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The unbearable lightness of permanent integration: why does the EU need to answer its Ukrainian question?

Copyright @2013
Australian and New Zealand Journal of European Studies
Vol. 2013 5(2)
ISSN 1837-2147 (Print)
ISSN 1836-1803 (On-line)
The unbearable lightness of permanent integration: why does the EU
need to answer its Ukrainian question?1
Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
The process of European integration has long ceased to be a ‘know-how’ of political science.
Nowadays, it is the discipline’s daily routine, the prose of life and the sublimation of Milan
Kundera’s “unbearable lightness of being.” There is a cost to bear, of course, but it is worth it.
For example, the Estonian understanding of integration is that the country is never again to
be in another version of the Soviet Union; the small Baltic/Nordic country is now heading to
its centennial in 2018 being called Eesti Vabariik or, if translated literally from Estonian into
English, the ‘Estonian Free State.’ Spain is integrating to keep Catalonia and the Basque
Country after all, both Futbol Club Barcelona and Bilboko Athletic Kluba are still playing in
the Spanish La Liga, aren’t they? Apart from the rather beneficial financial side of integration
for the EU’s strongest economy, Germany is very much favouring the idea to ensure that it is
not to forget how and why the process commenced. There is also a very original ‘Greek way’ of
integration, but let’s be quiet about it for now.
Indeed, what was supposed to be the unified Europe is shaping up to be dramatically patchy.
Some commentators in the United States (Marko Papic, for example) even started expressing
concerns that the European continent is suffering from overpopulation of nations not
people. Former citizens of the disintegrated Yugoslavia could tell a lot of stories about
relatively small localities becoming independent states overnight. If tiny Tuvalu and Nauru in
our lovely South Pacific can be proudly called ‘sovereign nations’ (no doubt, they deserve it),
why can’t Montenegrins be treated the same way? There is a centuries-old popular saying in
the less than 700,000 people Balkan state: “We and the Russians 200 million.” Forget that
numbers do not usually go smoothly with statistics when it comes to sounding slogans…
Forget that, for Russians, Montenegro is very far down the list of priorities in foreign policy
a popular place to have a holiday though…
“Overpopulation of nations, but not people”… Is it the case? What is going on in Europe?
There is an interesting as well as radical scholarly response from Oxford, England Jan
Zielonka’s view on Europe as a modern variation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fairly
liberal, very multicultural and rich, the monarchy of Austria-Hungary was in existence for
quite a while. Besides the two titular nations, it managed to integrate and quasi-integrate a
1 This commentary is based on Vlad Vernygora, ‘The EU’s Ukrainian question: the unbearable lightness of permanent
integration’ in The Lithuania Tribune, 29 July 2012.
large number of other peoples, some of whom had absolutely no ability and/or desire to
become integrated. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had friends and enemies, but it had no
internal security system. That’s why it was traded in the war, and the vast political entity,
together with another three empires that had direct relevance to the European continent
The EU has a decent security system, thus the peaceful sky within an imaginary quadrilateral
‘Azores-Rovaniemi-Vilnius-Limassol’ is not yet possible to be exchanged in the devastating
military conflict. Therefore, everything in Europe continues to be framed by the vignette of
permanent integration. Sometimes it seems that if Leon Trotsky had been alive, he would
have tried to adapt his crazy idea of permanent revolution to the new integration-driven
realities. Presumably, he would have received much of pan-European support from
Members of the European Parliament, for instance. A true Trotsky clone in his capacity as
President of the European Council is perhaps something extraordinary to think of in 2013, but
George Orwell would have loved the concept for his dystopian fiction. Or does it sound like a
‘bread and butter’ for a Sir Thomas More of the XXI century the ‘U’ would have been
standing for ‘Utopia’ in the ‘EU’? The revolution (read integration) that has no end…
Why this prelude? Sooner or later, the Greek financial ‘hiccup’ will be history: Greece is even
scheduled to preside over the Council of the EU in the first half of 2014. The contemporary
‘Golden Fleece’ (billions of euros) is getting found, albeit this time not by Jason, not in
Georgia and not for free. For the EU it is time to go further eastwards, partially playing the
integration game in the Polish or/and Lithuanian way. To the east is Ukraine. It is hard to
ignore the fact that even Jean Monnet in his Memoirs mistakenly or intentionally treated
the former USSR as a monolithic geopolitical formation, often simplistically identifying the
humongous communist polity with Russia and Russians only. Perhaps, it was a matter of
diplomatic convenience to ‘forget’ about the other titular republics of the Soviet Union, and, of
course, the difficult time it was. Now European bureaucrats (elites, low-profile office-holders
and ‘grey cardinals’ of European politics) are becoming increasingly interested in re-doing the
intermediate school-level geography lessons to explore the continent’s political map and
locate the Ukrainian state. Actually, the State itself is not in good shape at the moment.
The country’s political leaders speak incoherently. They almost legally appoint criminal
‘watchers’ to ‘look after’ regions of their own nation. They openly mock the Ukrainian
language. They sincerely do not understand that the Estonian President’s refusal to meet with
the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs is a diplomatic signal of a different political world.
Ukraine is on a par with Syria and the Central African Republic in the 2012 Transparency
International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. On a grimly ironic note, Ukraine’s rating in the
Index is slightly better than that of Eritrea and Guinea-Bissau though what an achievement!
People from the so-called ‘Family,’ a powerful politico-economic clan, control almost
everything in the country. More significantly, the behind-the-scenes organisers of journalist
Gongadze’s killing folks on Ukrainian streets will tell you those names without any
hesitation are still at large. Finally, the Ukrainian political summit is mercilessly
‘compressing’ the opposition. As some Nordic nations believe, there cannot be too much
irony, it is also worthwhile noting that, apart from fierce criticism and perhaps even
impeachment, Viktor Yanukovych deserves an imaginary medal of Ukrainian Merit for a great
and easily accomplished ‘feat’ that, in different circumstances, could have united the nation.
He ensured that Viktor Yushchenko, the country’s most characterless and ‘milk-and-water’
politician, will have no chance to continue playing a more or less serious role in Ukrainian
Nevertheless, Ukraine’s geopolitical advantages for the EU are not only territorialafter
EURO-2012, it became widely known in Europe that the Ukrainian state is in fact slightly
larger than Germany and Britain (or, for that matter, Spain and Portugal) combined. There is
something else that might help the former EU-15 (there is still a bit of a division between the
EU-15 and the other Member States of the supranational entity, haven’t you noticed?) to treat
the Association Agreement with Ukraine as seriously as it could possibly be treated. Firstly,
the formalisation of Ukraine’s linkage with the EU will help the whole European continent to
avoid something to which the Ukrainian nation is getting pushed openly, aggressively and
ruthlessly the country’s division on the western part (with no access to the Black Sea) and
the south-eastern formation. At the moment, Russia is answering its ‘Ukrainian’ question
explicitly and much faster than the EU is. Quite often it feels like the continent’s best head-
hunters have already initiated their search for a new Gavrilo Princip. Or maybe the EU is in
agreement with Leonid Kravchuk who once stated that “[i]n the case of the collapse of
Ukraine, no one would notice its disappearance from the political map.” Russia will not mind
Secondly, the go-ahead to the Association Agreement with Ukraine should give the EU a
unique opportunity to implement its own ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine that could greatly
enhance the long-term prospects of the euro and strengthen investment activities across the
EU-28. Thirdly, the Baltic States and Poland, historical experts on Ukraine, will be able to
boldly define their regional and sub-regional priorities. Fourthly, the Eastern Partnership
Programme will eventually get a visible functional dimension at present, its set of goals is
generally perceived (not without irony) as promotion of the privilege and, to some extent,
luck of a neighbouring country to be formally recognised by the EU as a neighbouring country.
