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Ferguson, Iain

Necessary Partners, 2003-5: The Restoration of Russia-EU Governance

This paper presents an evaluation of a Russia-led, European project in governance. In the shadow of the invasion of Iraq, the Russian government sought to constitutionally bind itself to the EU in a strategic effort to restore an order of ‘multipolarity’. The constitutional settlement of 2005 marks what Putin called the “zenith” of this European project.  This event sees the establishment of a new international institution, The Permanent Partnership, and the conclusion of a new European order treaty, the Common Spaces.  But for all the language of the ‘new’, there is a strong sense of déjà vu in these foreign policy achievements. The argument of this paper is that in 2003-5, Russia was successful in restoring a Holy Alliance for the 21st Century. Like the original Holy Alliance, this arrangement is ideologically realist and yet modernizing. The discourse that surrounds this governance project aims at restoring the fullness of Russia’s great power identity by association with a Western European power. In the process, restraints are placed on the progressive aspirations of its ‘strategic partner’. This freedom-denying constitutionalism explains why this policy is deemed ‘necessary’. But it also exposes its greatest weakness. The strategic necessity of partnership is understood to be of ‘permanent’ (i.e. timeless) importance to Moscow, but the EU is suspicious of Russia’s intent. As with the original Holy Alliance, this constitutional settlement requires the imposed consensus of a ‘general will’, with Russia acting like Rousseau’s figure of the ‘Legislator nation', the one true defender of European civilization. This one-sided defence of civilization is, however, a lost cause. It backfires in the destablisation of Russia’s border. This ‘multipolar moment’ is very brief, but reflection on this event allows for fresh insight into: a) the historical dilemma of cooperation in Russia’s relationships with the West and, b) the political theory of governance.