DRAFT Chapter 9 EU-Russia Security Relations: Lessons from the ...


Nov 20, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)




Chapter 9


essons from the South Caucasus

Licínia Simão


The nature of political
security issues is traditionally secretive, managed by political
and military elites. According to the realist paradigm, it is also one of the most difficult
areas in inter
state relations,
because of

suspicion and competition in international
relations, where hard power remains a fundamental currency for state survival in an
anarchical system. European integration has often deviated from this understanding,
promoting interdependence, transparency and
consultation in a regional process of
gradual supranational integration in economic, financial and legislative issues. This
European choice remains a conundrum for realist analysis and for other international
actors who are still privileging traditional na
tionalist and sovereign approaches. This is
surely the case of Russia.

The argument has been made that Russia and the EU remain two fundamentally
different actors in international relations and that this distinct nature is a
n insuperable
obstacle to close
r cooperation, namely in security issues (Simão, 2011; Freire, 2009, p.
73). Whereas the EU has been seen as a security community (Waever, 1998),
privileging consensus building and a cooperative approach to security and favouring
international institutions
, within which inter
state relations can develop in a predictable
way; Russian elites continue to privilege high politics, rooted in a conception of state
power which drives to a large extent on militarist power projection capabilities by the
state (Alliso
n, 2006, p. 76). Its view of sovereignty is absolute and interference in
domestic issues of the state is unwarranted.

Considering this scenario, it is not surprising that cooperation on security issues
between Brussels and Moscow has been rather limited.
What might be surprising is
their ability actually to engage on some level of cooperative action in this field. This
chapter seeks to explain patterns of cooperation and conflict between the EU and Russia
on security issues in their shared neighbourhood. T
he chapter deals with the security
issues challenging EU
Russia relations in the South Caucasus, and explains patterns of
cooperation and conflict on security issues using the assumptions guiding liberal
institutionalist and realist perspectives. On the on
e hand, the chapter argues that in order
for a cooperative security approach to develop, the EU and Russia would have to share a
meaningful set of views and interests, which so far has been lacking in their perceptions
of European security. On the other ha
nd, non
cooperation and conflict can also be
explained by the EU’s attempt to control the institutional and normative context of
security cooperation in Europe, thus increasing the costs o

participation for Russia.
EU leaders often portray th
is process

as Europe’s contribution to regional
stability, the view from Moscow is that EU leaders either do not
consider Russian

or they seek to weaken Russia’s position as a security provider in the shared


The author would like to thank Sandra D. Fernandes for her comments on previous versions of this


As the chapter argues,

Russia’s response has been to externalise the costs of
participation to the neighbours of the CIS, wh

are heading closer to the EU. The
war in Georgia in 2008 and the gas wars with

can be seen from this
perspective. For those states embracing

the legal and institutional order proposed by the

one which Russia contests

this would have costs, mainly derived from
Moscow’s inability to shape that order. Building on this approach, the chapter starts
with the conceptual framework, followed by
a section contextualising EU
institutional relations. It then addresses European and Russian policies towards Eurasian
security and the final section deals with conflict management in the South Caucasus and
the main illustration of EU
Russia securit
y relations.

Conceptual framework: cooperation and conflict in international relations

The explanation of patterns of cooperation and conflict among actors in international
relations has been approached from divergent perspectives by the classical theori
es of
International Relations (IR). These approaches have either underlined the inherent
nature of the international system as anarchical and


prone to conflict


patterns of amity and enmity

or argued that conflict could be overcome by th
e growing
realisation of interdependence and absolute gains, which could be derived from
transparency and institutionalisation. Thus, cooperation and conflict need to be
perceived as two faces of the same coin, providing meaning and context for the other t
take place. As argued by Stein (1990,

[c]ompetitive and conflicting relations
can underline concerted, cooperative ones [
and] international cooperation is embedded
within a structure of competition, rivalry and insecurity

. Therefore, we need to

understand in an integrated way what drives conflict and

cooperation simultaneously, to
explain the evolving relations of the EU and Russia on security issues in their shared

Cooperation emerged as a central concept for liberal institutiona
lists dealing
with issues of increased economic interdependence (Keohane 1984; Lake 1996; Weber
2000), but also transparency and predictability in world affairs, which could be
deepened in the framework of international institutions. Institutions would thu
s reduce
transaction costs for states (still regarded as the main actors in the international system)
and reduce the likelihood of violent conflict, by providing the institutional avenues to
cope with conflict. The process of European integration is perhap
s the most widely
recognised political phenomenon illustrating these dynamics. Even if the argument has
been made by intergovernmentalists (Moravcsik, 1998) that steps towards integration
reflect a rational and self
interested choice by the most powerful a
ctors in Europe, the
expectation that cooperation within institutions could avert further conflict in Europe
was widely shared. In his latest State of Union Address, the President of the European
Commission José Manuel Barroso argued that

[it]t was an
illusion to think that we could have a common currency and a
single market with national approaches to economic and budgetary policy.

s avoid another illusion that we can have a common currency and a
single market with an intergovernmental approach

arroso, 2011)

This perspective reinforces the belief that institutional integration is the way to maintain
peace in Europe and to address the global challenges in its external relations.

