the
EU more problematic. Professor Richard Whitman, University
of Kent, informed us that Russia's model of capitalism had evolved
in a way which was "not fully compatible with the EU member
states' market economies or with the single market".
High levels of corruption were highlighted as a particular issue.
Sir Tony Brenton KCMG pointed out that corruption was "central
to the system": the system worked so that "you get impunity
in exchange for loyalty, and you use your impunity to extract
rent from whoever you have control over, so the whole system is
sucking funds out of Russian society." Sir
Andrew Wood viewed Russia's refusal to tackle "the difficulties
of economic and political reform", as well as "domestic
repression" and a "statist manipulation of the economy",
as lying at the "root of the quarrel with Ukraine."
35. As Russia has distanced itself from Europe,
its government has built up its own opposing ideology, based on
Russian nationalism (with ethnic Russians providing the foundation)
and conservative values. The Russian Orthodox Church has also
come increasingly to the fore as the symbol and bastion of these
an ideology of anti-Western mobilisation and communitarianism,
has returned as a plank of a new nationalist foreign policy. This
reflects a long-standing debate within Russian society, with one
school of thought seeing Russia as an integral part of Europe
and another substantial body of opinion seeing Europe as 'the
other', and Russia as a rival or alternative pole of civilisation.
36. Mr Kliment told us that today, in contrast
to the emulation of European norms and values seen during the
1990s, Russia considered itself "independent of European
tutelage". It saw itself increasingly as "something
apart from Europe, not only in economic and geopolitical interests
but cultural interests." The recurring rhetoric that had
been present historically in Russian political thinking, of Russia
as a "morally exceptional civilisation beset on all sides
by decadent enemies", had returned to the political discourse.
Dr Shevtsova also described the current political discourse as
"'we are not Europe. We do not want to be in Europe.'"
Mr Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defence
Policy and Editor in Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, recognised
that Russia was "stressing the difference" between the
West and Russia, but "it does not necessarily mean hostility";
it meant rather that the Russian state had no intention to endeavour
to "get acceptance on the western side." He judged that
the previous relationship with the EU was no longer possible.
37. Our witnesses drew attention to the strategic
motives of these messages. Mr Kliment suggested that Russia
saw a "connection" between "European liberal values
and the attempts to overthrow regimes that are friendly to Russia."
For Dr Shevtsova, the current political discourse was a "doctrine
of survival" that allowed the justification of the current
government's policies and created an opposing policy, whereby
Russia would be "containing demoralised Euro-Atlantic nations
whenever and wherever it can, inside Russia and outside Russia."
DIVERGENT GEOPOLITICAL INTERPRETATIONSBETRAYAL
BY THE WEST?
38. According to our witnesses, the above narrative
survives in Russia on the fertile ground of a sense of disappointment
and disillusionment, even betrayal, by 'the West'.
Mr Lough noted that there had been a reactivation of the "sense
of grievance about the way the Cold War ended and what happened
to Russia: the trauma that Russia lived through with the amputation
of some of the former Soviet republics."
39. Mr Lukyanov explained that since the time
of President Gorbachev, Russians had viewed the West, especially
the US, as "using Russian weakness to achieve their goals",
believing that "even if they promise something they never
stick to promises." According to Mr Lukyanov, Russians harboured
a "deep disappointment in their basic ability to achieve
something through negotiations."
Dr Tom Casier, Jean Monnet Chair and Senior Lecturer in International
Relations at the University of Kent, put to us that the "feeling
of humiliation in Russia is enormous." While it was possible
to "discuss whether it is rational or not
it is definitely
Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe, observed that
President Putin was a "Russian nationalist who wants to restore
the greatness of Russia after what he sees as humiliation under
some of his predecessors".
40. This sense of humiliation continues today.
Mr Martin Hoffman, Executive Director of the German-Russian Forum,
explained that Russia attached importance to political signs and
gestures which indicated respect for Russia. He cited the Winter
Olympic Games held in Sochi in 2014, to which Russian leaders
had attached a great deal of importance. Russia felt that the
Games had faced unfair ridicule by western media and had been
snubbed by certain western leaders.
