Russia and the EU Redux

Yesterday I flagged a couple articles about the growing interest in both the EU and Russia to update their 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Today, an ITAR-TASS article elaborates on what Russia hopes to accomplish by updating the framework agreement. In addition to developing working arrangements for international crisis management, the Russians seem to be particularly interested in the development of a joint Russian-EU conflict intervention, peacekeeping and stabilization capacity. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry mentioned the recent example of Russia’s contributing helicopters to the EUFOR Chad mission as a model for future cooperation:

“The participation of Russia in that operation will be a pilot project in the crisis management cooperation with the European Union,” the diplomat said. “Russia thinks that the sides should draft agreements, which will give them equal rights in missions of the kind. We think that this clause should be included in the agreements on the Russian participation in the EU operation in Chad and the Central African Republic. We also offer our partners to adopt a separate agreement to that effect.”

The spokesman made a point of stating that Russia is not in any rush for a new agreement. Nevertheless, he made it clear that the new unified foreign policy the EU is poised to adopt with the advent of the Lisbon Treaty makes it more attractive as a tactical partner. Despite the historical differences of how Eastern and Western Europe perceive Russia, there seems to be a growing consensus that most of the residual sticking points have been resolved, and that for the ones that can’t be resolved (ie. Kosovo) everyone can agree to disagree, so long as it’s done respectfully.

For all its bluster, Russia has proven to be very pragmatic in its choice of tactical alliances. The EU offers it the kind of legitimacy by association that Moscow lacks on its own (to be taken seriously as a regional actor, for instance), as well as investment capital for infrastructure development. In return, Russia offers the energy reserves and military force projection capacity that Europe is unable in the former case, and unwilling in the latter, to generate itself. Of course, reality has a way of intruding on this kind of abstract equation, but so far as abstract equations go, this one makes a lot of sense for both sides.