This statement reminds us that the choices of political actors to

cooperate or to
pursue strategies rooted
n conflict, coercion and bargain

are not predetermine
begging the question of what makes states pursue different strategies at different times.
Another illustration that states are not intrinsically cooperati
ve or conflicting



democratic peace theory. The theory acknowledges that

although democracies
tend not to wage war on each other,
they are nevertheless capable and willing to use
force and violence on other non
democratic nations (Risse
1995). Therefore,
faced with a choice or dilemma actors must find suitable criteria to make a decision

whether to pursue cooperative efforts or chose conflict, based on a rational
assessment of their interests. This is a view shared by both liberal a
nd realist authors.
For realists, cooperation is rare and context
specific. This means that

in order to explain
cooperation among states, realists look at power rather than common interests. One line
of realist argument underlines limits to international
cooperation due to the relative
gains for states as compared to relative gains for others (Grieco, 1988). This perspective
is particularly relevant in a context of increased multipolarity and fading hegemony,
both at the global and the regional level.


second line of realist argument focuses on power and coercion as a driving
force for cooperation. Powerful actors see advantages in creating institutions and
cooperative frameworks as a way to create rewards for those within the club (Stein,
1982) and cre
ate pressure to those left outside to join. This is the logic behind
Ikenberry’s argument of why the US’ post
World War II foreign policy privileged the
creation of multilateral institutions (Ikenberry, 2001). Institutions can reduce the costs
of maintaini
ng order and provide powerful tools to restrain other actors’ choices, to the
benefit of those setting the rules. As Barnett and Finnemore (2005,
162) underline,
institutions may play a functionalist role, by proving services to the states which create

but they also exercise power by

construct[ing] the social world within which
cooperation takes place

. States can therefore regard cooperation within the institutions
they establish as a form of power exercise

which is regarded

as legitimate and cr
benefits for the whole community. Ultimately, assuring compliance or exercising
leadership becomes less costly within these institutional and cooperative frameworks
and provides important leverage over other states and actors seeking to join the clu

IR theories’ explanations for cooperation and conflict in the international system
either underline mutual gains from the management of common challenges and
common interests in a cooperative way or, alternatively, underline cooperation as a
limited to
ol to assure order and stability and in a best case scenario just an expedient
way to exercise power. In both accounts, states’ perceptions of the gains they derive
from cooperation are fundamental to avoid

conflict. Whereas liberal views require
that i
nterests be perceived as common in order for cooperation to be the rule, realists
assume that interests are mainly conflicting and cooperation will take place as a rational
assessment of relative gains. These assumptions are important guiding tools to EU
ussia security relations vis
vis the South Caucasus, as further elaborated below.
Whether both actors share any meaningful understanding of their interests in stability in
the South Caucasus becomes a fundamental aspect for cooperative security to develo
On the contrary, cooperation
in the framework of the
led security formats,
such as the
European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)
the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation (
, becomes undermined by the perceived advantage
the EU

and the US


by dictating the rules of the game. In the absence of truly
cooperative approaches to security in the shared neighbourhood

and particularly in the
case of the South Caucasus, the prevalence of competitive approaches or at best a
ision of labour in managing regional security issues is not surprising.

Russia security dialogue

Russia relations have developed
in the framework of the Partnership and
Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed in 1994 and which entered into force in 1997. As


Portela (2001) notes, the PCA ‘transcended for the first time the economic dimension to
establish a regular political dialogue’ and
focused on creating convergence of positions
on international issues of mutual concern and security.
In 1999 the first important step
towards deepening and institutionalising
Russia security dialogue was taken in
the European Council of Cologne, wit
h the adoption of the EU’s first Common Strategy
(a new tool envisioned under the Amsterdam Treaty) establishing a framework
document governing EU and member states’ actions towards Russia (Fernandes, 2009;
Haukkala, 2010). Despite difficulties in bilatera
l relations due to the EU’s views on
Russia’s management of the Chechen wars, the Common Strategy was an important
achievement in bilateral security relations. As Lynch (2003, p. 57) underlines, the
Common Strategy on Russia established three main dimensio
ns: development of
political dialogue to address security challenges in Europe, including operative
decisions on how Russia could join EU Petersberg Missions on conflict management;
help Russia enter the European political family, by transforming Russia’s
system; and a third dimension underlining the shared values of this relationship.
Overall, the EU established the framework for Russia’s participation in the new
European security order, but failed to engage Moscow in defining that order.