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS IN RUSSIA
41. We asked witnesses whether the Russian public
shared these views of disappointment and disillusionment with
42. Mr Denis Volkov, Head of Development Department
at the Levada Centre, explained that public perceptions in Russia
had to be understood as being managed and constructed by the Russian
government. He pointed out that successive Russian governments
had exploited "the situation if not of conflict then of controversy
between Russia and the West", and that it had been part of
official policy to "exploit the idea of Russia as a kind
of besieged castle".
Mr Vladimir Kara-Murza, Co-ordinator, Open Russia, said that it
was not meaningful to talk about opinion polls, given that "every
single nationwide television channel, for more than 10 years,
has been monopolised by the regime in power."
43. Mr Volkov acknowledged that there was "some
concern about the polling data", and that "about 25%
of the people who we survey think that there can be repercussions
when people are answering questions." However, the Levada
Centre's approach was always to ask the questions first and only
ask for personal data at the end. He added that "people are
free to give or refuse to give" that information but that
the "absolute majority" agreed to disclose that information.
Further, he was confident that the volume of data available allowed
the Levada Centre to understand "not the exact truth",
but the "broader picture" of what was going on.
44. It was clear that feelings of nostalgia for
the greatness of the Soviet Union were shared by the wider Russian
public. Mr Volkov said that the majority of Russian people agreed
with President Putin when he said that the collapse of the Soviet
Union was one of the major catastrophes of the twentieth century.
He added that President Putin was not only leading public opinion
but to some extent following it by "trying to be more engaged
with what the public think and trying to be the representative
of common people." Mr Volkov assessed the polling data to
mean that the nostalgia for the Soviet Union was "symbolic".
It was not about trying to re-establish the Soviet Union itself,
but about trying to re-establish the "greatness, of which
there is a lack."
We note that the Russian public experience is, of course, particularly
affected by the economic hardship that followed the fall of the
45. During the crisis in Ukraine, public approval
of President Putin increased to one of its highest points in recent
years. Dr Shevtsova pointed out that President Putin enjoyed "83%
to 85% approval ratings".
Speaking in July 2014, Mr Kliment noted that the President's approval
ratings were "enviable even when they were at 61%, which
was not long ago", but added that the approval ratings had
"shot up significantly"; this was "almost entirely
to do with Russia's foreign policy".
46. Sir Tony Brenton said that the President
had delivered a "feeling of national pride and self-confidence",
which the Russians felt was "part of their birthright."
He added that "Putin is the President the Russians like."
On the other hand, Mr Kliment noted that this popularity could
be a "liability." He told us that the high approval
ratings were based on "unrealistic expectations" of
what could "be achieved by this new, more expansive, revanchist
47. Turning to perceptions of the EU, once again
there were similarities between the official Russian view and
that of Russian public opinion. Mr Volkov noted that for Russians
there was little distinction between Europe and the EU"the
average Russian does not go much into what the European Union
is; it is more about a general understanding of Europe".
Towards the EU there had been a "rather general, positive
view", but the attitudes had changed during crises like the
war with Georgia and the Crimean annexation, when western leaders
criticised Russian politics.
Mr Volkov added that only about "a quarter of the population
consider themselves Europeans and feel European" and that
at the moment, only approximately 15% considered that they had
"strong connections to European culture."
48. Witnesses drew our attention to a duality
of perceptions within the Russian elite. Mr Kliment argued that
while in the abstract Russians may feel "increasingly encircled
by the decadent West", at the same time wealthy Russians
"view Europe as a place where they like to spend money, park
their capital and take their vacations."
Mr Volkov agreed that the West set an aspirational standard of
"very wealthy countries with high standards of living and
a goal for Russia in raising standards of living".
49. Russia is increasingly defining itself
as separate from, and as a rival to, the EU. Its Eurasian identity
has come to the fore and Russia perceives the EU as a geopolitical
and ideological competitor. The model of European 'tutelage' of
Russia is no longer possible.
