Russia and the European Union: The Sources and Limits of "Special Relationships"

  • February 01, 2007
  • Dr Cynthia A Roberts

Russia and the West have avoided renewed confrontation despite many post Cold War crises, but illiberal trends in Russia rule out any prospect of developing a mutual agenda for closer integration. Russian engagement with the leading Euro-Atlantic institutions on a special, but still subordinate, nonmember basis remains a clever yet suboptimal substitute. Such relationships, as this monograph about Russia and the European Union explains, tend to produce shallow collaboration, symbolic summitry and costly standoffs. Closer cooperation is blocked by an ongoing dispute over terms, which is rooted in asymmetries in power, ambivalent preferences, uncertainty about the distributional costs and benefits of deeper engagement, and Russia’s continued unwillingness or inability to lock-in the liberal domestic structures necessary to make credible commitments. Moscow’s renewed self-confidence and geopolitical ambitions, bolstered by sustained economic growth and high energy prices, complicate the bargaining and further strain these special relationships which persist for lack of a realistic, superior alternative.