The Euro
peanisation of Russia has been on the western agenda since the fall of
the Soviet Union as a way to resolve the idiosyncrasies of Russian identity and to
anchor it in the European political space. The EU’s neo
functionalist approach to Russia
sought to der
ive political and security benefits from gradual economic integration, in a
spill over

effect (De Speigeleire, 2002, p. 146). In a way, the EU sought to
weave Russia into its expanding governance network revolving around the institutions
in Brussel
s (Gaenzle, 2008). But

as Dmitri Trenin (2002, p. 140) argues, the integration
of Russia in Europe is only partly a foreign policy issue and depends first and foremost
on the changes taking place in Russian society. In that regard, for the changes


to bring the two neighbours closer together, common interests and common
values need to be defined. As Bordachev and Moshes (2004) argue

The idea that Russia’s integration into Europe is possible in principle, and
that Russia could become a member of

the community of nations sharing
similar values, has been circulating throughout Europe, although it has
never prevailed. Now it is becoming increasingly weaker. The edifice of
common interests has been built on the basis of common values, but if
values d
iffer, then the community of interests weakens. […] There is a
growing sentiment that Russia is

in principle and that it
remains a natural partner (and rival at the same time) outside the European

Although economic and energy interdepe
ndence has been developing, security issues
have remained largely unaddressed in EU
Russia relations.
The third common space on
external security is the least developed and often both Moscow and EU leaders prefer to
deal with security issues on a bilateral level (Bordachev, 2005, pp. 40
42). An example
of the importance of bilateral relations for security
cooperation was the Meseberg
initiative, proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri
Medvedev, in June 2010. The two leaders reached agreement on the need to establish an
Russia Committee on Security and Foreign Affairs (EU
Russia CSFA), which could
address common concerns in the shared neighbourhood, including the protracted
conflicts. As argued by Angela Merkel,

[i]t would be very complicated and not very
realistic to expect all 27 EU members to reach agreement among thems
elves, and o
then present this or that initiative to Russia. I think that if one country is willing to take


a step forward this is something to be welcomed

(Joint News Conference with German
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel following Russian
German Tal
ks, 2010).

Bilateral relations might actually prove an important vehicle for security
dialogue to take place and develop, making the best use of the EU’s multilevel
governance, if properly anchored in CSDP decision
making processes. This could also

concerns th
at the EU’s neighbourhood policy is being developed at the expense
of Russia’s interests. With the adoption of the EU’s Security Strategy (European
Council, 2003), embryonic strategic thinking about the EU’s role in the world began to
with a particular emphasis on its neighbourhood, as set in the wider Europe
communication (European Commission, 2003). EU enlargement posed real challenges
for Russia, namely the issue of Kaliningrad and EU engagement in the so
called shared
(DeBardeleben, 2008; Averre, 2005). Overall, the EU is gradually
creating a new regional order in which Russia’s position is not clearly defined. If
anything, Moscow is now being portrayed as a threat, considering Moscow’s use of
energy interdependence and

its reaction to the pro
estern policies in Georgia and

On the other hand, NATO enlargements towards the CIS further reinforce
Moscow’s concerns, as the hopes of anchoring Russia in the European post
Cold war
security system failed (Arbatov, 1995
, p. 140; Berryman, 2009, p. 167).

The latest changes in the EU, with the adoption of the Lisbon treaty, and in
Russia, with the announcement that Medvedev will not run for a second term and Putin
will lead the lists of the United Russia Party to the 2012

presidential elections, seem to
security dialogue as a second order priority. Although the Lisbon Treaty aims
to reinforce coordination and coherence through the appointment of a
Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security
Policy, with extensive
powers to define the guidelines of EU foreign and security policy, in coordination with
the member states, EU
Russia summits are still headed by the President of the European
Commission and the President of the European Council, unde
rlining the importance of
economic issues and member states

interests. Both
President Medvedev’s proposal for
a security treaty in Europe

and the
Russia CSFA have lacked EU support
illustrating the reluctance of EU members to engage in Russian proposal
As far as
Russia is concerned,
two important issues stand out in the next President’s agenda,
which might take attention from security dialogue with Europe. On the one hand, the
urgency to address and reverse the negative effects of the global financial

crisis on
Russia and to truly give substance to the modernisation agenda; on the other hand, Putin
has hinted that he will pursue deeper integration in the Eurasian space, reinforcing
Russia’s presence in the region through economic and institutional mean
s (Putin, 2011).

