The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine - European Union Committee Contents


101.  In this chapter we turn to the growing competition between the EU and Russia in the shared neighbourhood—that is to say, the countries which were once part of the former Soviet Union and which now participate in the EU's eastern neighbourhood policy instruments: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. We also reference Kazakhstan as a member of the Eurasian Union.

The EU's role in the shared neighbourhood

102.  The EU, through its various eastern neighbourhood policy instruments, plays an active role in the shared neighbourhood. These instruments are outlined in Box 2.

Box 2: EU policy instruments in the shared neighbourhood
Launched in 2004, the objective of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is to "achieve the closest possible political association and the greatest possible degree of economic integration." The ENP is proposed to 16 of the EU's closest neighbours—Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. Partner countries agree with the EU an Action Plan aimed at fostering domestic reforms in the political, economic and administrative realms and receive in exchange:

·  Financial support: grants worth €12 billion were given to ENP-related projects from 2007 to 2013;

·  Economic integration and access to EU markets: in 2011 trade between the EU and its ENP partners totalled €230 billion;

·  Visa facilitation: in 2012, 3.2 million Schengen visas were issued to citizens, and in particular to students from ENP countries; and

·  Technical and policy support.

The Eastern Partnership (EaP), launched in 2009, is the eastern dimension of the ENP. It is directed at the six post-soviet countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Commission states that the Partnership promotes democracy and good governance; strengthens energy security; promotes sector reform and environment protection; encourages people-to-people contacts; supports economic and social development and provides additional funding for projects to reduce social inequality and increase stability.

Association Agreements (AAs) govern the political association between the EU and EaP countries. AAs set out the core reforms and areas for enhanced co-operation between the EU and the partner country. AAs include a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) which goes further than a classic free trade agreement, opening up markets but also addressing competitiveness issues and the steps needed to meet EU standards and trade on EU markets.

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova signed AAs, including DCFTAs, with the EU on 27 June 2014. The respective parliaments of Georgia and Moldova and the European Parliament ratified these agreements in the course of the summer 2014. They provisionally entered into force on 1 September. The AA with Ukraine was simultaneously ratified by the Verkohvna Rada and the European Parliament on 16 September 2014. However, the implementation of the DCFTA has been delayed until 1 January 2016.

Source: The European Commission websites: and [accessed on 2 February 2015]

Russia's role in the shared neighbourhood

103.  Russia also lays claim to a role in the shared neighbourhood, drawing on its historical links with former Tsarist and Soviet Union countries, close cultural and economic ties, and security interests.

104.  Russian concerns in the shared neighbourhood centre on four themes:

·  military security;

·  internal preoccupations of regime consolidation;

·  protection of the Russian language and ethnic Russians; and

·  the Eurasian Union.


105.  In Moscow's assessment, NATO remains the pre-eminent security threat to Russia. The Kosovo war in 1999, where NATO acted against Russia's wishes, was one of a "sequence of things" which had upset Russia.[129] A particular dispute over NATO's eastern expansion has further distorted relations between the West and Russia.[130]

106.  In the months that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall (1990), the United States of America, Soviet Union and West Germany engaged in talks on the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the reunification of Germany. What was discussed then about NATO has become the subject of dispute among analysts and diplomats (even among those present at the time).

107.  On one side, it is asserted that the western powers pledged that NATO would extend no further east. This promise was broken by three rounds of further enlargement, adding 12 eastern European countries to the Alliance. Sir Rodric Braithwaite GCMG, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Russia, informed us that assurances were given in 1990 by the US (James Baker, US Secretary of State) and Germany (Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor), and in 1991 on behalf of the UK (by the then Prime Minister, John Major, and the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd) and France (by French President Francois Mitterrand). Sir Rodric Braithwaite said that this "factual record has not been successfully challenged in the West."[131] Former US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara has also averred that the US "pledged never to expand NATO eastward if Moscow would agree to the unification of Germany."[132]

108.  On the other hand, these assertions have been challenged on three main grounds. Some US policy makers, also present at the time, such as George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, firmly deny that the topic of NATO membership extending to the Warsaw Pact countries even arose, much less that the US made any such assurance in negotiations on German reunification.[133] The Minister for Europe quoted an interview with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev where he said that the "topic of 'NATO expansion' was not discussed at all, and it wasn't brought up in those years."[134] A second reason put forward is that events overtook an already ambiguous assurance. The unprecedented speed of German reunification and the wider political context (the break-up of the Soviet Union and fall of communist governments all over eastern Europe) rendered any earlier assurance redundant.[135] Finally, it is argued that western promises were made orally, nothing was codified and it would have been impossible for western governments to bind future sovereign states. Sir Andrew Wood GCMG, former British Ambassador to Russia and Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, said that such a promise "was never asked for and never put down in writing. In any case, even if it had been—which it was not—it would be invalid; you cannot bind the future."[136] The Minister for Europe said that "NATO has carried out enlargement in a transparent way communicating with Russia through such fora as the Permanent Joint Council" and furthermore, "sovereign states have the right to decide their own security policy and that no one country should have a veto over those choices."[137]

109.  While the facts of that expansion may be disputed, what is clear is that the 'broken promise' of enlargement has long featured as a key element of Russian policy-makers' deepening cynicism over NATO and western good faith. Sir Rodric Braithwaite found it "unsurprising that the Russians took seriously repeated high-level oral assurances they were given by Western officials who, they naturally assumed, were speaking responsibly", and noted that the Russians therefore "felt that they had been badly misled" by NATO enlargement.[138] The Russian President returned to this topic in his 18 March Speech to the Federation Council:

    "they (Western leaders) have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed before us an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO's expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders."[139]

110.  Mr Alexander Kliment, Director, Emerging Markets Strategy, Eurasia Group, said that Russia's "tremendous objection" to NATO expansion had been underestimated by the West.[140] Dr Alexander Libman, Associate of Eastern Europe and Eurasia Division, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, explained that it was important to "take into account the irrational fear of NATO many Russians have. Even liberal-minded people in Russia often honestly state that for them expansion of the NATO towards the east is a point of concern."[141] Mr Denis Volkov, Head of Development Department, Levada Center, confirmed that for the Russian public, "NATO was always considered a threat" and that an "underlying distrust of the United States and NATO" remained.[142]

111.  Mr Mikhail Kasyanov, former Prime Minister of Russia and co-leader of the Republican Party of People's Freedom (PARNAS party), and Mr Vladimir Kara-Murza, Co-ordinator, Open Russia, presented an alternative Russian view. Mr Kasyanov pointed out that NATO was only dangerous when "those values that were supposed to unite us disappear". For his part, he perceived no threat. He said that NATO was "absolutely a friendly organisation, contrary to what Mr Putin is doing now."[143] Mr Kara-Murza also did "not see the expansion of NATO as any kind of threat to Russia." On the contrary, NATO had been a security provider for Russia and "the most stable, secure and peaceful borders" that Russia had were the borders with NATO.[144]

112.  The Minister for Europe, while agreeing that a feeling of insecurity existed in Russia, questioned the extent to which that feeling was "justified objectively", and what could legitimately be done to address it.[145] For Sir Andrew Wood, while NATO expansion was the "central grievance that the Russians themselves proclaim", the fact was that "Russia has not been threatened directly by NATO at all." Countries had joined because they "wished for stability and because they wished to reinsure themselves to some degree against possible Russian pressure."[146]

113.  Turning to the specific case of Ukraine, Mr Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman, Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Editor in Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, said that the "security concerns connected to possible rapprochement between Ukraine and NATO" were the key element driving President Putin's actions there.[147] Dr Marat Terterov, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Brussels Energy Club, explained the Russian perception that if there were a pro-West and pro-American government in Ukraine, there would be a "genuine risk that Sevastopol could host NATO vessels."[148] Ms Sabine Lösing MEP said that "we are witnessing an intense power political struggle in which it was the West that initiated the contest with its expansionist policies and where Russia now also increasingly reverts to hard power politics."[149]

114.  In Ms Lösing's view, a lasting solution for Ukraine would only be achieved "if the West categorically supports a future neutrality of the country—that implies no NATO membership, but also no association agreement with the EU".[150] During a recent interview, Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, said that the best outcome would be for Ukraine to become "a bridge between east and west" rather than a western "outpost".[151]

EU conflated with NATO

115.  While Russian policy makers and the Russian people distinguish to some extent between the 'West' and the EU, the EU's eastern enlargement has increasingly become conflated in the minds of the Russian government with NATO expansion. Mr Kliment said that Russia viewed the closer alignment of Ukraine with European economic and political structures "ultimately as a stalking horse for Ukraine's eventual NATO membership."[152] The Russian perception, Mr Lukyanov told us, was that EU membership would "almost inevitably lead, in the short-term or long-term perspective, to NATO membership, which is perceived in Russia as an absolutely unacceptable threat to national security."[153] Speaking in September 2014, Mr Neil Crompton, Deputy Political Director, FCO, said that the events of the past few months had shown that Russia regarded the extension of EU influence "as a very serious threat to its own sphere of influence."[154] However, Mr Ian Bond CVO, Director of Foreign Policy, Centre for European Reform, reminded us that it was not a necessary connection, and that "Finland, Sweden, Austria and Ireland" had all managed to exist within the EU without joining NATO.[155]


116.  While we are clear that NATO is a defensive alliance, for the Russians NATO is seen as a hostile military threat, and successive rounds of NATO's eastern enlargement have, as the Russians see it, brought it threateningly close to the Russian border. EU enlargement, as it has become conflated with NATO enlargement, has also taken on the aspect of a security threat. These views are sincerely and widely held in Russia, and need to be factored into Member States' strategic analyses of Russian actions and policies.


117.  The Russian government's preoccupation with ensuring its own stability is key to understanding its actions in the neighbourhood. Professor Sergei Guriev, Professor of Economics, Sciences Po, Paris, explained:

    "This social compact is gone. The Russian economy is at best stagnating. To offer a new source of legitimacy, the regime needs non-economic solutions. Bringing new countries into the sphere of interest, showing that Russia is an important country, showing there are greater things than GDP per capita or economic growth or mortgages (are) tools for the regime to gain legitimacy and popularity and survive."[156]

118.  Mr Kasyanov said that President Putin's main motivation was to "keep his power internally in the country",[157] while Dr Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate, Moscow Center, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, emphasised that "foreign policy is the servant, instrument and means of a domestic agenda." That agenda was to "survive through to 2018 … and indefinitely, and keep stability and status in Russia."[158] The consequence, according to Mr Kasyanov, was that Russia needed "to find an external enemy and to impose a mobilisation spirit on the society." In particular he thought that President Putin needed "short wars and victories."[159]

