Valdai Discussion Club/Carnegie.ru
January 27, 2014
By Dmitri Trenin
EU-Russian relations are becoming more competitive.
Over the last five years, as the European Union was focused on its internal crisis, its biggest neighbor fundamentally transformed its approach to foreign policy in general and to the EU in particular. Russia has come to see itself as a more important player on the international stage, and it is demanding to be treated as an equal partner in its relationship with the European Union. The Kremlin has also rebalanced its foreign policy, placing more emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region and particularly on post-Soviet Eurasia.
But Brussels long ignored this shift, and EU-Russian relations stagnated as a result. The relationship degenerated into a transactional one, boasting a fair amount of trade but punctuated by constant bickering over energy, visas, and human rights. At the same time, the EU proceeded with a policy toward Russia's neighbors that was wholly separate from its Russia policy-until Brussels and Moscow suddenly collided over Ukraine in late 2013.
It is time for a fundamental rethink of the EU's Russia policy. Brussels needs to take Moscow's Eurasian project seriously, and it must decide what kind of relationship it wants with Russia in the short and longer term as well as whether-and how-this is achievable. Leadership changes at the top levels of several EU bodies later this year will provide an opportune moment to engage in serious thinking about these matters.