Fifthly and finally, the phenomenon of ‘Polish plumber’ in the EU will be replaced by the
phenomenon of ‘Ukrainian plumber.’
In sum, Ukraine is no longer a Soviet territory. In addition, the ‘South Ossetian’ scenario of
the distribution of Russian passports in the Crimea and the Ukrainian East was not allowed to
be ‘performed’ on the country’s political stage either. Moreover, Viktor Yanukovych is a
politician of his own economic clan, not a pro-Russian jack-in-the-box. During his time as the
Head of Donetsk Oblast Administration (1997-2002), he was quoted by a reputable Ukrainian
media source as proudly stating that Russian business had no significant presence in his
region. Additionally, the Ukrainian civil society appeared to be visible only seven years ago,
and it has already come to school age. Will it go to a Soviet-type school, or a European
‘gymnasium’? Fortunately or unfortunately, the answer to this question, due to difficult
circumstances, depends on the EU.
By leaving Ukraine outside of the European political vicinity, the EU will be providing ‘an
Archduke Franz Ferdinand’ with his one-way ticket. Who will be the new Archduke and where
the new Sarajevo will be, would no longer be so important, but Ukraine’s disappearance from
the political map would certainly be noticed by everybody. Thus if we have a desire to
formalise an immediate agenda for scholars and practitioners in the field of European Studies
the process should start by ensuring that the EU’s geo-political stance on Ukraine is
Towards the EU … or on a Third Path?
National Centre for Research on Europe
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
After almost 25 years of the EU’s eastern enlargement it can be argued that the initial
expectations of both sides of the former Iron Curtain have been completely fulfilled. The post-
communist transition (i.e. economic marketisation and political democratization) has been
successful (or the least unsuccessful) almost exclusively in those states which were able to tie
their political and socio-economic reforms to the EU’s conditional offer of membership,2 and
EU enlargement to the east has served as the EU’s best “foreign policy”3 and “policy
instrument and…conflict prevention mechanism”4 that brought significant benefits to the ‘old’
Member States and their citizens’ wellbeing. However, despite these dual benefits in pursuing
EU enlargement, recent developments indicate that the enlargement scope of the EU is
speedily approaching its limits despite the proposition of the Treaty of Rome (which has not
been amended by subsequent treaties) that ‘any European state may apply to become a
member of the Community [i.e. Union].’5 While political leaders and the people of Croatia are
still celebrating the accession of this post-Yugoslav state as the 28th member of the EU, the
EU’s leading politicians and officials continue to effectively discourage new and potential
applicants for EU membership. Having not yet fully recovered from enlargement fatigue that
they started to feel after the ‘mega-enlargement’ of 2004/076 and pressured by the extending
duration of the global economic crisis and its own Eurozone crisis, EU leaders have continued
with an enlargement ‘policy’ based on the combination of a pre-Lisbon set of restrictive policy
measures with an optimistic ‘pro-enlargement’ rhetoric. As a direct consequence of this, even
the ‘done deal’ of the inclusion of all the (Western) Balkan states into the Union after more
than ten years of negotiations and the gradual fulfilment of the imposed conditions for EU
(pre-)accession now seems to be a very long way off despite the already achieved official
membership candidate status of three (Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) out of six of these
2 For more details see e.g. H. Grabbe, The EU’s transformative power: Europeanization through conditionality in Central
and Eastern Europe, Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; M. Petrovic, The Democratic
Transition of Post-Communist Europe - In the Shadow of communist differences and an uneven
EUropeanisation, Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013; G. Pridham, Designing Democracy.
EU Enlargement and Regime Change in Post-Communist Europe, Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave
Macmillan, 2005.
3 F. Schimmelfennig, ‘EU political accession conditionality after enlargement: consistency and effectiveness,’ Journal of
European Public Policy, Vol. 15, No. 6, 2008, p. 918.
4 N. Tzifakis, ‘EU’s region-building and boundary-drawing policies: the European approach to the Southern Mediterranean
and the Western Balkans,’ Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2007, p. 59
5 The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, Rome 1957, art. 237.
6 See e.g. M. Petrovic, op. cit., and M. Petrovic, (What about) the Further Enlargement of the EU? In between European
Enlargement Fatigue and Balkan Instability Challenges,’ Australian and New Zealand Journal of European Studies, Vol. 1,
No. 2, 2009, pp. 39-58.
7 Kosovo is included among these six states as although it is not officially recognised by Serbia and many other states,
including the UN and five EU Member States it is treated, more or less, as a sovereign state by the EU in its external and
enlargement policies.
Under these circumstances the ‘EU future’ of Ukraine, similarly to other non-Baltic post-
Soviet states with EU ambitions currently incorporated in the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP
- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova), remains a highly hypothetical long-
term project, at least regarding full membership status. Torn between its own East and West,
and its centuries-long historical (and present) cultural and political ties with Russia and its
(Western) European ambitions, and mired in post-communist ‘reforms’, corruption scandals
and political affairs after the (un)successful Orange Revolution, it seems that Ukraine has
begun to realise that the necessary immediate improvements in all these fields will not come
as a product of its integration into the EU in the near future. The high expectations expressed
before and especially after the Orange Revolution of December 2004January 2005 are now
almost the long forgotten past. While one of the two leaders of the revolutionary protests
which were initiated by election fraud, but which in fact demanded the resolute
democratization and EUropeanization of the country, is today ill in prison, having been
sentenced for high-level corruption (or ‘corruption’); the other, who is not imprisoned as yet,
has lost all credibility and political influence. Those who still hope to see ‘Ukraine in EUrope
and EUrope in Ukraine’ now look to President Yanukovich, who was the key target of their
revolution, as the only one who can help them to achieve their revolutionary goals (see
Vernygora’s comment in this volume).