119.  The EU's model of good governance and promotion of democracy was seen as a riposte to the political model adopted by the current Russian government. Two aspects of the events in Ukraine were thus keenly threatening: the manner of the fall of President Yanukovych, and the longer-term threat of Ukraine choosing the EU. The precedent of an elected leader overthrown by what His Excellency Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the UK, described as a "coup", was, according to Mr Kara-Murza, "too close to home"—an "authoritarian corrupt leader fleeing his country in a helicopter, amid mass popular protests in the capital".[160] President Putin accordingly "decided that he had to do everything to prevent a Maidan in Moscow."[161]

120.  Dr Shevtsova and Mr Kasyanov highlighted the Russian fear of a domino-like effect, whereby neighbouring countries might be drawn towards the EU. Dr Shevtsova explained that Russia did not want neighbouring countries to become "a kind of icon and point of attraction, the embodiment of economic success and of a rule-of-law state."[162] Mr Kasyanov emphasised that it would be "absolutely unacceptable to have democratic success for a country like Ukraine." Such a transformation for Ukraine "would work to the destruction of Mr Putin's vision, and a different Slavic, or Russian, world".[163]

Heightened risk of conflict

121.  Professor Guriev found it hard to judge whether President Putin had been opportunistic or imperialistic in his actions in Ukraine, whether he was using foreign policy to ensure the legitimacy and survival of the regime, or was driven to restore a Greater Russia. However, both theories delivered "the same empirical predictions."[164] Mr Kliment warned us that the popularity and support for the Russian regime depended on a "combative and pugnacious foreign policy", creating a "significantly heightened risk of conflict between the EU and Russia—not open conflict but indirect conflict of the kind that we are seeing in Ukraine."[165]

122.  His Excellency Dr Revaz Gachechiladze, Georgian Ambassador to the UK, believed that President Putin was trying to restore the former Soviet Union. He told us that it was axiomatic "that Russia was always expanding territorially."[166] His Excellency Andrii Kuzmenko, Ukrainian Acting Ambassador to the UK, also viewed Russia's aim as to "reincarnate the Russian empire at least as (far as) the border of the former Soviet Union."[167]

123.  Other witnesses felt that the likelihood of further military action was limited. Georgia and Moldova did not hold the same economic or strategic importance as Ukraine, while the Baltic states were protected by the Article 5 guarantee of their NATO membership.[168] Mr Kara-Murza echoed the view of other witnesses, that he did not foresee a direct military intervention in the Baltic states, "as they are NATO members". However, while stopping short of an Article 5 threat, "non-direct" steps had been taken to destabilise the Baltic states.[169] The Minister for Europe pointed to more concrete actions: an "Estonian official kidnapped from Estonian territory by Russian forces and still held in Moscow without any evidence brought against him; a Lithuanian fishing boat seized on the high seas, towed to Murmansk, and still held".[170]


124.  The responsibility for European defence remains with Member States and NATO. Hostile actions of any kind by the Russian government towards the Baltic states must be met by Member States and NATO with a strong response.


125.  The treatment of Russian-speakers was a key theme in Russia's discourse regarding its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. His Excellency Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU, said that the local population in Crimea were very concerned by the anti-Russian sentiment evident in declarations to ban the Russian language (subsequently not implemented, but discussed further in Chapter 5). In the circumstances, the Ambassador said, President Putin was compelled to act, because if he had turned a blind eye he would never have been forgiven by the ethnic Russians in Crimea.[171]

126.  Other witnesses viewed the concern for ethnic Russians as merely a pretext. Mr Lukyanov said that President Putin might have thought that to explain his actions in Crimea "he needed a bigger narrative, and then this 'Russian world' came in."[172] Mr Kara-Murza dismissed the "so-called threats" to Russian-speaking people in Crimea as "nonsense". He said that the "so-called concern about 'compatriots'" was merely a tool which the Putin regime used against governments it deemed unfriendly, including the Baltic states.[173] The Minister for Europe also viewed the doctrine as "calculated to sow fear in the three Baltic republics in particular."[174]

127.  The status of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states has been a recurring motif in President Putin's statements in recent years. In 2012 he wrote:

    "We cannot tolerate the shameful status of 'non-citizen.' How can we accept that, due to their status as non-citizens, one in six Latvian residents and one in 13 Estonian residents are denied their fundamental political, electoral and socioeconomic rights and the ability to freely use Russian?"[175]

128.  In Estonia and Latvia, Russian does not have the status of an official language, and in both these countries citizenship rights, in particular the right to vote in national elections, are dependent on a language test in the official language.[176] Therefore, ethnic Russians who were not born in these countries, primarily an older generation who settled in the Baltic regions after World War II, with limited language ability in the official language, are denied citizenship and are unable to participate in the political process.[177] In contrast, Lithuania granted citizenship to all its residents at the time of independence. Mr Kara-Murza explained the nuances within the countries and their respective electoral rules: "non-citizens in Estonia can vote in local elections. In Latvia, they cannot … In Lithuania, everyone was granted automatic citizenship; it is not an issue there."[178]

129.  All three Baltic countries are state parties to the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (adopted in 1994). The Framework sets out a number of principles according to which signatory States are to protect the rights of minorities. Article 4.2 makes it clear that a state's obligations may also require affirmative action on the part of the government. The parties undertake:

    "to adopt, where necessary, adequate measures in order to promote, in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life, full and effective equality between persons belonging to a national minority and those belonging to the majority. In this respect, they shall take due account of the specific conditions of the persons belonging to national minorities."[179]

