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The EU, Russia and the Caucasus: Timofei Bordachev

Timofei Bordachev. Photo:

In 2007 a group of Russian analysts produced the publication "The World Around Russia: 2017. An Outlook for the Midterm Future". The group included Sergey Karaganov, Timofei Bordachev, Vagif Guseinov, Fyodor Lukyanov, Vadim Radayev and Igor Yurgens.

The 2017 report sets out to analyze Russia's position in world politics. It notes:

"For now, however, the external conditions in the military-political sphere can be described as relatively favourable for Russia. The probability of an attack against the Russian Federation by some large nation or coalition is low. Russia has no explicit enemies or potential aggressors in the world – just as it has almost no friends left. Thus, it is not in the situation where it must exhaust itself with a program of militarization, spending exorbitant financial and raw material resources …

With respect to Russia, it is important to mention the possibility of armed conflicts breaking out near its borders and the danger of getting involved in them; the emergence of an unfriendly military-political environment; the problem of unrecognized states in the post-Soviet area; and NATO's further eastward expansion (to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova). NATO expansion to take in Ukraine is especially dangerous, since it would cause a 'semi-circle' of mini-crises, including those provoked by the local population, throwing Ukraine back and creating serious problems for Russia and Europe as a whole. Many in Russia may see this move as declaration of a new Cold War. Failure in some way or other to resolve the problem of unrecognized states can provoke crises around them (especially in the Caucasus) within the next two or three years."

The chapter on Europe and the EU was written by analyst Timofei Bordachev. He is the Director of the Center for Integrated European and International Research at Moscow State University's Higher School of Economics. He is also Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal, leader of research programs of the Council of Foreign and Defence Policies and a leading researcher at the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences. His starting assumption in this chapter is the current crisis of the European Union following its latest enlargement (page 104):

"An analysis of developments of the last few years provides solid grounds to believe that the EU political project is in a state of systemic crisis, which could bring about qualitative changes in the entire political and economic system of contemporary Europe. Russia's EU policy must not be oriented to the Europe of the present or past, but rather to possible scenarios for the development of the European integration project.

Today, the EU is faced with at least four potentially insurmountable strategic problems:

  • A substantial weakening of the quality and effectiveness of governance within the EU. The EU's unprecedented enlargement in 1995-2007 has caused the EU institutions (the Council of the EU, the European Commission, and the European Parliament) to exceed the limits of their effectiveness for coordinating the interests of the EU member countries, lobbying groups, and other groups of interests.
  • The lack of a common vision of strategic goals for the development of the 'European project' (the EU has achieved all of its main goals that are not in conflict with the basic rights of its member states);
  • The low economic effectiveness of the prevailing development model in the majority of EU countries;
  • The declining level of trust in relations between the member countries on the one hand, and the member countries and EU supranational bodies, on the other. This trend manifests itself, among other things, in the so-called 'democracy deficit,' that is, the exclusion of EU citizens from the growing spectrum of political and economic matters.

The so-called 'soft' (cultural, political and economic) influence of the EU is tremendous. In the opinion of many representatives of foreign elites, despite its problems, Europe remains a good example of civilized and humane development.

With the exception of two EU member countries (the UK and France), the armed forces of the EU states are not a serious factor to be reckoned with. Military spending in the EU countries is 2.6% and 2.4% of GDP at the most (France and the UK account for 40%

of all defense spending), with spending levels in the majority of EU member countries being less than 1.5% of GDP. For example, Germany spends a mere 24 billion euros a year on military programs (as compared with $382 billion in the U.S.)"

Looking at the future of EU-Russian relations, Bordachev underlines the growing crisis of Europe's integration model:

"Political relations between Russia and the EU are generally friendly, but political cooperation is rather ineffective and there are strong elements of competition. In the recent period, a clash of interests has surfaced … Despite the obvious advantages of rapprochement and the creation of a strategic politico-economic union both for the EU and for Russia, this scenario is unlikely in the next five to seven years. Its realization could become more probable if Russia embarks on the path of economic modernization and political democratization, which would help enhance interest in economic rapprochement and eliminate some of the obstacles to the rapprochement in the 'democratic values' sphere … Presently, it would be expedient for Russia to restore the balance between the political and economic-legal components of its relations with the EU at the level of equitable cooperation between independent agents of international relations. In the future, Russia could consider its formal accession to an integrated entity that will replace the European Union after the European project overcomes the stage of stagnation. The way out of the emerging stagnation will most likely be found through consolidating the role and significance of sovereign states, which is a traditional path for the EU."

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