From this perspective the five years of negotiation leading to an association agreement which
Ukraine expects to sign with the EU by the end of 2013 should be understood as the final stage
of an objectively achievable level of close cooperation between the two parties rather than the
beginning of deeper integration (i.e. Ukraine’s accession to the EU in the next 10 to 15 years)
which such agreements represented for the acceding states from East Central Europe, the
Baltic and to a lesser extent the Balkan states. It should not be forgotten that Albania and
Serbia signed their Stabilisation and Association treaties (SAA) with the EU in 2006 and 2008
respectively and that both of them are still waiting to open accession negotiations. The case of
Macedonia is even more intriguing in this regard; although this country signed the SAA with
the EU already in 2001, and became an official candidate for EU membership in 2005, due to
the Greek veto on its name it is still (as of November 2013) waiting to open accession
In addition to the above, Ukraine’s size and its (and the EU’s) relations with Russia are two
other factors which have negatively impacted the prospects for the accession of Ukraine into
the EU in the foreseeable future. After the EU’s ‘absorption capacity’ re-emerged as the key
reason for tightening the accession conditions for the new candidates at the time of the
completion of the 2004/07 enlargement round and the emergence of enlargement fatigue,
being big has become a disadvantage and not an advantage in the bid for EU membership. In
addition to the introduction of a more rigorous “tool” for negotiating the adoption and
implementation of acquis chapters, a “renewed consensus on enlargement” which was
adopted by the European Council in June 20068 also included an obligation for the
Commission to establish “whether the EU can take in new members … without jeopardizing
the political and policy objectives established by the Treaties.”9 The fact that the Western
Balkan candidates for EU membership are relatively small countries,10 and as such bear
relatively small enlargement and absorption costs, is alongside their geographical location in
8 European Council, Presidency Conclusions, Brussels, 15-16 June 2006, point 4).
9 European Commission, Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006-2007. Including annexed special report on the
EU’s capacity to integrate new members, COM(2006) 649 final, Brussels, 8.11. 2006, p.17.
10 The combined population living in all six remaining non-EU Western Balkan states (see footnote 1) is around 19 million,
which is more than two times less than the current population of Ukraine.
(or close to) the ‘heart of EUrope’ one of the most important factors when assessing their
prospects for EU accession in the medium term of 7 to 10 years.11 By contrast, Ukraine, with
its 45 million people and a territory which is slightly smaller than Germany and Poland
combined, is a much ‘bigger pill’ to swallow, i.e. absorb, even if it was internally in much
better shape than it is now and spared from the interference of the Russian factor. As for the
latter, although it is no longer a superpower, Russia remains a strong regional player that will
continue to use all possibilities to interfere in its neighbourhood in order to keep it ‘friendly.’
This interference will be all the stronger the more Russia is politically isolated and desperate
to find new friends or keep existing ones, and even more so if it is seen as an opponent and
potential enemy of the West(ern democracies) and the EU, as it is often portrayed in many
Western media and intellectual circles regardless of the real level of difference between
“Western” and “Eastern” values and norms.12 The heavy reliance of at least half a dozen EU
Member States and Ukraine itself on Russian gas and energy further complicates the situation
and has increased opportunities for greater interference by today’s authoritarian Russia in
internal Ukrainian affairs, which further obstructs Ukraine’s EU ambitions. While Russia
itself can hardly expect (and probably would not wish) to ever join the EU (even if it one day
become a real democracy able to meet all accession conditions) primarily and almost
exclusively because of its huge size,13 the chances of Ukraine and other EaP countries of
joining the EU will significantly increase once Russia democratises and establishes more
genuine relations with the EU that will not be based exclusively on purely economic interests
combined with political suspicions, competition and/or confrontation.
This does not necessarily mean that nothing could be done earlier and that there is no hope
for Ukraine at present. Instead of waiting for the improvement of external factors and the
EU’s “Marshall Plan”14 to come to Ukraine15 and solve all its existing problems, something
which will definitely not happen anytime soon, the country’s political and intellectual leaders
should try to solve some urgent existential issues that could also help unify the heavily divided
nation. These primarily include the pressing problems of corruption and declining living
standards: Ukraine was one of the 30 most corrupt countries in the world (out of 174 listed in
total) according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and the real
GDP of the country was still below two-thirds of its 1989 level in the same year.16 Although
both of these goals are almost unachievable in a broken economy with a corrupt business and
political elite without significant foreign assistance (accession to the EU being the best
possible form of such assistance) that will enable the introduction and control of the
implementation of necessary structural reforms, there are some realistic chances for success if
accompanied by a strong will and decisive political action. The signed association treaty with
the EU and its existing economic closeness to Russia can be of great support. Instead of being
a battlefield between its own and Europe’s West and East, Ukraine may try to be a bridge
between them. Using its existing closeness to both the EUropean West and the Russian East,
11 M. Petrovic and N. Smith, “In Croatia’s Slipstream or on an Alternative Road? Assessing the objective case for the
remaining Western Balkan states acceding into the EU,Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol. 13, No. 4, 2013.
12 Bideleux, Robert, “Rethinking the Eastward Extension of the EU Civil Order and the Nature of Europe’s
New East-West Divide”, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2009, pp. 118-136.
13 M. Petrovic, “Defining the Limits of EU Eastern Enlargement: Fatigue, values or 'absorption capacity,'” Revija za Evropsko
pravo (Review of European Law) Vol. XIII, No. 2-3, 2011, pp. 77-97; M. Petrovic and N. Smith, op.cit.
14 Vernygora, op.cit.
15 Primarily in the form of the opening of accession opportunity and through the process of accession negotiations as was the
case with the previous post-communist candidates for EU membership.
16 See Transparency International at and EBRD, Transition
Report, London, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2012, p. 157.
it may succeed in bringing these two closer to each other and finding its own unity, identity
and future. This may actually be its only option.
A divided democracy/contested kleptocracy between two Unions
University of Otago, New Zealand
There are two ways that we might analyse politics in Ukraine that are reminiscent of
portrayals of Russia during the Yeltsin era. On the one hand, there are questions of ideology,
national identity and foreign policy orientation. These are played out as struggles over the
nature of the Constitution whether parliament or the president should wield more power,
what voting system should be used and within the Constitution between parliament and the
president. On the other hand, there is the murky world of ‘clans’ and ‘families’, the groups
competing to acquire wealth as well as power. The two approaches are intertwined, but I will
look at each in turn.
Ukraine is unlike any of the other former communist states in Europe. It is deeply divided,
ethnically and politically, but has remained intact. Countries such as Hungary and Poland
were able to draw on a long-standing sense of national identity in their ‘transition’, while
others (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Moldova) split up, peacefully or through war, formally or
de facto. Furthermore, unlike in Estonia and Latvia, the Russian speakers in Ukraine cannot
simply be categorised as settlers but fit more the category of ‘national minority’, to use Will
Kymlicka’s terminology. These circumstances make the development of a democratic political
system even more difficult than usual. From this perspective, it is remarkable that the country
has not disintegrated or undergone more serious outbreaks of violence than the periodic
punch-ups in the parliament or impasses such as occurred during the ‘Orange Revolution.
But there has been potential for crisis since independence, and present developments make its
realisation more likely.
In broad comparative perspective, the problems of state- and nation- building that we see in
Ukraine are common across much of the contemporary world, particularly in post-colonial
situations. The former Soviet context can also be viewed as post-colonial, with the break-up of
the Soviet Union analogous to the earlier break-up of the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires, but
also in some respects to the later break-up of the Western European overseas empires. Some
comparable problems have emerged across these areas: the lack of established statehood in
existing borders, the lack of long-standing traditions of peaceful transfer of power and
democracy in the deeper sense, and the problem of developing a national identity in the face
of clan, tribal, ethnic, religious or sectarian divisions.
