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New Security Challenges

General Editor: Stuart Croft, Professor of International Security in the Department

of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, UK, and
Director of the ESRC’s New Security Challenges Programme.
The last decade demonstrated that threats to security vary greatly in their causes
and manifestations, and that they invite interest and demand responses from the
social sciences, civil society and a very broad policy community. In the past, the
avoidance of war was the primary objective, but with the end of the Cold War the
retention of military defence as the centrepiece of international security agenda
became untenable. There has been, therefore, a significant shift in emphasis
away from traditional approaches to security to a new agenda that talks of the
softer side of security, in terms of human security, economic security and envi-
ronmental security. The topical New Security Challenges series reflects this pressing
political and research agenda.

Titles include:

Natasha Underhill
Calculating the Risk of State-Failure in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq
Abdul Haqq Baker
Confronting Terror
Robin Cameron
Domestic Effects of Foreign Policy in the War on Terror
Sanjay Chaturvedi and Timothy Doyle
A Critical Geopolitics of Climate Change
Sharyl Cross, Savo Kentera, R. Craig Nation and Radovan Vukadinovic (editors)
Trust, Partnership, Integration
Tom Dyson and Theodore Konstadinides
Håkan Edström, Janne Haaland Matlary and Magnus Petersson (editors)
Hamed El-Said
Designing and Evaluating Counter Radicalization and De-Radicalization Programs
Philip Everts and Pierangelo Isernia
Maria Grazia Galantino and Maria Raquel Freire (editors)
Towards a Strategic EU Vision for Security and Defense
Adrian Gallagher
Kevin Gillan, Jenny Pickerill and Frank Webster
New Media and Protest in the Information Age
James Gow and Ivan Zverzhanovski
Security Sector Transformation in Serbia
Toni Haastrup
Contemporary EU-Africa Relations
Ellen Hallams, Luca Ratti and Ben Zyla (editors)
The Transformation of the Atlantic Alliance
Christopher Hobbs, Matthew Moran and Daniel Salisbury (editors)
New Approaches and Opportunities
Paul Jackson and Peter Albrecht
Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone
Janne Haaland Matlary
In the New National Interest
Sebastian Mayer (editor)
The Changing Provision of Security
Kevork Oskanian
A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis
Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper and Mandy Turner (editors)
Nathan Roger
Hussein Solomon
Fighting Insurgecy from Al Shabaab, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram
Aiden Warren and Ingvild Bode
The Post 9/11 Challenge on International Law

New Security Challenges Series

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Security in Shared
Foreign Policy of Russia, Turkey
and the EU

Edited by

Rémi Piet
Assistant Professor of Public Policy,
Diplomacy and International Political Economy, Qatar University, Qatar


Licínia Simão
Assistant Professor in International Relations,
School of Economics of the University of Coimbra, Portugal
Selection, introduction and editorial matter © Rémi Piet and Licínia Simão 2016
Individual chapters © Respective authors 2016
Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 2016 978-1-137-49909-7
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Rémi Piet, editor. | Licínia Simão, 1979– editor.
Title: Security in shared neighbourhoods : foreign policy of Russia, Turkey and the
EU / [edited by] Rémi Piet, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Diplomacy and
International Political Economy, Qatar University, Qatar, Licínia Simão, Head of
the International Relations Department, School of Economics of the University of
Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.
Description: Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave
Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited, [2016]
| Includes index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015027811
Subjects: LCSH: Russia (Federation) – Foreign relations – Turkey. |
Turkey – Foreign relations – Russia (Federation) | European Union – Russia
(Federation) | European Union – Turkey.
Classification: LCC JZ1616 .S43 2016 | DDC 327.4704—dc23
LC record available at
To Ariane and Joaquim, and to Hugo, our superheroes
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Preface and Acknowledgements ix

