Toward a Strategic Alliance
No. 2 2006 April/June
Timofei V. Bordachev

Doctor of Political Science
National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs
Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies
Academic Supervisor;
Valdai Discussion Club, Moscow, Russia
Program Director


SPIN-RSCI: 6872-5326
ORCID: 0000-0003-3267-0335
ResearcherID: E-9365-2014
Scopus AuthorID: 56322540000


E-mail: [email protected]
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The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Russia
and the European Union is due to expire in the autumn of 2007. This
deadline presents the parties with a challenge to negotiate a
legislative and institutional basis for their future relations.

However, Russia and the EU are approaching this discussion with
a noticeable lack of interest toward each other, if not outright
irritation. By February 2004, when it became obvious that the
socio-political and economic models of the parties had greatly
diverged, Moscow and Brussels almost assumed the logic of “peaceful
coexistence.” The rapprochement issue is now used only as a pretext
for achieving economic concessions that are not related to
long-term objectives, while the “strategic partnership” slogan
often conceals bitter competition on specific economic issues.
Meanwhile, bilateral summits, together with any meaningful
documents that these events may produce, have been decreasing. Both
Russia and the European Union have displayed their inability to
formulate joint strategic objectives and tasks, and to define their
common values and even their real interests.

This drop in enthusiasm to engage in debate causes the parties
to make “pragmatic and earthly” decisions in the spirit of
“obligation-fulfillment” (or, rather, non-fulfillment). The public
and political atmosphere, every bit as dull as the texts of the
Russian-EU joint Road Maps approved in May 2005, does nothing to
help find answers to longstanding problems. Adherence to a policy
of pragmatism can bring about a situation where breakthrough ideas
for the future may become unclaimed.

However, given that Russia and the European Union are already so
close, and the real content of their mutual relations is so
considerable, the parties require a fundamentally new level of
confidence. This will be impossible to accomplish, however, by
relying on practices and institutions that were formed in the early
1990s when the situation was quite different. The Russian-EU agenda
now includes issues that were impossible to imagine 10 to 15 years

Russia and the European Union – two inseparable parts of the Old
World that is presently losing its global influence – must free
themselves from the fetters of their bilateral legal and
institutional base. Although this base keeps their mutual relations
from further degradation, it serves to hinder further progress at
the same time. Russia and the EU will be able to formulate a
long-term model for their relations only if they overcome
stereotypes and recognize the possibility of various variants,
including unorthodox ones. Genuine integration wherever possible
and necessary is more likely to bring about open markets and the
free movement of people, goods, services and capital than the hasty
inclusion into grand bureaucratic plans of ever new directions of
the “harmonization.” It is also more advantageous than to simply
proclaim an association of such diverse actors as a common

The historical division of Europe will not be overcome unless
Russia and the EU form an alliance genuinely oriented to the
future. The geostrategically ailing European Union has entered a
long period of internal transformation; from an objective view, it
needs Russia economically and politically to advance its interests
on the international stage, although it is not ready yet to admit
this officially. Russia, presently involved in a complex
geostrategic encirclement and losing its positions in many
objective parameters, needs the European Union, at least in the
medium term, as well.

The relative stability of the Russian system of government,
which rests on the population’s support and the favorable situation
on the world energy market, allows Moscow to more actively advance
its own vision of strategic objectives and forms of cooperation,
while ensuring equal rights for its partners. Therefore, Russia
must not be viewed de facto as a “younger partner” of the EU. The
EU should gradually depart from its present position that its
outside partners must adopt “light” versions of EU laws and
standards (acquis communautaire) in order to bring about progress
in their relations with Brussels.


From the legal point of view, there is no “2007 problem” in
Russia-EU relations. Article 106 of the Partnership and Cooperation
Agreement stipulates that the Agreement shall be automatically
renewed year by year provided that neither Party gives the other
Party written notice of denunciation of the Agreement at least six
months before it expires. Yet the need for a new document is
already on the Russia-EU agenda. There are now three ways for the
parties to formalize their relations after 2007.

The first way is to provide for the automatic
renewal of the PCA on an annual basis, as provided for by Article
106. At this point, the main emphasis of the agreement will be to
fill the joint Road Maps on Four Common Spaces with specific
content. Some of the PCA provisions may lose their force after a
lapse of time. One thing is certain: the PCA will gradually die out
without an adequate replacement.

The second way is to add new provisions to the
PCA in order to revise the basis for institutional cooperation for
the next 10 to 15 years. For example, it may acquire the format of
the EU’s relations (an association, a free trade zone, etc.) with
states located along its periphery and with former colonies of
European nations in Africa.