130.  Sir Tony Brenton KCMG, former British Ambassador to Russia and Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, believed that Russians were "angry" about this issue.[180] During his time in Moscow, Russians had regularly complained to him "about EU double standards, particularly with regard to the Russian minorities in Latvia and Estonia", where they were "disadvantaged largely by language tests being the route to civic rights."[181] His instinct was that, while in strict legal terms Estonia and Latvia were acting within the parameters of EU standards, perhaps the EU and the UK "should be encouraging the Latvians and the Estonians to do more" about this.[182] Mr Bond said that while ethnic Russians could achieve citizenship (by taking the language test), Estonia and Latvia "could probably have found certain small ways of making the process easier".[183]

131.  While the issue of integration of ethnic Russians and linguistic rights has been less challenging for Lithuania, since it hosts a relatively small percentage of ethnic Russians, all three Baltic states have taken steps to facilitate integration. For example, education reforms have instituted bilingual teaching curricula.[184] Baltic states have ensured that there has been "a fully functioning Russian language maintenance system in publications, media, the arts and public discourse".[185] Furthermore, many ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia have taken and passed the linguistic test.[186] Some ethnic Russians in Estonia have chosen not to take the test as it would deprive them of the right to visit Russia without a visa.[187]

132.  The authors of the article 'Language Politics and Practices in the Baltic States' (2007) draw attention to the contradiction between the criticism of Baltic language policies by Russian leaders and the fact that internal relations in the Baltic states have been "far more marked by accommodation and agreement on the part of language minorities and populations generally than by overt hostility."[188] However, the authors also point out that this has been a persistent foreign relations issue between the Baltic states and Russia since the time of the independence of the Baltic states from the Soviet Union in 1991. Moscow's demands have been "unequivocal and remain essentially the same to the present day: that is, that citizenship should be granted to all permanent residents, and that Russian be recognised as a second official language."[189]


133.  The historical grievance of the rights of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia offers the Russian government a convenient pretext which could be used to justify further destabilising actions in those states. On the basis of the evidence we have taken, there does, prima facie, seem to be a question to be investigated, in particular whether more steps could be taken to facilitate access to citizenship for ethnic Russians who have long-established residency in these states, but limited ability in the official language.


134.  The Eurasian Union, also known as the Eurasian Economic Union, is a political and economic union, which could have significant implications for relations in the shared neighbourhood.

Box 3: Eurasian Union
The term 'Eurasian Union' refers to several entities. It designates a Customs Union, initiated in 2006 and launched in 2010, that includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and which developed in 2012 into a Common Economic Space of the three countries. The term is often used to refer to the Eurasian Economic Commission (formerly the Customs Union Commission) which is the executive of the Customs Union. It also refers to the Eurasian Economic Union, a new institution which was launched on 1 January 2015. The treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union was signed in Astana (Kazakhstan) in May 2014.

The organisation of the Eurasian Union is as follows:

·  At the lowest level is the 'College of the Eurasian Economic Commission' which consists of nine members who preside over 23 departments. Each Eurasian Economic Union country has three delegates but once new candidates join it is likely that there will be a reshuffling;

·  The Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission oversees the College. This consists of three serving deputy prime ministers in each of the member state governments who formally take most of the decisions;

·  There are two decision making bodies, both called the High Eurasian Economic Council, one made up of the relevant prime ministers, and the other in the format of the presidents only;

·  Decisions are taken by unanimity.

Candidate countries expected to join the Eurasian Economic Union are Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Armenia has already signed the treaty to join the Eurasian Union. Kyrgyzstan has signed a roadmap and the timetable is to join the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015.

Mr Dmitry Polyanskiy, Deputy Director, First Department of CIS Countries, Russian Foreign Ministry, described the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union as the third stage of economic integration following the establishment of the Customs Union and the creation of the Single Economic Space.[190] A community court will arbitrate disputes between the parties.[191]

Source: Nicu Popescu, 'Eurasian Union: the real, the imaginary and the likely', European Union Institute for Security Studies Chaillot Paper no. 132 (September 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015]

135.  Mr Kliment said that the Eurasian Union was the "primary project" for President Putin.[192] The Eurasian Union had both an economic and geopolitical logic. It was aimed at "cementing the economic domination of that region (former Soviet Union) with a formal institutional structure." The geopolitical logic was to put Russia "on a more equal footing" with the EU.[193] Dr Hans-Dieter Lucas, Political Director, Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, agreed that the Eurasian Union was designed to restore Russia as a global power.[194]

136.  Mr Lukyanov explained that the initial aim of the Eurasian Union had been to "create a framework in which Ukraine could be … embedded."[195] Without Ukraine, Mr Kliment confirmed, the Eurasian Union added little "heft" to the Russian economy.[196] However, Mr Polyanskiy contested this view: Russia was "not establishing this union for the sake of Ukraine." While it would have been "beneficial for Ukraine to join", he recognised that this was not a "political incentive", and it "was, and it is still, for Ukrainians to decide."[197]

Economic incompatibility between the Eurasian Union and the EU

137.  There is an inbuilt economic incompatibility between EU free trade agreements and the customs element of the Eurasian Union. Mr Polyanskiy explained that Customs Union members would pursue their policies as a bloc: Members "have a common, unified customs tariff, and they conduct free-trade agreement negotiations together."[198] Member countries transferred their trade competences to the Eurasian Economic Commission, who would negotiate on their behalf.[199] Mr Jean-Luc Demarty, Director-General, Directorate General for Trade, explained that countries would not be able to conclude individual free trade agreements as they would have to respect the common customs tariff.[200] The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between the EU and Ukraine was, therefore, incompatible with Ukraine becoming a member of the Eurasian Customs Union.[201]