50. A criticism of the EU, put to us by witnesses,
was that as Russia had changed, Member States had been slow to
adapt and reappraise their policies and the Commission had continued
its programmes of co-operation with diminishing results. As the
economic relationship had flourished, the political partnership,
with its normative agenda to promote good governance, the rule
of law and economic liberalisation, had been less successful.
A real strategic partnership had not been built.
51. The Russian perception was that the EU had
sought to impose its own normative agenda on Russia and was unwilling
to compromise. Ambassador Chizhov told us that negotiations
on the new EU-Russia Agreement (launched in 2008) had stalled
because the EU insisted on further trade liberalisation, which
Russia could not offer, having just adapted its economy in preparation
for joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Mr Lukyanov said that the only basis for EU negotiations was if
the counterpart took "the normative base of the European
Union as the base for the mutual relationship", which President
Putin "never could accept."
Mr Dmitry Polyanskiy, Deputy Director, First Department of CIS
Countries, Russian Foreign Ministry, described the EU's approach
as "'take it or leave it': if you want it, you accept it;
if you do not like it, well, that is your problem."
Ambassador Yakovenko said this was a result of the EU viewing
Russia as an aspiring member country, "prepared to sacrifice
its interests and sovereign rights for the sake of future membership."
Such a model could not work for Russia.
52. Sir Tony Brenton described the EU's approach
as "slightly Utopian." The Common Spaces document agreed
in 2003 "was full of wishy-washy good intentions but there
was nothing substantive there."
Mr Václav Klaus, former President of the Czech Republic,
was also unsurprised that the previous strategic frameworks for
EU-Russian relations "did not materialise", having always
considered them to be "empty phrases without real substance."
Dr Casier agreed that what had been lacking was "a strategic
vision for relations with Russia as well as for the European Neighbourhood
Policy and the Eastern Partnership."
53. Mr Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary, European
External Action Service, contested that view. The EU approach
was not "so wishy-washy": the EU had engaged on the
Partnership for Modernisation with a "clear understanding
of what our interests were, and the common interests with Russia".
The EU had managed to "get some tangible and significant
results", including a threefold increase in trade in ten
years, and progress on shared interests such as the Tempus, Erasmus
Mundus and research programmes.
54. The EU's relationship with Russia has
for too long been based on the optimistic premise that Russia
has been on a trajectory towards becoming a democratic 'European'
country. This has not been the case. Member States have been slow
to reappraise the relationship and to adapt to the realities of
the Russia we have today. They have allowed the Commission's programmes
to roll over with inadequate political oversight.
55. The present institutional structures have
not deepened understanding, given each side confidence in the
other, or provided for the resolution of emergent conflicts.
MEMBER STATES: LOSS OF ANALYTICAL
56. Witnesses told us that Member States had
lost analytical capacity on Russia. This, we judge, contributed
to a concomitant decline in their ability to maintain oversight
of the direction of the EU-Russia relationship and, in particular,
to monitor the political implications of the Commission's trade
and technical programmes.
57. Mr Klaus recalled that there had been a historic
asymmetry, whereby former communist countries "knew the West
much more than you knew the East", and that this asymmetry
remained. His Excellency
Dr Revaz Gachechiladze, Georgian Ambassador to the UK, also noted
that there was "not a good understanding of Russia in the
to recent events, Mr Lukyanov recalled that on the day of the
Crimean referendum, when the question had already been announced,
he continued to receive disbelieving calls from European diplomats
saying: "'It cannot happen. It is just a bluff'." He
warned us that with "this level of analysis, I am afraid
that more surprises are to come, and not only from Russia."
Dr Casier agreed that there was a "huge need for more knowledge
about the local situation both in Russia and in the Eastern Partnership
countries." This was where "we have to build much stronger
Dr Casier pointed out that President Yanukovych's decision not
to sign the Association Agreement (AA) "had been the subject
of speculation in the Ukrainian press long before he announced
his decision, but took the EU by total surprise."