Even in Western Europe, such problems have only been resolved relatively recently after
centuries of evolution and conflict. It is particularly challenging to develop a workable
democratic political system quickly and without recourse to the kind of measures that were
used in the past in Europe e.g. forced assimilation, ‘ethnic cleansing’ which are now quite
rightly generally considered unethical and/or illegal. In other Central/Eastern European
countries, the ‘transition’ was facilitated by European Union ‘conditionality’ built on the
promise and in time the actuality of membership of the EU. But the publics of those countries
were not seriously divided over their EU orientation, and there were not deep-seated divisions
among national minorities in the countries that joined (except in Cyprus, where one of the
reasons for the failure of the Annan Plan was the Greek side’s refusal to give strong group
political rights to the Turkish minority).
It is often suggested that in Ukraine, the division between the west and the south/east reflects
a fundamental divergence of political values and attitudes towards democracy. If this is the
case, then the situation is comparable, for example, to Egypt after the Arab Spring, or to
Turkey under the AKP: there are fundamentally incompatible views about the basic
framework in which politics can take place. This is not so much about a struggle between
proponents of a parliamentary form of democracy and proponents of a presidential system
(although the changes to the Ukrainian Constitution in 2004 and again in 2010 suggest that
this is a political football): it is about how to develop a sense of a political community a
demos when the values that might constitute that demos are contested. This is aside from
the issue of a lack of an ethnic basis to the demos. Although values and ethnicity of do seem to
coincide among much of the population, one of the laudable aims of independent Ukraine has
been to promote at least formally a civic idea of Ukrainian-ness (as in the preamble to the
Constitution which is markedly different in flavour from the preambles of many other post-
Soviet and post-Yugoslav Constitutions). But the civic identity lacks a values content to add
depth to the symbolic elements of the state.
This analysis is not to endorse the clichéd view of western Ukrainian democrats facing
southern/eastern Ukrainian authoritarians, however. A problem with the Western media and
political elite narrative of the ‘Orange Revolution’ and after was that it was couched in terms
of ‘democrats’ versus ‘authoritarians’, where the democrats were defined not just as those who
protested against in the squares against the rigging of the election and Russian interference in
the election, but all those who had voted for Yushchenko, while those who supported
Yanukovych were identified as authoritarians. This way of framing the issue is dangerous
because it categorises around half the voters as a threat to the political system or state and
runs the risk of casting into doubt the smooth transfer of power after any election (although
acceptance of the 2010 result, which was judged by international monitors as reasonably free
and fair, was encouraging). Furthermore, ‘democrats’ have often been defined as those who
support an EU-orientation. But this belies the fact that foreign policy orientation is itself a
democratic choice, particularly where each citizen’s preference may emerge from a strong
sense of identity. In addition, those who came to power in 2004 did not prove the best of
‘democrats’ with their in-fighting and also with their own links to business groups and pursuit
of personal financial gain. More recently, the rise of a Ukrainian nationalist party also casts
doubt on the democratic credentials of all members of the current opposition (just as in
That is one mode of analysis. The more common mode today is to see politics in Ukraine as
not like the politics of any constitutional democracy, but as a competition for the fruits of
power between oligarchs and their political associates; and to remark that while these
problems existed under the previous president, things have got much worse since the 2010
presidential election. Meanwhile, the opposition continues to be divided. This is reminiscent
of Russia under Yeltsin, but there are also similarities to Putin’s Russia, including the creation
of shadow parties to drive support away from the opposition, and there are also direct links
between the Russian and Ukrainian political and economic elites. Along with disappointment
with the results of the ‘Orange Revolution’, this situation helps to explain the current cynicism
among the public, especially while economic hardship continues, which threatens to
undermine the achievements made in relation to the difficulties identified by the first mode of
analysis. However, Ukraine is not yet fully like Putin’s Russia, partly because of the inherent
divisions described above which prevent the broad support behind an authoritarian figure
that developed across all sectors of Russian society (but which might now be dissipating), and
there remains real opposition in parliament.
Taking into account the results of EU conditionality elsewhere, we might envisage the EU
playing a positive role in helping to reverse the drift from democracy identified in the second
mode of analysis. But it runs the risk of exacerbating the problems identified in the first mode
without necessarily offering a model to deal with them.
As a number of commentators have observed, Ukraine is being placed in a position where it is
forced to choose between the EU and Russia. On the one side, Russia is seeking to prevent
Ukraine from signing a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and coerce it into joining the
Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, using crude economic levers. On
the other side, the EU says that Ukraine cannot be a member of the Customs Union and also
sign what it has labelled the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA)
between the EU and Ukraine. Perhaps this is the practical reality of regionalism, as the
European Commission has been arguing, because if Ukraine joins the Customs Union, it may
not be free to develop its own FTA with other states/entities. But the warnings from both sides
are placing Ukraine in an insidious position given the historical links, the personal ties, and
the economic interconnectedness between Ukraine and countries both of the former Soviet
Union and of the European Union.
All Ukrainian political leaders since independence have considered it important to maintain
close relations with both Russia and the EU and have tried to avert a scenario in which they
would be forced to choose one or the other. In the security field, Ukraine was previously
seeking membership of NATO (despite the doubts of the majority of the population) but the
Russia-Georgia war of 2008 and the end of the Bush administration in the United States
curtailed such plans at least for the foreseeable future. But outside the zero-sum context of
membership of hard security alliances, Ukrainian leaders hoped that in the realm of trade and
movement of people, multi-sum logic could prevail. But now matters seem to be coming to a
head with the envisaged DCFTA and Russia’s plan to deepen and widen the Customs Union
and create a Eurasian Economic Union.
The conclusion of the DCFTA currently depends on human rights improvements being made in
Ukraine, in particular the release from prison of former Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko. So
the EU is using conditionality, and perhaps in this way, Ukraine’s EU-orientation could be
beneficial for its post-communist development. However, the EU (like Russia) is not just
motivated by altruism since it stands to benefit with the enlargement of its market and
profitable business opportunities. Ukraine will not become a member of the EU, at least for
the foreseeable future, and the benefits of the FTA are not clear-cut. These days, it is usually
taken for granted that all FTAs are to the benefit of everyone, but there will certainly be many
losers in Ukraine, and potentially the greatest losses will be in the more industrial east,
particularly if access to the Russian market is restricted and the costs of energy rises. This
could be very destabilising given the political preferences of the population in those regions. It
could also herald the final end of the long-standing cultural and personal ties in the wider
Eurasia which many in the West might consider to be a good thing, but would create sharp
dividing lines where once there was fluidity and merging of identities.
Such was also the story of the development of the nation-state in Europe, which received an
additional chapter with the break-up of the Soviet Union (the last of the land-based empires)
at the same time that in Western Europe, the next part of the evolution of political form was
supposedly being written: beyond sovereignty, beyond the nation-state. However, it has
always been a concern that the EU integration project would create new barriers in Europe
(the ‘Fortress Europe’ concept), but promotion of open regionalism (through the World Trade
Organisation, for example) and initiatives at local regional level to transcend the borders
between the EU and neighbouring states helped avert this scenario.