138.  Of the current members of the Eurasian Customs Union, only Russia was a member of the WTO, and this too made economic co-operation difficult. Dr Shevtsova said that it was not possible for the EU, which followed WTO rules, to have deep trade agreements with non-WTO members (and therefore with the Eurasian Union). She felt that "all rhetoric about their compatibility is mystification and a bogus argument."[202] Mr Demarty explained that without WTO membership and its dispute settlement process there would be "no recourse" if non-WTO countries of the Eurasian Customs Union applied non-WTO compliant rules.[203]

139.  In contrast, the key point for Mr Lukyanov was that Eurasian integration was based on WTO norms, and that co-operation between the two required the "political will to negotiate".[204] Mr Polyanskiy agreed: "Our customs union is totally compatible with the WTO, so if EU free-trade agreements are WTO-compatible, they should be compatible with the customs union."[205]

Relations between the Eurasian Union and the EU

140.  The EU does not yet have formal relations with the Eurasian Union. President Putin, in October 2014, said:

    "We would also have welcomed the start of a concrete dialogue between the Eurasian and European Union. Incidentally, they have almost completely refused us this as well, and it is also unclear why—what is so scary about it?"[206]

141.  Mr Lukyanov said that the EU had until recently "flatly rejected" establishing ties with the Eurasian Union, fearing that to do so would "legitimise" the project.[207] According to Mr Polyanskiy, the Eurasian Union had been keen to initiate a dialogue, but the EU "was always very unwilling to engage in such relations." He told us that there had been no official meetings between the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission. This had been problematic for EU-Russia trade relations, as the transfer of trade competences to the Eurasian Economic Commission had meant that Russia was "no longer in a position" to discuss these issues on its own. According to Mr Polyanskiy, Russia had tried "in vain" to explain this point to the European Commission.[208]

142.  More generally, some witnesses viewed the two blocs as diametrically opposed in their values. Dr Shevtsova did not see "any grounds for compatibility" between the Eurasian Union and the EU, as the two models proposed two competing models of development. In her view, the Eurasian Union offered "an alternative—an antithesis—to the European Union", and created a framework for the "preservation and reproduction of authoritarian regimes and economies under state control in member countries."[209] Professor Elena Korosteleva, Professor of International Politics, University of Kent, pointed out that both projects targeted "an overlapping zone of interest—the eastern neighbourhood." Both the EU and the Eurasian Union professed and were associated with "differing sets of values." [210]

143.  Nevertheless, Mr Lukyanov detected "slight changes in approach" on the EU side and thought that with a new Commission, "which has a bit more room for manoeuvre, this process (dialogue between the two sides) might be launched."[211] Dr Tom Casier, Jean Monnet Chair, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Kent, said that the EU should ensure that the Association Agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova were compatible with both the Eurasian Customs Union and the final terms of the Eurasian Economic Union.[212] There were signs that others in Europe were beginning to acknowledge the need to engage with the Eurasian Union too. In November 2014, Chancellor Merkel said that Germany was prepared for the EU to engage in trade talks with the Eurasian Union, if progress could be made in eastern Ukraine.[213]

144.  From the European Commission, Mr Demarty did not rule out the possibility of co-operation between the EU and the Eurasian Union. The pre-conditions for such co-operation were primarily that all the members of the Eurasian Customs Union would have to be WTO members and respect their WTO commitments. Russia was the only Customs Union member in the WTO and, as for complying with WTO obligations, Mr Demarty noted that this was "certainly not the case with Russia".[214] Also, the Eurasian Customs Union would have to "demonstrate a clear willingness and capacity to commit to the stabilisation of their trade relations." He noted that "we are far from there."[215]

145.  The Minister for Europe said that it was "a bit early" to consider exploratory discussions between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union, for two reasons. First, the future of the entity was uncertain and, second, any discussions would have to be predicated on de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. If that were so, "perhaps a development of this EU-Eurasian Union relationship at political level would be possible." However, the UK was "cautious for the time being".[216]


146.  The Eurasian Union is a project to build Russian regional influence in competition with the EU's own arrangements with partner countries. The current incompatibility that is structured into the economic arrangements between the two blocs is in danger of creating new dividing lines on the continent.

147.  The European Commission has been hesitant to engage officially with the Eurasian Union. We judge that the EU should reconsider this approach. We recommend that the Commission should track the development of the Eurasian Union and put forward a proposal to the European Council outlining the basis on which formal contacts could be initiated.

148.  However, we recognise that enabling the two trading blocs to work together is further complicated because Russia is not assiduous in obeying its WTO obligations.

Reviewing the EU's instruments in the shared neighbourhood

149.  Mr Hugo Shorter, Head of EU Directorate (External), FCO, said that the "experience of the past year or so shows that we need to review how the eastern partnership policy works and our overall approach."[217] Dr Shevtsova said that the ENP was "shattered" and that while there remained elements of the ENP in place it was "hardly a vision or package of coherent policy instruments." She did not see any signs that the EU had a strategy that would "make the European neighbourhood effective."[218]

150.  The new High Representative and Commission will undertake a review of the ENP. Below, we set out our witnesses' views on some of the core questions which have remained ambiguous for too long, and which we believe the review should examine further.


151.  Two strategic interests remain unreconciled in the EU's policies in the neighbourhood: on the one hand, a ring of well-governed states on the EU's periphery is in the EU's strategic interests, while on the other, European security cannot be built in the face of sustained Russian opposition.