Notes on Contributors x

Introduction 1
Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

Part I Triangulating Perceptions among

Regional Powers
1 Identities and Images of Competition in the Overlapping
Neighbourhoods: How EU and Russian Foreign Policies Interact 13
Tom Casier
2 Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 35
Maria Raquel Freire
3 Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood with
Russia and the European Union 53
Çiğdem Üstün
4 EU–Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion: The Role of
Non-state Actors 75
Sandra Fernandes

Part II Security in the Shared Neighbourhood

5 The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood:
What Role for Russia? 97
Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias
6 Out of Will or Out of Necessity? Turkey and the Middle East 119
André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

Part III Competing Political and Economic

Models in the Shared Neighbourhood
7 The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia: Regional and
Macro-regional Implications 145
Ekaterina Koldunova

viii Contents

8 Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian: Where

Two Strive Another Benefits? 170
Slawomir Raszewski

9 Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage: Liminality, Centering and the

Temptation of Strategic Autonomy 190
Bradford R. McGuinn

Conclusion 211
Licínia Simão

Index 221
Preface and Acknowledgements

The editors wish to express their appreciation to the authors of the chap-
ters in this volume, both for the quality of their analyses and for their
willingness to revise and update early drafts of their papers in response to
editorial suggestions for clarification and for the strengthening of the argu-
ments presented. The original idea for a volume examining the compe-
tition for influence over a neighbourhood shared by Russia, Turkey and
the European Union emerged during the International Studies Association
Annual Convention in San Francisco, in 2012, and was further developed
in a conference in Budapest at Corvinus University in June 2013. We wish
to thank the organisers of these stimulating conferences for granting us the
opportunity to come together. The authors of the following chapters were
able to present, share, and comment on the initial drafts of the papers at
the conferences and, therefore, to benefit from the intellectual stimulation
that resulted from these personal interactions. Others joined the process at
other times and partook in the vision and excitement of the project.
The reader may be interested to know that over the past dozen years
many of those involved in this project – authors from Europe, the United
States, and the Middle East – have, along with others, been engaged in a
series of joint efforts to examine Russian, Turkish and European foreign
policies. In most cases the projects have developed much as this one,
with a series of papers originally prepared for and presented at a profes-
sional conference at which the authors were able to share ideas with one
another and to contribute to the improvement of one another’s analyses.
During this time and through these panel sessions we have evolved into
something of an informal research group and have, no doubt, begun to
build together a series of analyses of security issues, regional competi-
tion, economic interdependence and normative definition and percep-
tion between the EU, Russia and Turkey that provides an increasingly
comprehensive picture of this joint research nexus.
On behalf of all the authors, the editors wish to thank the many others
who have made important contributions to the final publication of this
book, in particular Prof. Roger Kanet, from the University of Miami and
Prof. Maria Raquel Freire, from the University of Coimbra, for their inspi-
rational examples and support to this project. We are especially indebted
to Palgrave Macmillan’s exceptional production staff. Their contribution
has helped to ensure the clarity and readability of the final manuscript.

Notes on Contributors

André Barrinha is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at

the Canterbury Christ Church University and a Researcher at the Centre
for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra. He holds a Ph.D. in
International Relations from the University of Kent, Canterbury and an
undergraduate degree in the same subject from the University of Coimbra.
His main research interests include critical security studies, European
security, Turkish foreign policy and International Relations theory.
Publications include an edited volume, Towards a Global Dimension: EU’s
Conflict Management in the Neighborhood and Beyond (2008).

Laura Bastos is a research fellow at the Center for International and

European Studies at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey. Since 2010
Bastos is a Ph.D. student in International Relations at the International
Politics and Conflict Resolution program in the School of Economics of
the University of Coimbra. She graduated from the School of Arts and
Humanities at the University of Coimbra with a degree in Journalism.
She later got a Master’s in Advanced International and European Studies
from the Institut Européen des Hautes Études Internationales. Her
research focuses on the concept of identity and Turkish foreign policy.