The third way is to draft a new political and
legal document (a package of documents) that will completely
replace the PCA and that will be ratified, if need be, by Russia,
the European Union and its member countries. Ratification may not
be required for the general political document (Declaration), but
only for individual agreements on specific issues (sectoral

However, it seems that the less painful method would be to
simply extend the PCA, providing it with new articles that would
reflect the achievements scored over the last few years, including
the Energy Dialogue and the Road Maps on Four Common Spaces.
Brussels prefers exactly such a scenario, as it will allow the
European Commission to retain the role of leader in relations with
Russia, while reducing the influence of individual EU member
countries that are more interested in the development of contacts
with Moscow. This type of relationship model would suit a
significant part of the EU political elite, as it would save the
Union the need to work out a clear-cut strategy for developing
relations with Russia. Moreover, it would enable Brussels to focus
on efforts to overcome its own system crisis.

At the same time, Moscow may find this variant attractive
because it would spare it the need to form a strong negotiating
team for drafting, together with the European Union, a new
document. The catastrophic shortage of qualified experts, in
addition to the marked disunity among government agencies, makes it
very difficult to form an efficient task force.

However, by agreeing to extend/renew the PCA, or replace it with
another document taken from the foreign-policy nomenclature of the
European Commission that reflects its terminology, Russia would be
voluntary admitting to its status as a “younger partner,” thus
becoming an object for inspection and instruction. The arm-twisting
technique frequently used by the European Union in economic issues
(witnessed by its position on the Siberian overflight payments
charged to European airlines) would become a regular practice.

On the whole, the format of political and legal relations
between Russia and the EU does not essentially influence the
development of real integration wherever there is mutual interest.
Many countries that have much closer and effective ties with the EU
than Russia do not seek to formalize their commitments by ratifying
them in parliament and making them part of national law. One of
these countries is the United States, which has a visa-free regime
and a huge trade turnover with the European Union; yet, it makes do
with general political declarations accompanied by a package of
bilateral agreements and binding working plans on specific


The development of a new format for developing political and
legal relations between Russia and the European Union requires
revising some of the present approaches.

First, the future model of Russia-EU relations
must reflect Russia’s special role in Europe and the world. This
means that the new document (package of documents) cannot fall
within the same “system of coordinates” as the EU’s present
practice of formalizing relations with neighboring states. Thus,
any new model should not stem from other generally known formats
and titles of EU agreements with other countries, such as
Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, Association Agreement,
European Agreements, and so on.

Second, the new agreement cannot be an
“instruction” for drawing Russia closer to the constantly changing
regulatory policies concerning political and economic life in the
European Union. In practice, bilateral documents are usually
substituted by agreed versions of the EU’s internal documents
reflecting its vision of what Russia should do. Broadly speaking,
it is necessary to avoid excessive emphasis on “harmonization of
legislation” as a universal instrument for developing trade,
economic and humanitarian ties. Russia’s adoption of EU
legislation, without raising the issue of obtaining EU membership,
would make no sense.

Both parties must be guided by international law, World Trade
Organization regulations and other legislative norms. This does not
rule out, however, Russia’s adoption of individual norms in cases
when it does not involve yielding its state sovereignty. Moreover,
in the future, if the parties are prepared to form supranational
forms of cooperation in one or another field, new regulations may
be hammered out at that time.

And third, any new document between the parties
must avoid evaluative judgments about the state of the Russian
economy and its society as a whole. Statements to the effect that
the European Union recognizes Russia as a “developed democratic
country, possessing the fundamentals of a market economy” look as
an attempt to place the EU a step above Russia, thus undermining
the principle of equality.

Instead, the parties should consider a document that
acknowledges the establishment of a strategic union (community)
between Russia and the European Union as a new means for ensuring
regional and international security. To this end, Moscow and
Brussels must voice their common vision of major issues concerning
international life. Despite their tactical disagreement on a
majority of pressing issues (such as the role of the United Nations
and other international institutions, the supremacy of
international law, non-proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, counterterrorism measures, cross-border crime and
drug-trafficking, measures to stabilize the Greater Middle East,
environmental problems, etc.), the positions of Russia and the
European Union are quite close. Therefore, the parties should see
to it that their common strategic interests take precedence over
individual disagreements or phobias inherited from the past.