But the choices being forced on Ukraine show that such measures, and the notion of
supranationalism, cannot remove the fundamental need for sovereignty at some level and the
concomitant need for defined borders which demarcate political communities, with the
inevitable divisions that go with them.
A fork in the road? Ukraine’s difficult position between East and West in
the foreseeable future
PhD candidate
University of Auckland, New Zealand
In Ukraine’s infancy as an independent country, one of its consistent foreign policy traits has
been to pursue a ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy which aims at balancing relations with Moscow
and with Brussels in order to obtain win-win scenarios.17 Indeed, at times Ukraine has leant
closer to one side than the other. For instance, during the early period of Leonid Kuchma’s
reign (1994-2005), Ukraine noticeably solidified its ties with Russia (particularly with the
1997 ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership’) while after the 2004 Orange
Revolution, which resulted in the ascension of Viktor Yushchenko to power (2004-2010),
Ukraine made no secret of its desire to move closer to Europe and eventual EU membership.
However, despite occasions such as these when it has appeared Ukraine would manoeuvre to
completely side with either Russia or the EU, it has always re-balanced and re-engaged with
the other side. In fact, pursuing this dual-vector, East-West, win-win approach remains a
cornerstone of Ukrainian foreign policy even under the stewardship of Viktor Yanukovych.
The fears that Yanukovych’s rise to power in 2010, particularly due to his ethnic and business
links to Russia, would see Ukraine unequivocally side with Moscow have been largely
unfounded and arguably Ukraine has become more brazen in its desire to achieve positive
outcomes with both the EU and Russia.18
Ukraine’s balancing between the EU and Russia in the first two decades since independence
made obvious sense given its geographical proximity between the two,19 the similar levels of
two-way trade it shares with both,20 the internal European-Russian dimensions of Ukrainian
society,21 and the opportunity to harness the dual benefits of having strong ties with the two
largest entities on the European continent. However, Ukraine’s foreign policy choices were
also aided by a permissible international environment and regional setting in Europe. On the
one hand, the EU and Russia, although never close partners, nevertheless represented cordial
neighbours which made the triangular relationship between the EU-Russia-Ukraine viable.22
EU-Russia interdependence in energy and trade (although asymmetrically tilted towards the
EU), both of which concern Ukraine greatly, forced cooperation on some levels. On the other
hand, both the EU and Russia, albeit for different reasons, did not have the foreign policy
17 The phrase multi-vector foreign policy was coined by then Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.
18 A. Krushelnycky, 'The End of Ukraine’s Balancing Act', Foreign Policy, 2013,
<>, accessed 15 August, 2013.
19 The analogy of Ukraine as a ‘bridge’ between Europe and Russia was repeated often by Ukrainian officials in interviews
conducted in Brussels and Kiev in September and October 2013.
20 Ukraine’s total trade amounts to 31% with the EU and 20% with Russia. Sourced from European Commission.
21 Ukraine’s ethnic breakdown at the last official census (2001) was 77.5% Ukrainian and 17.2% Russian. However, the
language statistics illustrate perhaps a greater Russian influence: 30% of Ukrainians are native Russian speakers while more
than 50% of the population use Russian as their language of communication.
22 F. Lukyanov, 'Russia-EU: The Partnership That Went Astray,' EuropeAsia Studies, Vol. 60, No. 6, 2008, pp. 11071119.
incentives or capabilities to pursue stronger policies in Ukraine or the wider neighbourhood
for that matter.23 However, the emerging multipolarity (real or imagined) in the international
system (removing the largely pacifying effect of unipolarity),24 the evolution of EU foreign
policy with the Lisbon treaty25 and the resurgence of Russia in its near abroad26 has arguably
turned the shared neighbourhood, including Ukraine, into a zero-sum area where the EU and
Russia are competing for influence.27
The observable foreign policy trends between the EU and Russia in their shared
neighbourhood over the last five years suggest that there is an element of competition
emerging between the two, particularly in Ukraine which is seen as the ultimate prize.
Importantly, Ukraine is the largest country of the shared neighbourhood (whether defined as
only the ‘corridor’ states of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine or also including the three from the
South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) in most objective terms: population, size
of economy, industrial capacity and geographic territory. Furthermore, whereas the majority
of the other five neighbourhood countries are clearly orientated towards East or West
(Armenia and Belarus towards Russia and Georgia and Moldova towards the EU while
Azerbaijan seems ambivalent towards both the EU and Russia), Ukraine is seemingly the only
open contest for influence. Indeed, there appears to be a rapidly emerging watershed moment,
specifically the EU’s offer of an Association Agreement (AA) with Ukraine28, where Ukraine’s
closer alignment to the EU could potentially erode its relationship with Russia, making the
prospects for effective balancing between the two unattainable.29
Surveying the EU-Russia-Ukraine triangular relationship in the context of the proposed AA
between the EU and Ukraine, three sectors automatically come to mind as being the most
important and susceptible to potential disagreement in the future: trade, energy and regime
In the context of the AA, trade has been the most ubiquitous and contentious area of EU-
Russian-Ukraine relations. Indeed, trade has long been an important sector of this triangle as
Ukraine has corresponding trade levels with both the EU and Russia (exports at 27.1% to EU
and 21.1% to Russia and imports at 33.7% from EU and 28% from Russia), which in turn are
important trading partners themselves (Russia is the EU’s third most important, while the EU
is unquestionably Russia’s most important).30 While this interdependence between the EU
and Russia coupled with their corresponding trade with Ukraine could be a boon for
encouraging positive-sum behaviour with absolute gains,31 recent developments have
23 For the EU, see C. Hill, ‘The Capability-Expectations Gap, or Conceptualizing Europe’s International Role,’ Journal of
Common Market Studies, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1993, pp. 305328. For Russia, see A P. Tsygankov, Russia’s Foreign Policy:
Change and Continuity in National Identity, Plymouth, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010.
24 W C. Wohlforth, 'The Stability of a Unipolar World,' International Security, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1999, pp. 541.
25 J. Howorth, ‘The EU as a Global Actor: Grand Strategy for a Global Grand Bargain?,’ Journal of Common Market Studies,
Vol. 48, No. 3, 2010, pp. 455474.
26 J. Berryman, Geopolitics and Russian Foreign Policy,’ International Politics, Vol. 49, No. 4, 2012, pp. 530544.
27 D. Averre, ‘Competing Rationalities: Russia, the EU and the ‘Shared Neighbourhood,’ Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 61, No. 10,
2009, pp. 16891713.
28 Whether or not Ukraine signs the AA at the Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius at the end of November 2013, or
perhaps at some point in 2014, is a topic of great debate, particularly at the time of writing (October 2013) with few
commentators confident enough to predict either a yes or a no.
29 S. Pifer, ‘Ukraine’s Perilous Balancing Act Between Russia and the EU,’ Brookings Institution, 2012,
<>, accessed 23 July, 2013. .