152.  Mr Kliment saw the choice facing the EU in stark terms: the EU had to decide whether it was more important to expand its political and economic influence in the former eastern bloc countries or have "a functional, stable and growing relationship with Russia." In his view, those two things were "no longer compatible."[219] According to Mr Bond, Russia had decided that it was in its interests to keep the countries in the common neighbourhood "weak, unstable and dependent on Russia. That is not in our interest and we should do what we can to prevent it."[220] Sir Tony Brenton disagreed. It was "perfectly possible for the EU to have good, close, economic and political relations" with countries in the neighbourhood, provided that the EU was not seen to be trying to "pull them" in the EU's direction.[221]

Building resilience in the neighbourhood

153.  Some witnesses were clear that extending the EU's model to the neighbourhood should be an EU policy goal: history had shown that accommodating authoritarian states at the expense of the rights of sovereign nations was not a recipe for long term stability. Mr Bond told us that EU Member States had "an interest in the countries to our east becoming democratic, prosperous and more stable, and we should pursue that." EU Member States should resist Russian efforts to "shut us out of an area that is just as much our backyard" as theirs.[222] Mr John Lough, Associate Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, said it was important to remember that countries on Russia's periphery "should be able to make choices", and that if those countries chose the EU's model of development rather than Russia's then that was the "Russians' problem and not ours."[223] The Minister for Europe was clear that Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries had "a sovereign right to choose the direction in which they travel."[224]

154.  Associate Professor Tomila Lankina, London School of Economics and Political Science, advised the EU to be "firm and consistent in articulating concern that an authoritarian form of government in Russia poses legitimate security concerns to the EU." The EaP had become hostage to "Russia's claims of its exceptional security vulnerabilities posed by EU enlargement", and the EU should counter that its support for democracy was "motivated by its own legitimate vulnerabilities stemming from the 20th century record of dictatorships wreaking havoc on the continent."[225]

155.  Dr Casier urged caution, saying that while Ukraine (and other countries) were entitled to seek membership, it would "make the geopolitical situation worse." He advised us to "think about a different model for a wider Europe", where the two projects were no longer clashing with each other but became compatible.[226] He suggested that the EU could consider varied integration with a "system of double concentric circles" which reflected the EU's and Russia's interests in the neighbourhood. Under this model, the closer the countries were to the EU, the more integrated they would be with the EU and, likewise, the nearer to Russia, the more they could be integrated with Russia.[227]

Engage Russia—voice not veto

156.  A specific question, posed by Mr Shorter, was "how do we engage with Russia on what are doing with the Eastern Partnership?"[228] Dr Terterov said that the EU did not have a strategy towards Russia, but rather strategies for the neighbourhood countries which "de facto" became the Russia strategy.[229] Professor Richard Whitman, University of Kent, said that the EU made a "strategic error in decoupling Russia from its ENP/EaP rather than finding a formulation that would have recognised its significance for the region and for the realisation of the EU's goals."[230] Dr Casier viewed this as the "age-old problem" of the "place of Russia in the wider Europe." In his view, if the EU did not find a structural solution to that question then it would "move from crisis to crisis."[231]

157.  Sir Andrew Wood said that the EU should not "subscribe to the myth" that Russia was "supposed to control everything", but that it should recognise that the EU owed Russia respect and had to "deal with the powers that exist there."[232] The Minister for Europe said that the starting point had to be "Russia being prepared to recognise the integrity and the sovereignty of its neighbours."[233] The red line for the Minister was to avoid a "great-power pattern" of politics, whereby the EU and Russia decided the fates of other countries. In his view, partner countries had to be "equal participants at any table."[234]

158.  Ambassador Gachechiladze offered us the example of how Georgia had taken steps to improve relations between Russia and Georgia. Political issues, in particular those pertaining to the territorial integrity of Georgia, remained off the table, but nevertheless the Georgian government had "offered Russia a dialogue on some humanitarian, economic and cultural issues". Successive rounds of dialogue had proven quite successful and had resulted in a resumption of trade between the two sides.[235] The Ambassador believed that there was "space for negotiations and dialogue" with the Russians, and that the Georgians were "very supportive of these sorts of actions."[236]


159.  Since its launch in 2009, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) has been the subject of sustained Russian opposition. Soon after its launch, Alexander Grushko, a deputy foreign minister of Russia, said that the EaP must not make the partner countries choose between either Russia or the EU.[237] Ambassador Yakovenko told us that EaP countries "were faced with artificial 'civilizational choice': either with the EU or with Russia", and that the policy had been "implemented without consideration of Russia's legitimate interests."[238] Professor Whitman noted that Russia had become "progressively more hostile" to the EU's EaP and ENP. During 2013, Russia's policy had moved from "discontent to active opposition", demonstrated by its interventions to draw the EU's eastern partners away from the EaP. Professor Whitman said that the EU had "gambled that Russia would gradually reconcile itself" to the EaP, and that there had been an "absence of a clear sighted diplomacy with Russia that recognised its clear and publicly articulated opposition" to the EaP.[239]

160.  Other witnesses commented on the binary choice between the EU and Russia offered to partner countries. Professor Korosteleva said that the rhetoric around the Association Agreement (AA) offered to Ukraine was framed around a choice between either the EU or Russia. She argued that both the EU and Russian approaches failed to "understand the region itself and its historical urge for complementary rather than dichotomous relations" with wider Europe".[240] Mr Polyanskiy agreed that for countries like Ukraine and Moldova it was "impossible to make such a choice"; they should be allowed to "develop the best possible relations with both Russia and the European Union".[241]

Ambiguity of the offer

161.  We were told that the ambiguity inherent in the EaP's offer of EU membership had undermined the capacity of the EaP to build resilience into the neighbourhood, created unrealistic expectations among partner countries, and destabilised relations between the EU and Russia.