EU and Russian revisionist policies towards Eurasian security

A major challenge to the development of cooperative approaches to security in the
shared EU
Russia neighbourhood is the perception that both actors sponsor revisionist
hes to European security. The lack of clarity as to the foreign policy goals of
both actors in a post
Cold War context has largely contributed to this perception, as also
argued by Freire in this volume. On the one hand, the EU is perceived by Russia as
designing political and security relations in Europe to its advantage, through the
expansion of its rules and norms. Moscow also perceives the European partners as
largely supporting US interests in Eurasia, namely regarding NATO expansion and
ion of the shared neighbourhood. On the EU side, the accusations that
Russia is set on a revisionist path have been mainly voiced by former
Warsaw Pact EU
member states, who see Russia’s new found power and assertiveness as part of a wider
process of compe
tition for influence with the EU and the US at the global and regional


level. Regardless of whether these perceptions are justified or not, policy implications
include lack of trust and a growing gap in security perceptions in Europe (Alexandrova
2009, p. 287).

The South Caucasus is not immune to these dynamics. The EU and Russia are
now central actors in some of the most important issues affecting the region. Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia, like most of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) are still in

process of devising a political and economic transition, looking for models of social,
economic and political development. This has been done over the last twenty years of
independence in a context of instability, reinforcing the heterogeneous yet
erdependent nature of the region. Each country is pursuing different approaches to
state building
, but the security interdependence of the South Caucasus region makes it a
security complex (Buzan et al, 1998; Simão and Freire, 2008). However, due to its
cation, the Caucasus anchors a set of different dynamics developing in neighbouring
areas, which affect these countries’ options and external actors’ behaviour. It is deeply
influenced by the Caspian energy development, through the increase in revenues in

and transit countries, through the disputes of sovereign prerogatives over
natural resources, as in

the case of the Caspian basin, and by the developments in the
Middle East, the world’s largest energy
producing region, which affect the strategic
importance of the Caspian energy for global and regional powers.

The Caucasus is also closely linked to dev
elopments in the Black Sea region.
Although this heterogeneous region has lived in relative stability since the end of the
Cold War (Antonenko, 2009, p. 264), it is clearly affected by the persistence of
protracted conflicts in Moldova

and the South Caucas
us. The region is also at the heart
of the EU’s and NATO’s expansion to the traditional areas of influence of
the Russian
Federation and is increasingly disputed by other regional and global powers, like
Turkey, the US and China. Finally, the Caucasus is a
t the heart of Eurasian politics,
clearly marked by Russian foreign policy priorities and the EU’s project of regional
stabilisation, the ENP, as well as a gradual integration of Eurasia in

the global
international system. Considering these characteristi
cs, can we consider EU and Russian
policies towards the South Caucasus as revisionist?

what does that mean for
relations between the two actors and the region?

Russia’s revisionist position

the South Caucasus is mainly due to the
tion in Moscow that keeping the
status quo

is no longer, either possible, or to
Russia’s advantage. Although Russia has

been seen as conducting a policy of managed
instability through the protracted conflicts and the support of semi
authoritarian and
pt regimes, the changes ignited by the Colour Revolutions in Georgia (2003) and
Ukraine (2004) demanded a serious readjustment of Russian policies. Russia denounced
estern engagement as fomenting competition in Eurasia

but had to acknowledge that
these e
vents were accumulating political capital for
estern political and economic

Russia’s response was a mix of goodwill gestures and coercive measures. It
supported the Saakashvili administration’s efforts to deal with the peaceful ousting of
leader of the Ajarian region, Aslan Abashidze, in the post
revolutionary period, but


Putin’s speech at the Munich security conference,
n 2007, is illustrative:

According to the [OSCE]
founding documents, in the humanitarian sphere the OSCE is designed to assist country members in
observing international human rights norms at their reque
st. […] But this does not mean interfering in the
internal affairs of other countries, and especially not imposing a regime that determines how these states
should live and develop. It is obvious that such interference does not promote the development of
emocratic states at all. On the contrary, it makes them dependent and, as a consequence, politically and
economically unstable

(Putin, 2007)


later imposed trade embargos and energy price

increases as a way to undermine the pro
estern regimes in Georgia and Ukraine.