30 Statistics sourced from European Commission.
31 T. Casier, ‘Are the Policies of Russia and the EU in Their Shared Neighbourhood Doomed to Clash?,’ in R E. Kanet and M R.
Freire (eds.), Competing for Influence: The EU and Russia in Post-Soviet Eurasia, Dordrecht: Republic of Letters, 2012.
suggested that trade has become a zero-sum game with Ukraine being forced to choose
between East and West.32
The bone of contention between the EU and Russia in relation to its trade relations with
Ukraine stems from the EU’s proposed Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement
(DCTFA) with Ukraine. Russia, in response, has clearly expressed its willingness to put up
trade barriers, at its own detriment, if the DCTFA is implemented, which it perceives as a
direct attack on its national interests. Indeed, recent headlines emanating from Moscow have
stated that the signing of the DCTFA would be tantamount to “suicide” for Ukraine and result
in their “bankruptcy.”33 Conversely, while the EU is often keen to present itself a benevolent
and cooperative actor, in practice it too has been demanding in its trade policy towards
Ukraine. It has made no secret of its stance that Ukraine cannot join the proposed Customs
Union (a Russian rival to the DCTFA) in concurrence with its offered DCTFA.34 As a DG Trade
Commission official stated, the EU is employing a “take it or leave it” stance with Ukraine,
refusing to budge on the AA conditions which are perceived by Ukrainian officials as too
demanding.35 Thus, for Ukraine, it is presented with mutually exclusive trade offers from the
EU and Russia which makes its preference for balancing practically impossible. Furthermore,
siding with either the EU or Russia would likely hinder its relations with the other, making its
external trade policy decisions more geopolitical and zero-sum than in previous years.
Energy, as sector of the triangle, has been traditionally the most volatile (and consequently
heavily examined in the literature), but in the scope of the AA it has taken a back seat to trade.
Nevertheless, energy relations between the EU and Russia, with Ukraine as a key transit state,
are generally tense and fragile. Indeed, this relationship is somewhat complicated by the EU’s
strong reliance, despite attempts to diversify, on Russia as a supplier of energy: the EU
imports 32% of its raw materials from Russia.36 In the context of Ukraine, gas is undoubtedly
the most important ‘energy resource’ as roughly 75% of EU-bound gas passes through its
borders (although Russia has sought to circumvent Ukraine with its Nord Stream and South
Stream projects).37 As the 2009 ‘Ukrainian gas’ crisis, where Russia turned off the gas which
subsequently affected European customers, illustrated, Ukraine’s position as the key transit
state has caused it serious political issues in its positioning between East and West.38
Given the interdependence between the EU and Russia in their energy relationship (one must
not forget the importance of the EU to Russia as their greatest energy customer) and
Ukraine’s precarious position in the middle, energy relations in the triangle are more
complicated and multidimensional than trade. The source of disagreement has generally
stemmed from competing energy paradigms employed by Russia and the EU. Russia employs
a ‘state interventionist’ approach which favours long-term energy contracts at fixed prices
(‘take-or-pay’ contracts) while the EU prefers a ‘neoliberal’ approach which favours a fluid
32 N. Popescu, ‘The Russia-Ukraine Trade Spat,’ European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2013,
<>, accessed 12 August, 2013.
33Trade ‘suicide’: Russia Prepares to Tighten Borders If Ukraine Signs on with EU', Russia Today, 2013,
<>, accessed 25 October, 2013.
34 Casier, ‘Are the Policies of Russia and the EU in Their Shared Neighbourhood Doomed to Clash?.
35 Interviews conducted on the 17th of September 2013 at DG Trade in Brussels and 1st of October 2013 at Ukraine MFA in
36 Statistics sourced from the European Commission.
37 Ibid.
38 E F. Van Der Meulen, ‘Gas Supply and EURussia Relations,’ Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 61, No. 5, 2009, pp. 833856.
and competitive energy sector (market-set prices).39 For Ukraine, this has caused
incongruence as on the one hand it has been forced to accept unfavourably long-term
contracts from Russia (it is also reliant on Russian gas domestically) while simultaneously
attempting to liberalise its energy sector with its accession into the European Energy
Community and implementation of the Energy Acquis.40 Russia’s use of its energy leverage
as a foreign policy tool has meant that Ukraine is threatened with tangible repercussions (i.e.
high gas prices) for signing the AA with the EU.41 Diversification through exploring shale gas
deposits and receiving reverse-flow gas from Europe have been touted as options to break
Russia’s leverage but both are costly and troublesome, leaving Ukraine, in the short term at
least, perilously placed between the two.
The last area of the triangle relationship examined here, regime promotion, has previously
been a strong source of contention between the EU and Russia, particularly in their shared
neighbourhood in the wake of the colour revolutions which occurred in the early-to-mid
2000s. The EU, which is often characterised (or self-styled) as a normative power, is a strong
promoter of the ideals of democracy and human rights in its dealings with external countries,
particularly the peripheral countries on its border.42 Russia, on the other hand, has
increasingly pursued policies which favour the preservation or restoration of ‘like-minded’
regimes in their near abroad, often articulated as an ideology of ‘Sovereign democracy’ (a kind
of one-party ‘managed’ democracy.)43 These ideologies contrast and conflict strongly in
Ukraine, which incidentally has had a stagnate and unfulfilled democratic transition to date,
where the EU has actively encouraged democratization (particularly since 2004 through its
Europeanization policies and instruments) while Russia has arguably counteractively
reinforced the ‘status quo’ with its support for ‘hybrid’ and ‘illiberal’ regimes (mimicking the
Russian regime) at the expense of democratization.44
Although the battle between the EU and Russia over regime preference in Ukraine arguably
peaked in the aftermath of the 2004 Orange Revolution where the EU’s promotion of the
Yushchenko regime was subverted and undermined by Russia, regime promotion, although
somewhat muted, remains an important and contentious area of the triangle. In the context of
the AA, the EU has demanded Ukraine improve its democratic standing, particularly with
regards to the rule of law, the propensity of selective justice (chiefly regarding high profile
prisoner, former prime minister Yulia Tymoschenko) and the reversal of negative democratic
trends in recent years.45 While Russia has remained silent (in the scope of the AA) regarding
its regime preference for Ukraine, greater democratic reform coupled with a closer tilt of
Ukraine towards the EU would likely threaten Russia and could provoke a similar response as
the colour revolutions. Ukraine’s choice between East and West here is confounded by the fear
that adopting EU conditions could effectively reform the Ukrainian regime out of power, an
issue that could see Ukraine shift back towards Russia as a way of maintaining regime self-
39 T. Casier, ‘The Rise of Energy to the Top of the EU-Russia Agenda: From Interdependence to Dependence?,’ Geopolitics,
Vol. 16, No. 3, 2011, pp. 536552.
40 Energy Community Acquis, <>, accessed 25 October,
41 'Ukraine and the European Union: West or East?', The Economist, 2013,
tymoshenko-freed-west-or>, accessed 22 September, 2013.