58. Mr Josef Janning, Senior Policy Fellow at
the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted that while there
remained experienced diplomats in national capitals, there had
been a shrinking of the "strategic space" within ministries
of foreign affairs, in which to "go through the options and
59. The Rt Hon David Lidington MP agreed that
there was a gap in knowledge and analysis, and judged this to
be a function of time and of "various assumptions" made
about Russia during the Gorbachev and Yeltsin years. These meant
that, by the beginning of 2014, "there were very few officials
in any government department or agency, here or elsewhere, who
had personal professional experience of working with the old Soviet
Union before it collapsed."
During our informal discussions we were told that a similar situation
prevailed in other Member States as well.
60. Speaking about the European External Action
Service (EEAS), Mr Vimont defended European diplomacy. He was
"rather impressed by the level of expertise we found at the
European level compared to the expertise I could find in the French
Mr Dmitry Polyanskiy was also impressed by the EU's linguistic
ability. In his experience he had come across "certain persons
speaking Russian at the same level as we do, so it is more or
less their native tongue." He assessed EU analytical capacity
differently: the 2004 EU enlargement to eastern Europe and the
Baltic states had brought into the EU voices which were more critical
towards Russia, which had become more prominent within the EU.
In his view, this had contributed to the "fact that the analysis
of situations in Russia during recent years has changed a lot
from what it was five, six or seven years ago."
61. Mr Lough viewed it as part of a broader loss
of "our capacity to deal with Russia." He said that
an important part of the issue was that EU Member States had lost
an understanding of the "historical factors that have shaped
Russia's existence, the idiosyncrasies of the Soviet Union, and
the legacy of that Soviet experience." Without that experience
it was "difficult for policy-makers to make sense quickly
of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, what its logic is and where
this might lead." This was, he said, a "huge deficiency
right across our systems."
Dr Shevtsova pointed out that diplomacy, however brilliant, could
not act when the EU had "no strategy or coherent vision",
leaving diplomats "to fight for an understanding on how to
proceed." She judged that diplomats were doing what they
could "within the circumstances of European paralysis."
62. Sir Tony Brenton believed that UK diplomacy
was "pretty good", but that it had "suffered because
of a loss of language skills, particularly in the Foreign Office."
This had had a direct effect on the capacity of the FCO to respond
to recent events. There was "quite lot of complaint in Whitehall
after the annexation of Crimea that the Foreign Office had not
been able to give the sort of advice that was needed at the time."
63. Mr Rory Stewart MP has also written about
the shrinking of the strategic space and the loss of deep political
and cultural knowledge in the FCO. In 2014 he wrote:
"People have not been encouraged to devote
their intellect and experience to asking hard questions about
strategy. We have not learned the lessons of our recent failures.
Foreign Office reforms in 2000 reduced the emphasis on historical,
linguistic and cultural expertise, and instead rewarded generic
'management skills.' Instead, many of our officials in all departments
remain distracted by hundreds of emails and tied to their desks,
unable to spend significant time, deeply focused on the politics
of other cultures."
64. Mr Neil Crompton, Deputy Political Director
at the FCO, told us in September 2014 that in response to the
crisis the FCO directorate with responsibility for dealing with
the crisis had been strengthened with a "25% uplift in staffan
additional 13 staffto deal with Ukraine and Russia".
This was a response to the immediate demands of the crisis as
well as recognition of the fact that Russia was "a challenge
we will be dealing with for many years to come."
In December, the Minister told us that other Government departments
had also "increased their staff resource for dealing with
Russia and Ukraine."
RUSSIAN UNDERSTANDING OF THE EU
65. Mr Lukyanov told us that within Russia understanding
of the EU and its internal processes was "very poor"
and, as the old generation had retired, the new generation was
not ready to replace them, which was "a big problem."
Russia was now trying to rebuild that capacity and he hoped that
the expertise would improve as the emphasis on European studies
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
66. There has been a decline in Member States'
analytical capacity on Russia. This has weakened their ability
to read the political shifts and to offer an authoritative response.
