In the final instalment of our survey of Russian experts, we asked them to analyse what policy processes could be introduced to establish a united European position towards Russia. Many experts felt that it was difficult for Europe to have a common position towards Russia as the Union's member states all prioritize different aspects of their relationships with Russia. For example, strong states, such as Germany and France, prioritize economic issues, while Poland has concerns about Russia's imperial attitude, while others, like the United Kingdom, want to see Moscow improve human rights and press freedom.
Some experts felt that only another conflict or an energy crisis could bring the European Union to a united position on Russia. It was felt that a common energy policy was of vital importance as that more than anything else was used by Moscow to exacerbate the differences between European approaches to Russia.
It is clear that there are many policies that Europe
could introduce in order to bring about a more united position on Russia, including
discussions on the role of NATO and other international bodies, like the EU's
Eastern Partnership, but that this
process needed to start with analysis of and goals for the relationship. Europe
must decide whether it values a stable Russia or one that is transformed.
On a policy level, which processes need to be initiated to make EU countries act more cohesively vis-à-vis Russia?
Without open and ongoing dialogue on how Europe perceives Russia and what it wants from Moscow, the Center for European Reform's Katinka Barysch said "even seemingly unimportant EU policy decisions become a battle field for the contrasting views of the EU member states." That dialogue needed to result in a "new, broader, realist approach to Moscow," according to Luca Ratti from the American University of Rome.
This process would also involve, according to Ivo Samson, from the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, the European Union determining the limits of its "political tolerance" to Russia and work out the "red line Russia is not allowed to cross" whether that be its approach to Georgia or cutting off energy supplies. It would also help to stop thinking in Russophile and Russophobe labels as member states can vacillate between positions depending on the issue.
Similarly, Dr Hans J. Giessmann, from the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, said the European Union needed to "agree on key interests among us." He said it was vital that Europe work out what role Russia would play in the European security order - "security because of, against or with Russia."
Controversially, some experts felt nothing encouraged European cohesion towards Russia more than Moscow's aggressive policies. Both the Polish Center for Foreign Affairs' Lukasz Kulesa and the Center for International Relations' Eugeniusz Smolar felt that allowing Russia to be "assertive" and "overreact" was the "greatest facilitator of unity." "The more aggressive it is in conducting its foreign and security policy, the easier it is to achieve cohesion," Kulesa said.
Another approach to encouraging policy cohesion was to encourage "real common policies on energy and security," according to Sami Faltas from the Center for European Security Studies in The Netherlands and many other experts. Energy policy was of huge importance to the European-Russian relationship because - Heiko Pääbo from the University of Tartu in Estonia said - "this is the main Russian tool in the EU to disintegrate its cohesive position towards Russia."
Marek Madej of the Polish Institute of International Affairs said Russia would need to accept the principles of an Energy Charter and the European Union would need to support "member states in their disputes over gas and oil prices/transit routes etc with Russia." While the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute's Andres Kasekamp said the European Union should consider liberalizing its internal energy market and applying its own competition rules.
With regards to what the European Union could do, Dr Michael Brzoska from the Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik suggests that "the EU has to become a more credible actor for its own members [who feel] threatened by Russia or seeking to make separate deals with Russia. This can only be a slow process of confidence-building by the member states themselves."
While Merijn Hartog, of the Centre for European Security Studies, said NATO needed to rethink decisions like holding war games in Georgia "in times like these as it is evident that Russia sees it as clear provocation."
Part I: Russian Mindset is Greatest Barrier to Improved Relationship with the West
Part II: A Future with Russia as a Strategic Partner?
Part III: Economic Crisis not Severe Enough to Change Kremlin Policy
Part IV: Broad EU Debate Needed on Russia's Role
This poll was specifically conducted with experts from Europe and the US. In the near future, we intend to conduct another poll with experts from Russia to get their perspective on the same issues.
Experts who participated in the Atlantic-Community.org survey:
Katinka Barysch, Centre for European Reform, United Kingdom
Dr. Michael Brzoska, Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik, Germany
Janusz Bugajski, Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States of America
Leonidas Donskis, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Dr. Hans-Georg Ehrhart, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg
Sami Faltas, Centre for European Security Studies, The Netherlands
Dr. Hans J. Giessmann, Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management, Germany
Merijn Hartog, Centre for European Security Studies, The Netherlands
Andres Kasekamp, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, Estonia
Lukasz Kulesa, Polish Institute of International Affairs, Poland
Teemu Naarajärvi, University of Helsinki, Finland
Marek Madej, Polish Institute of International Affairs, Poland
Dr. Jeffrey Mankoff, Yale University, United States of America
Maciej Mróz, University of Wroclaw, Poland
Heiko Pääbo, University of Tartu, Estonia
Luca Ratti, American University of Rome, Italy
Ivo Samson, Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Slovak Republic
Eugeniusz Smolar, Center for International Relations, Poland
Elzbieta Stadtmuller, University of Wroclaw, Poland
Jan Závěšický, International Institute of Political Science of Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Milan Znoj, Charles University, Czech Republic