42 F. Schimmelfennig, 'Europeanization Beyond Europe', Living Reviews in European Governance, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2009.
43 V. Morozov, 'Sovereignty and Democracy in Contemporary Russia: a Modern Subject Faces the Post-Modern World,'
Journal of International Relations and Development, Vol.11, 2008, pp.152-180.
44 Casier, Are the Policies of Russia and the EU in Their Shared Neighbourhood Doomed to Clash?’.
45 ‘EU-Ukraine Relations ‘running Out of Runway,’ EurActiv, 2013, <
relation-running-runw-news-528346>, accessed 9 June, 2013.
preservation. Ultimately, Ukraine’s democratic future is shrouded in mystery and is
something which could compromise its EU-future and force it back into the arms of Moscow.
As the above brief examination of three of the key areas of the EU-Russian relationship in the
context of Ukraine shows, the triangle relationship has potentially reached a watershed
moment in the context of the AA. Indeed, relations between the EU and Russia in Ukraine
appear more zero-sum than ever, despite the fact that largely positive-sum outcomes,
particularly due to the prevalent interdependence, could exist in relation to trade and energy,
not to mention a number of other areas of the relationship such as mobility and security. The
EU’s ‘take it or leave it’ stance with its offer of the AA coupled with Russia’s more coercive and
aggressive reactionary policies have generated a competitive environment where the third
party of the triangle, Ukraine, can no longer seemingly successfully balance between the two
and must effectively choose a side, probably to the detriment of its relations with the other.
However, as it stands, Yanukovych seems intent on forging closer ties with the EU (through
signing the AA, albeit on his terms) while gradually appeasing Russia in order to effectively
balance again; a strategy which could backfire spectacularly if Russia is true to its word that it
will punish any Ukrainian noncompliance and if the EU maintains its stronger stance on
Ukraine achieving its benchmarks. The challenge for Yanukovych is withstanding the largely
‘short term’ punitive measures likely to be inflicted by Russia in order to harness the ‘long
term’ benefits of EU association which are unlikely to be realised until thorough
implementation of the AA is completed.46 However, the case of Armenia, which in September
turned its back on EU association after strong pressure from Moscow, tells us this is not an
easy task. While Ukraine is not in as precarious a situation as Armenia,47 the prospects of
Ukraine gaining a win-win result from the triangle in the current environment remains largely
fanciful, whereas on the other end of the scale: a lose-lose outcome, although also unlikely, is
nevertheless a possibility.
46 One European External Action Service official estimated that complete implementation of the provisions of the AA would
take at least a decade. Interview conducted on the 30th September at EEAS in Kiev.
47 Armenia’s reliance on Russia as a security guarantor in its frozen conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of
Nagorno-Karabakh makes pursuing foreign policy objectives that diverge from Moscow near impossible.
... The widespread corruption in Ukraine (it currently occupies 144 th place out of 176 nations in the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, sharing the spot with the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Congo and Syria (Transparency International, 2012), compounded by the Tymoshenko case and the growing influence of the so-called 'Family' (a powerful politico-business group of decision-makers who have family or business ties with president Yanukovych), all contribute to making the process of communication between the EU and Ukraine increasingly cumbersome. It has been sarcastically noted that the EU, regardless of the many negative factors at play, may eventually conclude the Association Agreement with Yanukovych anyway, just to keep going through the "unbearable lightness of permanent integration" (Vernygora, 2012). Confusion in communication between the EU and Ukraine is further aggravated by existence of the 'pro-Ukraine' and 'contra-Ukraine' camps among the EU's Member States (Kuzio, 2003) as well as an "apparent lack of understanding of what exactly the country's 'European choice' means" (Molchanov, 2004, p. 465) among the Ukrainian population. ...
... But is anybody in Ukraine willing to listen and learn? Moreover, the ENP in general and its Eastern Partnership Programme in particular could be ironically described as a vehicle for "promotion of the privilege and, to some extent, luck of a neighbouring country to be formally recognised by the EU as a neighbouring country" (Vernygora, 2012). But what does it mean for Ukrainian citizens who try to understand, justify and influence their country's geo-political choice? ...
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This paper focuses on the public diplomacy (PD) practices of the EU-a supranational regional organisation confronted with two distinct challenges. First, the EU aims to reform its external action in order to become a global power and leader in the changing multipolar world. Second, it purports to fight the ongoing economic crisis that not only weakens the actual global capabilities of the EU, but damages its international image and reputation as a power and a leader. The paper assumes the potential of EU PD tools in meeting these challenges and tests this assumption in one case study of international public opinion on the EU in its immediate neighbourhood (Ukraine). Importantly, the study confronts an additional challenge: EU PD is described in the relevant literature to be a disjointed, under-resourced and overlooked policy area.
... The widespread corruption in Ukraine (it currently occupies 144 th place out of 176 nations in the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, sharing the spot with the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Congo and Syria (Transparency International, 2012), compounded by the Tymoshenko case and the growing influence of the so-called 'Family' (a powerful politico-business group of decision-makers who have family or business ties with president Yanukovych), all contribute to making the process of communication between the EU and Ukraine increasingly cumbersome. It has been sarcastically noted that the EU, regardless of the many negative factors at play, may eventually conclude the Association Agreement with Yanukovych anyway, just to keep going through the "unbearable lightness of permanent integration" (Vernygora, 2012). Confusion in communication between the EU and Ukraine is further aggravated by existence of the 'pro-Ukraine' and 'contra-Ukraine' camps among the EU's Member States (Kuzio, 2003) as well as an "apparent lack of understanding of what exactly the country's 'European choice' means" (Molchanov, 2004, p. 465) among the Ukrainian population. ...
... But is anybody in Ukraine willing to listen and learn? Moreover, the ENP in general and its Eastern Partnership Programme in particular could be ironically described as a vehicle for "promotion of the privilege and, to some extent, luck of a neighbouring country to be formally recognised by the EU as a neighbouring country" (Vernygora, 2012). But what does it mean for Ukrainian citizens who try to understand, justify and influence their country's geo-political choice? ...
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Has the EU's political accession conditionality changed after the enlargement of 2004 against the backdrop of apparent 'enlargement fatigue' and domestic obstacles in the remaining non-member countries? Based on an empirical analysis of non-member eligibility and EU discrimination, this article concludes that EU enlargement policy has remained consistently linked to compliance with basic democratic norms in the target countries. The recent drawbacks in the negotiations of the EU with Croatia, Serbia, and Turkey have been caused by issues of national identity related to legacies of ethnic conflict that are likely to create high political costs to the target governments. As a result, whereas consistency has remained high, effectiveness is reduced. The findings confirm the continuing relevance of the external incentives model of EU conditionality after the recent enlargement.
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This article reviews the literature on Europeanization beyond the group of EU member, “quasi-member” and applicant states. It uses the analysis of Europeanization in applicant states as a theoretical starting point to ask if, how and under which conditions we can expect domestic effects of European integration beyond Europe. Focusing on Europeanization effects in the areas of regionalism, democracy and human rights, and the literature on the European Neighborhood Policy in particular, the article collects findings on the strategies and instruments as well as the impact and effectiveness of the EU. The general conclusion to be drawn from the theoretical and empirical literature reviewed is one of low consistency and impact. Full online version available at
As democratic backsliding cools Ukraine's relations with the West, Yanukovych faces the prospect of having to deal with Putin and Moscow from a weaker position.