The protracted conflicts in Eurasia remain o
ne of Russia’s most important assets
to project influence in the region. A major priority of the Saaka
hvili administration in
was to revise the existing formats for conflict resolution. This led to the process
of de
frosting of the so
called froze
n conflicts, including through the
internationalisation of the mediation efforts and ultimately through the resort to violence
in 2008. Russia readjusted its priorities to the changing context and favoured a re
freezing of the
status quo
, which would give
Moscow greater ability to manage
instability in its southern borders. Russia’s mi
litary intervention in Georgia, in 2008, re
configured Russia’s positioning in the South Caucasus, and readjusted the military and
political balance of the region. After the w
ar Russia reinforced its military presence in
Abkhazia and South Ossetia and by recognizing the independence of the two regions

increased the number of
political allies. Russia also reinforced its presence in
Armenia, extending the leasing of its mi
litary base until 2044 (RFE/RL, 2010) and
continued its presence in the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan, strategically important
to control the Caspian and the Middle East. Overall, Russia embraced the changes in the
South Caucasus as inevitable and sou
ght to re
shape the new
status quo

to its advantage.

Looking to improve its image among the CIS countries after the war in Georgia,
Russia became more engaged in conflict resolution efforts in the South Caucasus.
Russia has prioritised the Nagorno
h conflict and President Medvedev
personally engaged in mediation efforts, meeting the Armenian and the Azerbaijani

nine trilateral summits since 2008. Russia accepted
a reinforced
international presence in conflict resolution in the
South Caucasus, namely agreeing to
the EU’s mediation of the cease
fire agreement after the war in 2008 and the
deployment of a team of observers in Georgia, the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM)

As further developed below, Russian compliance with the agreeme
nt has been limited
and the pace of the peace process has been staling, indicating that Russia has somehow
been trying to limit and reverse the impact of this renovated international presence in
the Georgian protracted conflicts.
Moscow also acquiesced to
the process of
normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey. Although Russia remains
dissatisfied with the increasing external presence in Eurasia, it has adjusted to the new
realities. Russia has retained a veto power over the
protracted conflict
s and is now better
positioned to control the region, after having lost its military presence in Georgia in
2007 (
Antidze, 2007)
. In the meantime, the Turkish
Armenian rapprochement did not
reach fruition
, stalling the Nagorno
Karabakh peace talks and stra
ining Azerbaijani
Turkish relations, granting Russia short
term advantages. Turkish influence has receded
in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Russia managed to revitalise its image as a peace

The EU has also expressed a mix of revisionist and conservat
ive trends in the
South Caucasus. The 2004 enlargement brought new advocates for EU policies towards
astern neighbourhood. Poland and the Baltic States were particularly active in
bringing the South Caucasus to the EU’s agenda. As the Wider Europe com
underlines, the EU perceives itself as having a ‘duty’ to act to ‘ensure continuing social
cohesion and economic dynamism’ and to ‘promote r
egional and subregional
cooperation and integration’, perceived as ‘preconditions for political stability
economic development and the reduction of poverty and social divisions in our shared
environment’ (European Commission, 2003, p. 3). The ENP rejected the consolidation


Information on the mission available



of new division lines in Europe, by creating opportunities for the FSU countries to
gage with EU governance structures: a sort of


(Popescu and
Wilson, 2009). The EU also actively supported the revolutionary movements in Georgia
and Ukraine and their pro
estern foreign policies, including their NATO membership
through political and financial backing. This had a clear security purpose of
creating stability

the borders of the enlarged EU. In this regard, the EU was clearly a
revisionist power in Eurasia.

At the level of conflict resolution the EU was more
conservative, reluctantly
taking on new security functions in Eurasia and rarely seeking them

actively. In
2005, the EU officially became part of the mediation efforts in the Transdnister conflict
(the 5+2 format) and established the EUBAM (EU Border As
sistance Mission to the
Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) to assist in the modernisation of border management
and to act as a confidence
building measure in the Transdnistrian conflict.

previous year the EU had deployed its first ESDP rule of law missi
on in Georgia, the
EUJUST Themis. Both in Moldova and the South Caucasus the EU has appointed
Special Representatives (EUSRs) actively contributing to conflict resolution.

The EU
did respond to the demands from the ground with practical mechanisms, but fa
iled to
devise a long
term strategy for its engagement with the region. Russia remained the
most divisive element among EU member states in this regard. A
central concern of the
EU was not to antagonise Moscow by supporting a radical change in the
status q
, but
rather to provide support f
or the existing mechanisms on conflict resolution, such as the
Joint Control Commission (JCC) on South Ossetia and the Minsk Group, for Karabakh,
as well as through a policy of limited engagement with Abkhazia.
Despite th
e limited
nature of Russian cooperation, t
he most important turning point in EU engagement was
the war in Georgia in 2008, to which the EU responded by leading the negotiations of a
fire between Georgia and Russia, followed by the unprecedented deplo
yment of
the EUMM and the appointment of Pierre Morel as the EUSR for the crisis in Georgia

responsible for leading the peace
process, known as the Geneva Talks (Council of the
European Union, 2008).

