Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Anke Schmidt-Felzmann (Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sweden)

From Peace Project to Annexation. How the EU's Partnership with Russia Got Lost in European Integration

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has received considerable attention following the annexation of Ukraine’s peninsula Crimea in early 2014. Analyses of the Russian military developments over the past decade can explain the Russian capacity and willingness to apply military force to achieve its objectives. This paper argues that it is necessary to closely examine also the Russian leadership’s approach to trade rules, legal commitments and European market integration as well as its political engagement with individual EU member states. The paper conducts an analysis of the EU-Russian trade and political relations across the past twenty-five years to identify whether, how and to what extent the Russian Federation really committed to making the trade partnership with the EU work. It reveals that the EU’s approach of promoting peace through economic integration was adopted by Russia only in words, but not implemented in practice. There is ample evidence that strongly suggests that the way in which individual EU member states were treated by Russia across the twenty-five year period is neither reflective of the liberal democratic principles upon which the EU-Russian partnership was to be built, nor the liberal market values. The principles upon which the European peace project is built and which were incorporated in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (and the subsequent EU-Russia agreements) were never fully embraced by the Russian leadership. The Kremlin never trusted the market, nor the EU’s offer to develop a real partnership. The current "information warfare" is an expression of a deeply rooted conflict between the European vision of peaceful and mutually beneficial relations with Russia and the Kremlin's desire to dominate markets and control political structures and actors. The paper argues that the fundamental divide between the Russian reality and the European vision of peace and stability through trade got lost in European integration.