162.  With regard to Ukraine, Dr Shevtsova said that the weakness of the EaP was its failure to offer membership. In her view, it was "a very difficult process of transformation", which gave no hope that at some point Ukraine would be "with Europe or in some kindergarten of Europe."[242] Alexander Graf Lambsdorff MEP, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), speaking in a personal capacity, was not convinced that the country could "become a member of the European Union as we understand it today."[243] For Dr Casier, the point was not that Ukraine was not entitled to choose EU membership, but that such steps would make the "geopolitical situation worse."[244]

163.  From the Russian perspective, Mr Polyanskiy told us that Ukraine did "not have a concrete prospect of membership" of the EU.[245] Mr Lukyanov added that the EaP was an "unfair system" for the partner countries, as it did "not promise anything: not membership, not anything else." Furthermore, it "undermined very much the Russian-European relationship."[246]

164.  The Ambassadors for Ukraine and Georgia told us that both countries harboured ambitions for full EU membership. The Acting Ambassador of Ukraine informed us that President Poroshenko had stated that Ukraine "should be ready economically, politically and democratically to submit the application for membership for the year 2020".[247] He added that it was clear that Ukraine was covered by the border of Europe: "We are a European nation; we have a European destiny and a European future."[248] Ambassador Gachechiladze stated that "Georgia's choice of the West is by necessity and choice. We consider ourselves a European country."[249]

165.  Dr Lucas, on the other hand, was clear that the EaP was not an accession process: the EaP brought countries closer to the EU economically, but was not itself about membership.[250] The Minister for Europe acknowledged that there was a "need for greater clarity and transparency" about what the EaP involved and how it differed from EU accession. He added that: "It is not the same as membership. It is not incompatible with membership either."[251]

Eastern frontier of the EU

166.  We asked our witnesses if it would be helpful to define the Eastern frontier of the EU. Mr Bond told us that there was a difficult line to be drawn, "as to whether Europe comes to a cliff-edge or a beach that slopes gently down to the sea." He added that AAs attempted to soften the cliff-edge into sloping beach by asking partner countries to adopt much of the acquis communautaire. Member States had thereby avoided drawing the line clearly. At the moment "we have a bit of each and that is not very helpful because it leads to a lack of clarity." The danger inherent in this approach was that the EU would reproduce "the Turkey problem", which involved "promising something that you subsequently decide you would really rather not deliver."[252]

167.  Most recently, the decision by the Juncker Commission to postpone enlargement for five years was, as Dr Casier pointed out, only a reflection of the fact that none of the candidate countries would be ready before that time.[253] The Minister for Europe stated that EU membership was open under the treaty to any European country that wanted to join and could meet the accession criteria. Having said that, he judged that none of the EaP countries would be able to reach the standards for a "long time into the future"; the next in line, the Balkan countries, would be ready only in the "2020s, in some cases the late 2020s."[254]


168.  In the review of the neighbourhood policy, the EU and Member States face a strategic question of whether Europe can be secure and prosperous if Russia continues to be governed as it is today. Whatever the present Russian government's real intentions may be, Russia's internal governance and its resulting threat perceptions create geopolitical competition in the neighbourhood. The EU's capacity to influence the internal politics of Russia is limited, and Member States have not demonstrated an appetite to make the attempt. Therefore, if influencing Russia's future governance is not on the agenda, Member States instead need to devise a robust and proactive policy to manage competition with Russia in the shared neighbourhood.

169.  The first step is for the EU to distinguish between the legitimate and the illegitimate security interests of Russia. Moscow has a right not to be excluded from the eastern neighbourhood. However, it does not have the right to deny or threaten the sovereign rights of its neighbours.

170.  A strategy to promote reform in the neighbourhood must be matched with a new effort to rebuild relations with Russia. We recommend that the upcoming review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, to be undertaken by the High Representative and the Commission, should consider forums whereby Russia, the EU and the neighbouring countries can work together on regional issues.

171.  Member States must be closely engaged in the process. As part of the review, Member States should take advantage of the pause in enlargement to engage in a fundamental reassessment of their strategic interests in the eastern neighbourhood. There is an unresolved tension between the offer of membership on the table to Eastern Partnership countries and the political will of Member States to follow through, which is not uniform. This creates unrealistic expectations, and complicates Russia's relationship both with these countries and with the EU. Member States must clarify whether EU membership is on offer. This issue should not be left ambiguous in the upcoming review.

172.  We recommend that, once the review is complete, the Commission and the European External Action Service should put forward a strategy to communicate the EU's future policies to Russia and the partner countries. This strategy should explain how the Eastern Partnership and, if so decided, future EU enlargement, work to the mutual benefit of the whole region, including Russia.

173.  Member States' embassies should also play a greater role in EU policies in the eastern neighbourhood. We recommend that the FCO ensures that its embassies in the region monitor and review Commission programmes in the eastern neighbourhood.