As regards the Karabakh conflict and the normalisation of relations between
Armenia and Turkey, the EU has had a more limited and cautious engagement.
was largely unable to use its institutional links to Turkey and Armenia and its
diplomatic resourc

to prevent the failure of the process. This reduced the EU’s
contribution to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict even further. Besides the
commitments in Georgia, the major driving force of EU engagement in the South
Caucasus is EU interest in the C
aspian energy, positioning Azerbaijan as a strategic
partner for the EU. This however has decreased the EU’s leverage on democratic
reforms and conflict resolution, as Baku has found new assertiveness in the regional and
international stage, building on oi
l revenues and its strategic regional position (RFE/RL,

The EU has now more security functions directly related to the protracted
conflicts in Georgia and is indirectly engaged in confidence
building measure in
Moldova. The reappointment of a new
EUSR for the South Caucasus, announced in
September 2011 after months of uncertainty as to how the restructuring of the EU’s
external relations after Lisbon would be managed in the South Caucasus

can be seen as


Information on the mission available at www.eubam.org


The mandates of the EUSRs are available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/policies/foreign


Mandate available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/policies/foreign


a sign that the EU will stay committed to re
gional stability. The EUSR

Lefont will take on functions of conflict resolution both in the Nagorno
conflict and in Georgia, which will demand a careful balancing of resources and time.
These changes at the security level were largely u
nwanted by the EU and in that sense
the EU was not openly a revisionist power. However, politically and economically the
EU did push for an agenda of mild European integration with the region and pro
actively sought to advance policies such as the ENP and
the Eastern Partnership (EaP),
with the ability to exert significant influence in Eurasia in the long

Conflict management in the South Caucasus: schism or opportunity?

Conflict resolution issues in Eurasia have been

ly absent from EU
Russia relations.
Although the PCA established the possibility of cooperation on
foreign and security
policy and crisis management, it was not until 2005 with the celebration of the four
Common Spaces that concrete proposals began to be d
iscussed regarding the conflict in
Moldova (Fernandes, 2009

p. 238). Georgia, which had been another potential
candidate for closer EU
Russia cooperation on conflict
related issues, became a

point of debate after the arrival of President Saakashvili to power in Tbilisi. By 2006
Russian relations had deteriorated deeply and a diplomatic crisis developed
between the two countries (Vieira and Simão, 2008, p. 5,
, 2007, p
. 87
Faced with the prospect of further escalation and pressured by Georgia to mediate
between Tbilisi and Moscow

the EU Council Conclusions of October 2006 called on
both parties to tone down the rhetoric and revise the measures adopted, and indicated
the EU

willingness to
work with Georgia and the Russian Federation to facilitate
mutual confidence building and contribute to a peaceful resolution of the crisis

(Council of the European Union, 2006).

This marked another turning point in EU engagement in th
e conflicts in the
South Caucasus. The EU had already developed substantial efforts towards
rehabilitation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, having allocated €33 million in 1997
2005, the largest financial donor after Russia (Wilson and Popescu, 2009, p. 326)
. The
projects remained largely de
politicised, as
way to assuage Russia and more reluctant
EU member states, with the Commission deliberately presenting them as apolitical.
Starting from this low profile engagement promoted by EU institutions, the EU
gradually took on new functions. These included observe
r status for the European
Commission to the JCC meetings and, following a Commission and Council

mission to South Ossetia and Abkhazia in January 2007, the report presented to
the Political and Security Council (PSC) suggested additional measu
res the EU could
take (Rettman, 2007). EU member states’ reaction to the proposal was to strip it of any
controversial issues in relations with Russia. This concern with Russia’s perceptions is
also illustrated by the fact the EUSR
Semneby travelled
to Moscow and consulted
with the Russian ambassador in Brussels, before submitting the document to the PSC
(Popescu, 2011, p. 82). Conflict resolution, unlike other more structural approaches to
security, proved to be an area of peaceful coexistence, even
if not of cooperation,
between the EU and Russia, as long as the EU acknowledged Russia’s leading role in
defining the scope of engagement.