The slogan of ‘sovereign democracy’ forms the ideological horizon of contemporary Russia. While many scholars would warn against taking the official propaganda seriously, I choose to treat it as a symptom of the discursive tensions that exist both in the Russian identity politics and, more broadly, in the global debate about the future of democracy. Using a poststructuralist perspective, I explore the origins of the restorationist turn in Russian identity politics, which is currently obsessed with comparing the new Russia with the Soviet ‘golden age’ and struggles to adapt this neo-imperial identity to the unprecedented and utterly uncertain boundaries of the emerging political community. At the global level, the Kremlin attempts to redefine democracy as a truly universal value to be emancipated from western hegemonic control. I contend that, despite it being used to justify the most undemocratic practices at home, this criticism constitutes an extremely interesting departure with a great liberating potential. It indicates a significant degree of dislocation existing in both the Russian domestic and global hegemonic structures. Dislocation can provoke securitizing practices that lead back to a structural closure, but it can also provide foundations for emancipatory politics, if and when there is a subject willing to liberate itself.
The article provides a broad overview of the fluctuating connections between the controversial and ambiguous field of modern geopolitics and Russia. Given the pivotal significance of the Russian challenge within the early hypotheses of Mahan and Mackinder, the article first explores those distinctive geographical and spatial considerations that helped shape the development of the Russian Empire. The place of geopolitics in the Cold War is then reviewed, including both its policy orientation and the exchanges between the proponents of geopolitical realism and liberal internationalism. In conclusion, the article examines the post-Cold War renaissance of geopolitics, reviewing both theoretical developments and policy implications for Russian foreign policy.
William C. Wohlforth is Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. I am indebted to Stephen G. Brooks, Charles A. Kupchan, Joseph Lepgold, Robert Lieber, and Kathleen R. McNamara, who read and commented on drafts of this article. 1. Charles Krauthammer, "The Unipolar Moment," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Winter 1990/1991), pp. 23-33. 2. Patrick Tyler, "The Lone Superpower Plan: Ammunition for Critics," New York Times, March 10, 1992, p. A12. 3. For the most thorough and theoretically grounded criticism of this strategy, see Christopher Layne, "The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Arise," International Security, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Spring 1993), pp. 5-51; and Layne, "From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America's Future Grand Strategy," International Security, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Summer 1997), pp. 86-124. 4. The phrase—commonly attributed to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright—is also a favorite of President Bill Clinton's. For example, see the account of his speech announcing the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Alison Mitchell, "Clinton Urges NATO Expansion in 1999," New York Times, October 23, 1996, p. A20. 5. Kenneth N. Waltz, "Evaluating Theories," American Political Science Review, Vol. 91, No. 4 (December 1997), pp. 915-916; Layne, "Unipolar Illusion"; and Michael Mastanduno, "Preserving the Unipolar Moment: Realist Theories and U.S. Grand Strategy after the Cold War," International Security, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Spring 1997), pp. 44-98. Although I differ with Waltz on the stability of unipolarity, the title of this article and much of its contents reflect intellectual debts to his work on system structure and stability. See Waltz, "The Stability of a Bipolar World," Daedalus, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Summer 1964), pp. 881-901. 6. See Charles A. Kupchan, "After Pax Americana: Benign Power, Regional Integration, and the Sources of Stable Multipolarity," International Security, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Fall 1998), pp. 40-79. Samuel P. Huntington maintained this position in Huntington, "Why International Primacy Matters," International Security, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Spring 1993), pp. 63-83, but he has since abandoned it. A more bullish assessment, although still more pessimistic than the analysis here, is Douglas Lemke, "Continuity of History: Power Transition Theory and the End of the Cold War," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 34, No. 1 (February 1996), pp. 203-236. 7. As Glenn H. Snyder puts it, the international system "appears to be unipolar, though incipiently multipolar." Snyder, Alliance Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997), p. 18. The quoted phrases in this sentence appear in Charles A. Kupchan, "Rethinking Europe," National Interest, No. 56 (Summer 1999); Kupchan, "After Pax Americana," p. 41; Layne, "Unipolar Illusion"; Mastanduno, "Preserving the Unipolar Moment"; and Waltz, "Evaluating Theories," p. 914. Although Charles Krauthammer coined the term "unipolar moment" in his article under that title, he argued that unipolarity had the potential to last a generation. 8. Samuel P. Huntington, "The Lonely Superpower," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 2 (March/April 1999), p. 36. For similar views of the post-Cold War structure, see Aaron L. Friedberg, "Ripe for Rivalry: Prospects for Peace in a Multipolar Asia," International Security, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Winter 1993/94), pp. 5-33; and Josef Joffe, "'Bismarck' or 'Britain'? Toward an American Grand Strategy after Bipolarity," International Security, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Spring 1995), pp. 94-117. 9. The assumption that realism predicts instability after the Cold War pervades the scholarly debate. See, for example, Sean M. Lynn-Jones and Steven E. Miller, eds., The Cold War and After: Prospects for Peace—An International Security Reader (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993); and David A. Baldwin, ed., Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). For more varied perspectives on realism and unipolarity, see Ethan B. Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno, eds., Unipolar Politics: Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). Explanations for stability despite the balance of power fall roughly into three categories: (1) liberal arguments, including democratization, economic interdependence, and international institutions. For examples, see Bruce M. Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University...
Over the last decade we have witnessed an increasing politicisation of the energy discourse. Today energy relations of the EU are framed in terms of excessive dependence on Russia, qualifying the latter as a security threat. This article puts forward four criteria to define energy relations in security terms: supply vulnerability of the EU, the absence of Russian demand dependence, the dominance of energy over other capabilities, the willingness to link energy to foreign policy objectives. Little support is found to define the dependence on the import of Russian energy resources as a security issue. An alternative explanation is given, attributing growing energy concerns to shifting identities and perceptions in EU-Russia relations, which have contributed to understanding energy relations in competitive and geopolitical terms. Russia has developed a more assertive energy diplomacy, while in the EU sensitivity over energy dependence has grown as a result of changes on the global energy market and of the 2004 enlargement.
Drawing on New Institutional Economics (NIE) theory, the article argues that EU energy policy towards Russia damages security of supply because it neglects the specific aims and propensities of Russia and Gazprom. EU Commission initiatives are based on the promotion of interdependence through market opening, favouring a policy of competition over security of supply. The reason for this focus is found in the EU's embedded inclination towards liberal markets. Russia, by contrast, has chosen suboptimal state control of natural resources over the frontier capitalism of the 1990s. Sustainability of the current rent based system and geopolitical considerations are essential to Russia and Gazprom. In this situation a pragmatic approach that aims at security of supply and security of demand seems to be more successful. In this approach, liberalisation of the market can only be a long-term goal.