Member States need to rebuild their former skills.
67. While there has been an increase in staff
at the FCO to deal with Ukraine and Russia, we have not seen evidence
that this uplift is part of a long-term rebuilding of deep knowledge
of the political and local context in Russia and the region. We
recommend that the FCO should review how its diplomats and other
officials can regain this expertise.
68. There is also a reduced emphasis on the
importance and role of analytical expertise in the FCO. The FCO
should review how such skills could be renewed and how analysis
can feed into decision-making processes.
Neglect of the relationship
69. Professor Sergei Guriev, Professor of Economics,
Sciences Po, said that the relationship between the EU and Russia
had suffered from political neglect on both sides, particularly
in the last decade. On the EU side, by around 2010, "European
foreign-policymakers apparently were busy with other things, which
is understandable." This resonated badly in Russia: for a
former great power it was "not the hostilities that insult
the Russian Government but the neglect." However, he qualified
this by saying that while there "was an unfortunate lack
of energy in engaging Russia", the offers for partnership
were on the table and it was "Russia's choice not to take
them." The extent to which Russia was prepared to co-operate
with the EU was also "not clear", as Russia grappled
with a "major existential crisis
seeing the empire
70. On the other hand, Ambassador Chizhov said
that initiatives proposed by the Russians had not met with reciprocal
interest from the EU. He offered us the examples of visa liberalisation,
and a framework for a new European security architecture, neither
of which had been taken forward. In 2010 the Russians had supported
the Meseberg initiativea German proposal for a mechanism
for security co-operation between the EU and Russia to resolve
the frozen conflict in Transnistriabut this had lacked
the support of other Member States and had fallen by the wayside.
Ambassador Yakovenko told us that the main body of Russia-EU co-operation
at the ministerial level, the Permanent Partnership Council, had
not met since late 2011, due to the "High Representative's
unreadiness to discuss Russia-EU relations in a systemic way."
71. In Mr Lukyanov's view, the current approach
whereby the Commission led on many aspects of the EU-Russia relationship
was unsatisfactory because the relationship required "political
will and very hard work."
Ambassador Yakovenko too expressed dissatisfaction with the
division of competences between the Commission and Member States
which "complicate co-operation with any third country, and
Russia is no exception." He said that these internal procedures
had sometimes been "used as a pretext for demanding unilateral
concessions or delaying work on crucial agreements".
Mr Lukyanov told us that Russia preferred bilateral relations
because the EU was a "very difficult animal" and because
President Putin remained "ready to strike deals
in the normal way in which, for example, big powers come together
and decide something."
72. The current division of competences within
the EU, whereby both the Commission and Member States have responsibility
for different aspects of the EU-Russia relationship, complicates
co-operation with Russia. Russia finds the institutional complexities
of the EU difficult to navigate and would prefer to deal with
Member States on a bilateral basis. The Commission rightly has
some areas of exclusive competence, in trade in particular, but
it must be clearly mandated by Member States who should take ownership
of the policy and signal it to Russia.
Current relationship: divided
73. Member States are the critical factor driving
forward relations with Russia. Mr Hugo Shorter, Head of EU Directorate
(External) at the FCO, told us that "Member States' positions
and the action of Member States such as the UK will remain determinant
in establishing the EU's position as time goes on".
However, we were told that Member States remained divided on Russia
and that those divisions had weakened the EU's capacity to deliver
a meaningful and strategic partnership.
74. Dr Casier said that Russia had "always
been one of the most divisive issues", with Member States
holding "different visions of their relations with Russia
and pursuing their own business interests."
Associate Professor Tomila Lankina, London School of Economics
and Political Science, said that over the last decade Russia had
"exploited Member States' vulnerabilities stemming from Europe's
dependency on Russia's oil and particularly gas exports."
Dr Shevtsova suggested that Russia had "proved tremendously
successful and very able and deft in dividing Europe".
The Minister viewed these divisions as having "contributed
to our strategic European approach to Russia not being as strong
as I would like it to be."