The most controversial issue to all the parties to the conflicts in Georgia was the
nature of the peacekeeping oper
ations in the two separatist regions, where changing the
status quo

would prove harder and more costly for all involved. Russia was actively
providing military, political and economic support to the separatist regions,


Interview with COEST delegate,
Council of the EU,
Brussels, 17 July, 2007.


while simultaneously
ed in peacekeeping activities under the CIS mandate. Faced
with these prospects, the Georgian authorities began an intensive campaign to
internationalise the conflicts, aimed at changing the peacekeeping formats. The EU’s
reluctance to even discuss this po
ssibility can be seen as contributing to Georgia’s
decision to rely on NATO security guarantees through formal accession and close
relations with the US, including military support to rearm the Georgian states (Pardo,
2011, p. 1393). Both aspects were fund
amental in Russia’s calculations and the
escalation of the conflict into open confrontation. In fact, the war was the only event
that led the EU to accept a conflict resolution role, as Georgia had actively requested.
Following the war, Russia’s position a
s a peace
broker was also clearly challenged. The
3+3 format of the Geneva Talks, with the EU, the OSCE and the UN acting as co
chairs, on the one hand, and Russia, Georgia and the US on the other, seems rather
artificial. Russia is seen as a party to the
conflict and offering patronage to the separatist
entities, whereas the US is seen as Georgia’s patron (
Mikhelidze, 2010, p. 3)

Following the war, EU
Russia relations evolved positively and a new openness
to address the protracted conflicts has been visi
ble. Although some EU member states
demanded sanctions to be applied to Russia, others advocated a policy of dialogue. The
High Representative for the CSFP, Javier Solana, made this point stating that

[after the war w]e opted for dialogue and negoti
ation [with Russia] rather
than sanctions as the best means of passing our messages and defending
our interests. This decision should not be misunderstood, however. [...]
Russia knows that what happens there [in Georgia] is important for our

(Solana, 2009)

Major breakthroughs in the Georgian conflicts have not been visible, and in fact there is
the real danger that th
e EU’s presence might be inadvertently contributing to refreezing
the conflicts, without the means to make Russia comply with
the cease
fire agreement.
President Medvedev has stated his understanding of the so
called Medvedev
fire agreement: ‘Russia’s position on that is quite simple: the Medvedev
plan was carried out and it was successful. I consider all ot
her interpretations of the
events to be wrong’ (Medvedev, 2011). This position clashes with the view that the
agreement requires all parties to withdraw their military forces to pre
war positions and
that the monitors be granted access to the
ry of Georgia, including the two
separatist regions.

The realist argument of limited cooperation based on relative gains is useful in
this context to help us understand why Russia accepted the EU’s presence in these
conflicts, but also why the EU chose to engage with Russia in the aftermath of the war.
stood to lose a great deal from breaking communication and dialogue in a context
of increased competition in Eurasia. Moreover, interdependence is a fundamental

these calculations of relative power gains, as is a time
perspective. B
oth actors seem to base their strategies on limited losses in the short

and potential gains in the long

Moreover, the regional context of Eurasia has been
favouring competition and the establishment of a new multipolarity based on the control
power leverages in the region: conflicts, energy and ideology. Relative gains from
cooperation thus become an important calculation for the actors involved. The EU’s
reluctant engagement in Georgia’s conflicts confirms the perception among most EU
member s
tates that the costs of confronting Russia would be too high and the
complexity of the conflicts highly reduced the chances for positive gains and success.


The cease
fire agreement is available at http://smr.gov.ge/uploads/file/Six_Point_Peace_Plan.pdf


Russia’s acceptance of a short
term EU presence in the Georgian scenario derives from
the changes in

status quo

and the need to revert the
losses that

the military
intervention in Georgia
caused to Moscow.

It is in this context that a new division of labour emerged in conflict
management in the South Caucasus. Whereas the EU consolidated a central p
osition as
a security provider for Georgia and became an interlocutor in the mediation efforts,
Russia has been more proactively engaged in the mediation efforts on Nagorno
Karabakh. The potential for cooperation in the case of the Nagorno
Karabakh confli
could be higher, since Russia is not a part

to the conflict. Here the main obstacle to
closer EU
Russia cooperation comes from the EU’s lack of direct mediation role and
poor involvement, both at the high political level of the official peace process a
nd inside
Karabakh (Simão, 2010). The EU has agreed to a potential role as a
peacekeeper, once an agreement is reached, but has refrained from any attempt to take
on a role as a mediator. This position is in line with the views in Armenia and
aijan, which have expressed their satisfaction with the current mediation format.