A new joint document could cite universally agreed principles,
by which Russia and the EU abide in their international affairs and
bilateral relations. These principles include the observance of
human rights, freedom and equality in international trade, and the
organization of the due political process in keeping with the
existing norms. The parties should clearly state that they will
continue to build their bilateral economic relations on the basis
of, and taking into account, the adaptation of Russian legislation
to the rules and standards of the WTO, which Russia seeks to join
in the near future. If economic interests demand closer integration
in one or another field, the corresponding harmonization of
legislation in the given area will be adopted in a separate
Russia and the European Union should focus on selective integration
in economic areas where it can bring them real added value, as well
as a long-term instrument for building their economic and
geopolitical community. For example, the parties may consider the
possibility of setting up supranational associations, like a
Russian-European Oil and Gas Association, a Russian-European
Transport and Space Association, or a Russian-European
Environmental Community. In those areas where the parties are not
yet ready for integration, they will retain their full sovereignty
and relations in the form of cooperation.


The above principles can be translated into life on the basis of
a three-level system of political and legal relations between
Russia and the European Union. This system will allow the parties
to take into account their unique characteristics, interests and
international circumstances.

Level one. A strategic framework for Russia-EU
relations would be established by a general political document – a
Declaration for a Strategic Union Treaty – that would work as a
detailed preamble. Its stated goal would be the establishment of a
Strategic Union between Russia and the EU, aimed at overcoming the
syndrome of enmity, rivalry and psychological consequences of wars
and conflicts of the past, and at consolidating truly allied
relations that would provide for deeper integration in individual
areas. These relations will not be directed against third
countries. The relationship will be based on a common vision of
challenges and security threats, the interdependence and
interoperability between Russia and the European Union in key
economic sectors, and their common cultural and scientific
heritage. A final key is that both parties recognize the importance
of their rapprochement for ensuring their mutual development and

The Declaration should state that the common strategic interests
of Russia and the European Union have a priority, and specify areas
within the realm of international politics where the interests of
the two parties objectively coincide. The Declaration should also
cover other issues essential to both parties, among them devotion
to basic democratic values, such as supremacy of the law, human
rights and the rights of minorities, independence of the judicial
system, the division of powers, a competitive political
environment, independence of the mass media, and the freedom of
citizens’ movement. Also, it should stress that Russia and the EU
will build their mutual relations on the basis of equality, mutual
benefit and transparency, and that, while operating within the
framework of international and regional organizations, they will
seek to take into account each other’s positions, coordinate their
efforts, and align their approaches as close as possible.

A strategic union between Russia and the European Union would
serve as a crucial link between regional security systems in
Europe, Asia and North America. To add a systemic nature to the
parties’ relations in the military and political spheres, the
Declaration must name instances when it would be appropriate for
mutual cooperation in their foreign policy and military
cooperation, as well as in peace-making efforts.

Level two. Russia and the European Union would
adopt a strategic agenda that would name specific areas for their
cooperation. One would be cooperation in ensuring international and
regional security, as well as eliminating 21st century threats and
risks, including terrorism, environmental problems, poverty, and
others. This section may include a list and description of joint
initiatives for resolving specific issues pertaining to
international security, military cooperation and peace-making
activities, as well as references to specific provisions of
international law underlying such joint activities.

Another important area is cooperation in the realm of
international trade and the global economy. It would be expedient
to specify the parties’ plans with regard to issues of mutual
interest in individual sectors of the economy and international
trade, provided in detail in the general section of the
The third section of this agenda could focus on cooperation in
ensuring freedom of people’s movement and unimpeded transit. This
cooperation must be based on the declared intention of introducing
visa-free movement of citizens through a gradual simplification of
the visa regime. Also, the agenda should mention the need to
simplify, as much as possible, a mechanism of transit through the
Kaliningrad Region.

Another section, devoted to cultural and humanitarian
cooperation, which is a major area of concern in the debates on
rapprochement between Russia and EU, may contain a list of the
existing and planned initiatives for the development and
strengthening of joint activities. This section should state the
plans of the parties to intensify and encourage the exchange of
students, teachers and scientists.

Of fundamental importance is a special section that calls for
cooperation between businesses and civil societies. The lack of
mechanisms and instruments for protecting business interests is now
a key problem in Russia-EU relations. This section must contain a
list of plans and ideas for advancing dialog inside the business
community, as well as between nongovernmental organizations. First,
Russian businesspeople, with rare exception, are not ready to
invest seriously in the creation of a lobbyist infrastructure.
Second, the nature of the relationship between business and
government in Russia is not always conducive to protecting the
interests of Russian entrepreneurs abroad. The Russia-EU
negotiating process remains at a dead end and lacks real
transparency for the Russian business community; this is why its
interests are not duly taken into consideration.