75. Witnesses drew out the distinctions between
Member States. At one end of the spectrum, Sir Tony Brenton pointed
out that "Germany and Italy have huge economic stakes in
a good relationship with Russia", while at the other end
"Estonia and Poland are deeply suspicious of a resurgent
In Dr Shevtsova's view, Russia had pursued bilateral relations
with different 'tiers' of EU Member States. Tier one included
Germany, France and the United Kingdom, while tier two comprised
the Mediterranean countries. The third tier was made up of "Trojan
horses"weaker states that could "easily be subjugated
We assess the roles of the United Kingdom and Germany in more
UNITED KINGDOM: RESPONSE TO THE
76. The UK is a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum
on Security Assurances (1994). In exchange for Ukraine's accession
to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the
UK, alongside the US and Russian Federation, confirmed their commitment
to "respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing
borders of Ukraine."
77. Some witnesses criticised the UK's initially
hesitant approach towards the current crisis. In July 2014, Mr
Bond told us that the UK had not "been as active or as visible
on this as I would have expected and as we might have been a few
The UK had "traditionally been one of the influential"
EU players, and he would have liked to "see British Ministers
stepping up their activity in this area."
78. As the crisis unfolded in Ukraine, the UK
began to take on a more active role at the international level.
Mr Crompton told us that the UK "made much of the intellectual
case for the sort of sanctions we believe will have an impact
on Russia" in the EU and the Group of Seven, and that the
UK had undertaken a "lot of the diplomatic lobbying"
at the EU level. Within the United Nations, the UK was "instrumental
in securing the General Assembly resolution on Crimea." The
UK was also "active in the wake of MH17 in condemning the
shooting down of the plane."
79. The challenge, as Sir Tony Brenton explained,
was that UK-Russian bilateral relations had been "dogged
by a succession of problems" that had placed the UK at a
distance. Furthermore, the positions taken by the UK were "seen
in Moscow as being in the shadow of the United States, and therefore
if they want to hear the hard western line they will go to Washington
rather than come to London." Nevertheless, Sir Tony judged
the UK to have been "as effective as we can be against a
background of difficult core factors in the relationship."
80. Turning to the UK's future approach, the
Minister told us that Russia could not be considered "a potential
strategic partner to the EU", while Russian actions suggested
that Russia saw the EU "as a strategic adversary rather than
as a potential partner."
Mr Crompton confirmed that in the "last period we have largely
regarded President Putin as a partner and someone the EU could
work with in many different ways. I think that the notion of him
as a partner has been challenged."
81. In response to the crisis, the Minister for
Europe informed us that regular dialogues between UK and Russian
defence and foreign ministers had been postponed, as had the Lord
Mayor's visit to Moscow and the intergovernmental steering committee
trade talks, and that a VIP visit to the Sochi Paralympics had
been cancelled. Contacts by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary
had focused on Ukraine.
82. As one of the four signatories of the
Budapest Memorandum (1994), which pledged to respect Ukraine's
territorial integrity, the UK had a particular responsibility
when the crisis erupted. The Government has not been as active
or as visible on this issue as it could have been.
83. We welcome the Government's realistic
appraisal of relations with Russia and recognition of the strategic
challenge posed by the Russian regime. However, the Government
has not developed a strategic response for the long-term and should
now do so.
84. Many witnesses considered that Germany was
the key Member State. Mr Kliment said that the absolutely
crucial dialogue was between Berlin and Moscow. This was partly
because the US and Russia were "just not talking very much
at all right now", but also because the framing of Europe's
response was "very much to do with the Germany-Russia relationship."
Mr Bond agreed that strong economic ties and a strong political
relationship had meant that Germany always had "a great deal
of weight" with Russia.
The UK, Mr Crompton informed us, "strongly" supported
the fact that international diplomacy had "been largely led
by Chancellor Merkel."
85. During our discussions in Berlin, four themes
struck us as being particularly pertinent. First, there was a
particular historical connection and many personal ties between
Germany and Russia. Chancellor Merkel herself had grown up in
East Germany and spoke Russian fluently. Therefore, Russian actions
had been perceived with a particular sense of disappointment.