Cooperation between the EU and Russia on conflict resolution seems to depend
more on a structure of opportunity and necessity, rather than on the existence of shared
ts to cooperate. Both the EU and Russia seem to share the view that the role of
external mediators in solving the Karabakh conflict is rather limited and it depends
primarily on Armenia and Azerbaijan to take the necessary steps to achieve a lasting
on. Despite President Medvedev’s efforts to mediate the conflict over the last year,
ultimately the persistence of the
status quo

is more favourable to Moscow’s short
interests than a deterioration of the situation on the ground. In the ab
sence of rea
possibilities to reach an agreement, small gestures towards
confidence building

are a
suitable strategy. Russia has been supportive of recent efforts to develop a strategy of
cultural diplomacy, which resulted in the visit of Armenian and Karabakh
epresentatives to Azerbaijan in 2007

and of Azerbaijani representatives to Armenia
and Karabakh in 2009, including the
Armenian and Azerbaijani ambassadors to
Moscow (Broers, 2010). Russia has also taken a back seat in the Turkish
even if it stood to lose some strategic advantages in the short
since it did not want to be seen as opposing this important process.

These shifts in regional balances and in perceptions, as well as the increased
militarisation of the Karabakh confli
ct (and of the Caucasus as a whole) should be a
central concern in bilateral EU
Russia relations. However, neither Russia’s increased
militarisation of the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, nor its arms deals
with Armenia and Azerbaijan hav
e been openly discussed with Brussels. Overall, both
Russia and the EU have clear energy concerns that drive them to short
considerations in their relations with the South Caucasus, as opposed to a concerted
term commitment to peace. Moreover, th
e EU seems to be driven by the principle

causing no harm

in the absence of a clear strategy towards the South Caucasus. As
one EU member state ambassador in Moscow has put it:

voluntarism is not necessarily
the best option in this region


tive action on confidence
building measures
has also been limited, since both actors are careful to capitalise on these initiatives for
their own regional image, more than effective results.


Russia relations on political
security issues remain one of the least developed areas
of their interaction. Despite important steps in the institutional development of relations


Interview with EEAS officials, Brussels, 21 October 2011.


Email excha
nge with EU member state ambassador in Moscow, 6 June 2007.


and growing economic interdependence between the European region and Russia
, the
lack of shared views on how to move the relationship forward has been hampering
cooperation in the field of
high politics
. The very different nature of both actors,
including the EU’s gradual coming of age as a political and security actor, has added

confusion on how to develop a pragmatic
approach that

responds to the evident need to
address the security challenges in their shared neighbourhood. One important realisation
is the inability to fully harness the EU
Russia security dialogue on the protrac
conflicts within the framework of the strategic partnership (Kuzmicheva, 2011, p. 30).
To the extent that these issues have been addressed, they have remained outside of the
existing structures, as illustrated by the German
Russian Meseberg initiative.

The South Caucasus stands out as a particularly difficult challenge in this
security dialogue. Until 2008 the EU was largely reluctant to engage in security
functions and some member states were cautious not to let EU actions be perceived as
offsetting R
ussian interests. Because of this careful approach, there has not been open
conflict between the EU and Russia on these issues. However, if we consider the EU’s
structural approach to security in its neighbourhood, and the proactive diligences of
some of t
he new member states towards the
astern neighbours, the perception in
Moscow was that the EU was actively challenging the post
Cold War
status quo

Eurasia, by becoming a
pole of attraction and a model of political development for the
CIS. Russia has be
en challenging this structural and normative approach and the
validity of the EU’s model for Russia and the CIS. Instead, Russia has called for
dialogue and a partnership in its bilateral relations with the EU and has externalised the
costs of non
ation to the neighbours engaged in the ENP. The coercive strategies
adopted by the Kremlin, especially towards Ukraine and Georgia, are an illustration of

The protracted conflicts in the South Caucasus helped to shed light on the limits
of EU

security cooperation in their shared neighbourhood. Although the EU did
not seek to challenge Russia’s dominant position on conflict management, local actors
displayed an important ability to shape external actors’ agendas. Georgia’s strategy of
onalisation of the conflicts achieved its goals against all odds. Lack of dialogue
between the EU and Moscow facilitated the escalation of the conflict, demanding
important lessons
be drawn from this experience. Although after the war both actors

to have taken a more constructive approach on security dialogue, the opportunity
has been missed to do so within the institutional context of the
Four Common Spaces
and the strategic partnership they are developing. This weakens the liberal argument
institutions can be learning sites, favouring transparency and interdependence and
pushes EU
Russia security dialogue back to the realm of bilateral diplomacy. This
makes any effort to link the EU’s structural approach to security to more effective CFSP
d CSDP instruments harder to achieve, even after the Lisbon Treaty. Although this
might present Russia with short
term opportunities to undermine EU influence, it does
little to stabilise a very important region standing between these two actors and to
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