Considering the unique role the EU plays in Russia’s foreign
trade (about 50 percent), it would be expedient to raise the issue
of expanding the representation of Russian business interests at
European supranational institutions, and creating a legal
foundation for the integration of Russian businesses into the
business community of the United Europe. Russia and the EU may even
work out a separate agreement to support the representation of
nongovernmental interests. The main objective of this (sectoral)
agreement would be granting Russian and EU businesspeople the right
to represent and protect their interests on the territory of their

At the same time, business circles must be obliged to coordinate
their approaches to issues of economic relations within the
framework of special consultative mechanisms. Associations,
companies and their representatives should be guaranteed access to
governmental information (this would require, of course, a strictly
defined type of documents and could occur only at a certain stage
of development between the parties). Also, the parties should
submit drafts of the interstate agreements and other documents to
Russian and EU councils of entrepreneurs for consideration prior to
the decision-making stage.
The last section of the agenda should be devoted to the documents’
implementation, including a provision on the creation of a special
mechanism for supervising the implementation of the agreed plans
between Russia and the European Union.

And finally, level three. This includes
sectoral agreements of various scales and binding to different
degrees. These agreements will serve as a true “motor” and
practical instrument for developing Russia-EU relations. They must
provide for the functional integration in individual areas between
the parties, up to and including the unification of market
segments. Years ago, this was the functional approach – the
achievement of political integration through in-depth cooperation
in purely technical areas – that launched the entire process of
European integration. So it would be expedient to apply to
Russia-EU relations those practices that formed the European Coal
and Steel Community of the early 1950s – the only successful
experience of overcoming conflict and contradictions between
formerly unfriendly countries, when the participation of France and
Germany in the ECSC met their economic interests and also became a
decisive factor in their historical reconciliation.

Cooperation on a functional basis makes it possible to reduce
discrimination toward one of the partners in the project to the
minimum. At least three of the ECSC founders (France, Germany and
Italy) strengthened their shaken positions with the help of the new
organization and became leaders of the new historical process. The
functional approach enables countries to be more flexible in the
adoption of certain norms and values as a mandatory condition for
integration. In the Treaty of Rome on the establishment the
European Economic Community (EEC), signed in 1957, it occurred to
no one to make the participation of France conditional upon the
cessation of its military operations in Algeria.

Additionally, the functional rapprochement and direct
interaction of the supranational governance bodies, businesses and
societal structures of the parties involved will help create what
the present relations between Russia and the European Union and,
perhaps, between the EU countries themselves, lack most of all, and
that is an atmosphere of confidence. However, functional
integration can be successful only if the rules of the game are
equally advantageous to all the participants. If, on the other
hand, integration presupposes or results in the ousting of any of
the participants from the market, it will never work.
Obvious potential areas for Russia-EU cooperation include
transport, education, space exploration and, possibly, power
engineering. Transport – especially air transport – is one of the
best areas to launch a Russian-European integration project.
Profits in this sphere are minimal, while large airlines, both in
Russia and the EU, experience similar difficulties. The scale of
state support in this industry, which is necessary even in the
United States, is approximately the same in all countries. But most
importantly, the potential contribution of Russia and the EU to the
“joint stock” can be equal. This factor will let the parties avoid
seller-buyer relations, which inevitably transform any dialog into
a banal form of bargaining.

Of all the aforementioned documents meeting the new political
and legal format of Russia-EU relations, only sectoral agreements
require parliamentary ratification. Therefore, the parties will
avoid negative consequences that would stem from the need to push
the issue of a Russia-EU strategic union through the legislatures
of EU member states, with which Moscow has strained relations due
to historical and psychological factors.

This article sets forth major provisions of the Concept of a
New Political and Legal Format of Russia-EU Relations, a working
document drafted by the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy
of Sciences (the Center for Applied Russia-EU Studies), the Council
on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), and Russia in Global Affairs.
The authors of the project express their gratitude to Sergei
Karaganov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe, for his
constructive criticism and proposals, many of which were taken into
account, and to all the participants of the public discussion
organized by SVOP and held at the Institute of Europe on November
22, 2005. The authors are grateful to the initiators of the Concept
for Modernizing the Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
and Concluding an Advanced Partnership Agreement Establishing an
Association. Their arguments and conclusions provided a strong
stimulus for the attempt, made in this article, to go beyond the
frameworks of the official agenda in Russia-EU