129    Q48 (Sir Tony Brenton) Back

130   Mary Elise Sarotte, 'A Broken Promise? What the West Really Told Moscow About NATO Expansion', Foreign Affairs, (September/October2014): and Steven Pifer, 'Did NATO Promise Not to Enlarge? Gorbachev says "No"', The Brookings Institution, (6 November 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

131   Written evidence (RUS0021) Back

132   Quoted in Mark Kramer, 'The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia", Center for Strategic and International Studies, (1 April 2009): [accessed 2 February 2015]  Back

133   Ibid Back

134   Written evidence (RUS0020) Back

135   Written evidence (RUS0021) and  Q203 Back

136    Q203 Back

137   Written evidence (RUS0020) Back

138   Written evidence (RUS0021) Back

139   Vladimir Putin, speech to State Duma deputies and Federation Council members (18 March 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

140    Q24 Back

141   Written evidence (RUS0015) Back

142    Q193 Back

143    Q224 Back

144    Q105 Back

145    Q259 Back

146    Q203 Back

147    Q173 Back

148    Q115 Back

149   Written evidence (RUS0004) Back

150   Ibid. Back

151   Bronwen Maddox, 'New world disorder: An interview with Henry Kissinger', Prospect, (18 September 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

152    Q21 Back

153    Q173 Back

154    Q53 Back

155    Q13 Back

156    Q80 Back

157    Q237 Back

158    Q6 Back

159    Q227 Back

160   Written evidence (RUS0019),  Q104 Back

161    Q104 Back

162    Q3 Back

163    Q228 Back

164    Q80 Back

165    Q27 Back

166    Q182 Back

167    Q67 Back

168    Q27 (Alexander Kliment),  Q36 (John Lough),  Q219 (Vaclav Klaus),  QQ36, 38 (Sir Tony Brenton) Back

169    Q104 Back

170    Q257 Back

171   Appendix 4: Evidence taken during visit to Brussels  Back

172    Q177 Back

173    Q101 Back

174    Q259 Back

175   'Russia and the changing world', Ria Novosti (27 February 2012): 39300.html [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

176   Gabrielle Hogan-Brun, Uldis Ozolins, Meilute Ramoniene and Mart Rannut, 'Language Politics and Practices in the Baltic States', Current Issues in Language Planning, vol. 8, no. 4, (2007): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

177   Human Rights without Frontiers, 'Citizenship and Language Rights of Russian-speaking Minorities' (29 September 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

178    Q101 Back

179   Council of Europe, Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1994): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

180    Q35 Back

181    Q33 Back

182    QQ33, 35 Back

183    Q10 Back

184   'Language Politics and Practices in the Baltic States', page 539 Back

185   Ibid., page 596 Back

186   Ibid., page 543 and Tony Barber, 'Baltic state fear Kremlin focus on ethnic Russians', Financial Times
(2 September 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015]  

187   'Baltic state fear Kremlin focus on ethnic Russians'  Back

188   'Language Politics and Practices in the Baltic States', page 470  Back

189   Ibid., page 525  Back

190    Q240 Back

191   Article 8, Treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Community (adopted on 10 October 2000): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

192    Q19 Back

193    Q20 Back

194   Appendix 5: Evidence taken during visit to Berlin Back

195    Q175 Back

196    Q20 Back

197    Q243 Back

198    Q241 Back

199    Q240 (Dmitry Polyanskiy)  Back

200    Q139 Back

201    Q141 (Jean-Luc Demarty),  Q23 (Alexander Kliment) Back

202    Q5 Back

203    Q142 Back

204    Q175 Back

205    Q241. The DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine is compatible with the free trade area between Russia and Ukraine but is not compatible with Ukraine becoming a member of the Eurasian Customs Union. ( Q141 Jean-Luc Demarty). We discuss Russia's separate concerns about Ukraine's DCFTA impacting the Russian-Ukraine free trade arrangements in Chapter 5. Back

206   Vladimir Putin, Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club (24 October 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

207    Q176 Back

208    Q240 Back

209    Q5 Back

210   Written evidence (RUS0003) Back

211    Q176 Back

212    Q114 Back

213   'Merkel offers Russia trade talks olive branch', Financial Times (26 November 2014): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

214   We discuss Russia's WTO obligations in more detail in Chapter 6. Back

215    Q142 Back

216    Q260 Back

217    Q65 Back

218    Q4 Back

219    Q23 Back

220    Q13 Back

221    Q38 Back

222    Q13 Back

223    Q38 Back

224    Q261 Back

225   Written evidence (RUS0001) Back

226    Q116 Back

227    Q114 Back

228    Q65 Back

229    Q111 Back

230   Written evidence (RUS008) Back

231    Q114 Back

232    Q207 Back

233    Q259 Back

234    Q261 Back

235    Q181 Back

236    Q190 Back

237   'Europe's bear problem: The trouble with the European Union's attempts to woo Russia', The Economist (25 February 2010): [accessed 2 February 2015] Back

238   Written evidence (RUS0019)  Back

239   Written evidence (RUS0008) Back

240   Written evidence (RUS0003) Back

241    Q243 Back

242    Q4 Back

243    Q130 Back

244    Q116 Back

245    Q244 Back

246    Q179 Back

247    Q74 Back

248    Q72 Back

249    Q183 Back

250   Appendix 5: Evidence taken during visit to Berlin Back

251    Q260 Back

252    Q18 Back

253    Q120 Back

254    Q260. For a further discussion on EU enlargement, see the Committee's previous report on the subject: European Union Committee, The future of EU enlargement (10th Report, Session 2012-13, HL Paper 129).  Back

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