Second, Germany had been the Member State driving and maintaining
a united EU position on a strong sanctions policy. Third, Russian
actions were perceived in Germany as a direct threat to the security
of Europe. Finally, there was a growing sense of frustration in
Germany that Russia was not responding to Germany's offer of dialogue,
and Germany remained ready to ratchet up sanctions in the absence
of progress on the Minsk Protocol.
86. Dr Hans-Dieter Lucas, Political Director
at the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany,
informed us that both Chancellor Merkel and the Federal Foreign
Office were working along a dual-track policy, which involved
enforcing economic and financial sanctions, while also continuing
to communicate with Russia. Dr Christoph Heusgen, Foreign Policy
and Security Adviser to Chancellor Merkel, Federal Chancellery,
noted that the Chancellor had spent many hours speaking to President
Putin about the current crisis and the implementation of the Minsk
Protocol. The Chancellor had been clear that the offer to President
Putin of dialogue was open.
87. Despite this, the amount of contact between
the German and Russian governments had been reduced. Dr Lucas
informed us that in the past there had been joint meetings of
the German and Russian cabinets, but that these had been suspended.
Apart from the Chancellor and Foreign Minister, most other ministerial
meetings had also been cancelled, though meetings regarding sports
and culture had continued.
88. There appeared to be a political debate taking
place within the German establishment about the form that German
policy towards Russia should take in the future, with divisions
across the political spectrum. Mr Hoffman told us that there was
significant pressure on Chancellor Merkel to be outspoken and
to take a tough line towards Russia.
In Mr Janning's view, Chancellor Merkel's line was beginning
to be contested within her own party, with some calling for "a
more principled approach to Russia". There were some dissenting
voices within the Social Democratic Party and "a lot among
the Greens, who are very hard-line on Russia". In his view,
Chancellor Merkel therefore had to be "fairly outspoken domestically".
Building Member State unity
89. Going forward, our witnesses told us that
Member States must unite on Russia. Mr Kara-Murza said it was
"crucial that the European community, the European Union,
speaks as much as possible with one voice".
90. In fact, witnesses identified a process of
reassessment in national capitals, with Member States agreeing
that Russian actions required a strategic response. In the FCO's
view, while getting initial agreement on sanctions was difficult,
it had "actually become easier over the past couple of months."
Recent events had changed perceptions of Russia within European
governments and there was a recognition that there was "a
strategic challenge to Europe through President Putin's behaviour,"
which required "a strategic response."
Dr Casier saw that the EU was now in a "rather unique situation
where there is a momentum on which there is a broad consensus."
91. However, Dr Casier also pointed out that
the unity was fragile, and that there was "increasing pressure
from certain Member States to return to business as usual".
Mr Bond suggested that in response to the current crisis Italy
had taken "a rather soft position towards Russia", and
that that had "been true of Greece and Cyprus as well."
We would view with concern any further softening by these or other
LEADERSHIP OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL
92. Witnesses suggested that the European Council
should take the lead in offering political oversight and co-ordinating
a more united position on Russia, with the President of the European
Council taking a leading role.
93. Mr Janning noted that, in recent years, key
decision-making and core agenda-setting had increasingly moved
to the European Council: "So I see more clearly now than
before that the European Council will be the institution in the
lead". Dr Casier also expected "the President of the
European Council to play an important role, especially given his
past and the way in which the role has been developed by his predecessor".
The Minister for Europe confirmed that in future "Heads
of Government in the European Council will want to be very hands-on
in making sure that they are happy with what comes up from the
94. This position seems to be supported in Germany.
According to Dr Lucas, the German government was convinced that
Germany's position towards Russia could only be effective if supported
by a broader EU consensus.
Mr Janning agreed that it was important for leadership signals
"to come through the European Council." If Germany were
to continue to be only leader that "would immediately generate
mistrust from other Member States and would thus limit the effectiveness
of German leadership."
95. In Chapter 6, we examine the factors that
could form the basis of a new strategic policy towards Russia,
but as a first step we welcome Mr Bond's suggestion that the EU
should "start with a common analysis", and from there
"start to draw some conclusions about policy."
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
96. Recent events in Ukraine have triggered
a fundamental reassessment of EU-Russia relations among Member
States, who have shown a surprising and welcome unity in condemning
Russian actions and demanding a response. We hope that this unity
continues. However, there seems to be less consensus on a constructive
way forward, and a resulting danger that current unity could dissolve.
97. Europe is at the centre of the crisis
in Ukraine and relations with Russia. The handling of future relations
is a key test for European diplomacy and foreign policy, yet hitherto
divisions between Member States have been the most important factor
hampering development of a strategic EU policy on Russia. In the
long term, only a dual approach, with Member States acting together
as well as using their bilateral connections in the service of
EU policy, will be effective. The first step must be to maintain
solidarity on current policy and to continue to seek a common
approach in the response to the crisis. There is a real danger
that once the crisis ebbs away Member States will continue to
prioritise their economic relations above their shared strategic
98. We see merit in proposals that the President
of the European Council, carrying the authority of the Member
States, should take the lead in shaping the EU's policy towards
Russia. We recommend that the UK Government should strongly support
such a move and bring forward a proposal at the EU level to bolster
the role of the President of the European Council on Russia.
99. The very fact of the European Council
exercising its decision-making processes and strategic thinking
on Russia will, by demonstrating the engagement of Member States,
send an important message to the Russian government. To maintain
political oversight, we recommend that the UK Government should
ensure that a discussion on Russia is regularly placed on the
agenda of the European Council.
100. The starting point for reviewing the
EU's policy towards Russia should be a common analysis, with a
view to identifying shared strategic interests and vulnerabilities.
The analysis would form the basis of a strategic framework on
Russia. We recommend that the UK Government should ask the European
Council to commission this analysis from the European External
26 Appendix 4: Evidence taken during visit to Brussels Back
QQ3, 1 Back
Written evidence (RUS0019) Back
Written evidence (RUS0008) Back
Q98, Q10 Back
Mark Galeotti and Andrew Bowen, 'Putin's Empire of the Mind',
Foreign Policy (21 April 2014): http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/04/21/putins-empire-of-the-mind
[accessed 2 February 2015] Back
Threat perceptions of NATO are discussed in Chapter 4 and the
particular context of Ukraine and Crimea in Chapter 5. Back
This term is usually used to include the EU and US, and sometimes
Canada and Australia as well. Back
Appendix 5: Evidence taken during visit to Berlin Back
Appendix 4: Evidence taken during visit to Brussels Back
Written evidence (RUS0019) Back
Q155. Tempus is the European Union's programme which supports
the modernisation of higher education in the Partner Countries
of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean
region, mainly through university co-operation projects. The Erasmus
Mundus programme aims to enhance the quality of higher education
and promote dialogue and understanding between people and cultures
through mobility and academic cooperation: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/tempus
and http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus_mundus [accessed 2 February
Eastern Partnership governs the EU's relationship with the post-Soviet
states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
It is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4. Back
Written evidence (RUS0006) Back
Rory Stewart OBE MP, 'Thoughts and Analysis on Putin' (27 May
2014): http://www.rorystewart.co.uk/thoughts-analysis-putin [accessed
2 February 2015] Back
Appendix 4: Evidence taken during visit to Brussels Back
Written evidence (RUS0019) Back
Written evidence (RUS0019) Back
Written evidence (RUS0001) Back
Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine's
Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,
19 December 1994, (UN Document A/49/765): available via http://documents.un.org/simple.asp
[accessed 29 January 2015]. In Chapter 5, we discuss the Budapest
Memorandum on Security Assurances further. Back
The Minsk Protocol is explained in more detail in Chapter 5. Back
Appendix 5: Evidence taken during visit to Berlin Back
Q60 (Neil Crompton) Back
Appendix 5: Evidence taken during visit to Berlin Back