Tom Casier is Academic Director of the Brussels School of International

Studies at the University of Kent. He is Senior Lecturer in International
Relations and holds a Jean Monnet Chair at the same University. He is
also Deputy Director of the Global Europe Centre and Visiting Professor
at the University of Leuven (KULeuven), where he lectures on political
developments in Central and Eastern Europe. Casier coordinates a Jean
Monnet Multilateral Research Group (MRG) on EU-Russia relations,
with the Universities of Carleton, St. Petersburg State University and
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

Vanda Amaro Dias is a PhD candidate in International Politics and

Conflict Resolution at the School of Economics, University of Coimbra,
Portugal. She holds an MA in Political Science and International
Relations from the Nova University of Lisbon and a BA from the same
institution. Her research interests include EU foreign and neighbouring
policies, European security, Russia and the former Soviet space. She has
participated as a speaker in several international conferences and her

Notes on Contributors xi

research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as European

Security and Perspectives on European Society and Politics.

Sandra Fernandes is a lecturer at the University of Minho in Braga,

Portugal, and the Head of the International Relations Courses and
Deputy-Director of her faculty. She holds a PhD in Political Science from
Sciences Po, Paris. Her most recently published work is Putin’s Foreign
Policy towards Europe: Evolving Trends of an (Un)Avoidable Relationship, in
Roger Kanet and Rémi Piet (eds), Shifting Priorities in Russia’s Foreign and
Security Policy (2014).

Maria Raquel Freire is a researcher at the Centre for Social Studies (CES)
and Professor of International Relations at the School of Economics of
the University of Coimbra, Portugal. She is currently co-coordinator of
the Humanities, Migrations and Peace Studies research group at CES and
Vice-Dean of the school. Her research interests focus on peace studies,
foreign policy, international security, Russia and the post-Soviet space.
Her books on these topics include Competing for Influence: The EU and
Russia in Post-Soviet Eurasia; Russia and European Security, and Russia and
Its Near Neighbours: Identity, Interests and Foreign Policy, edited with Roger
Kanet (2012).

Ekaterina Koldunova is an associate professor in the Department of

Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University of International
Relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. Her research inter-
ests include Russian foreign policy and international relations in Asia.
Her recently published works include ‘Post-Crisis Regional Cooperation
in East Asia: New Trends and Developments’, in Lorenzo Fioramonti
(ed.), Regions and Crises: New Challenges for Contemporary Regionalisms
(2012), and ‘Beijing and Beyond: Whither Russia’s Response to China’s
and Asia’s Rise?’ in Antonio Fiori and Matteo Dian (eds), The Chinese
Challenge to the Western Order (2014).

Bradford R. McGuinn is the Director of the Masters of Arts in

International Administration at the University of Miami where he
received his PhD in International Studies. His research interests focus on
political violence, civil–military relations, regional security and Middle
Eastern studies. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political
Science and Associate Director of the Master of Arts in International
Administration Program at the University of Miami. He has lectured for
the United States Department of Defense and law enforcement agencies
and written chapters for edited volumes dealing with energy security in
xii Notes on Contributors

the Caucasus, the drug trade in West Africa and patterns of violence in
Latin America.

Rémi Piet is Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Political

Economy at the Qatar University where he coordinates academic
programs in international affairs and public policy as well as research initi-
atives on energy, economics and sustainable development for the Gulf
Studies Center. His recently published works include Shifting Priorities in
Russia’s Foreign and Security Policy (2014, with R. Kanet), Energy Security
and Environmental Policy in the Western Hemisphere (2015, with B. Bagley
and M. Zorovich) as well as Energy and Environment: The ‘Coal and Steel’ of
the Middle East: How Sustainable Development Can Foster Democratization
in the Middle East and North Africa (2012). Piet has worked for several
international organisations in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas
such as the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and is a
regular contributor for Al Jazeera, France 24, City AM and Al Arabiya.

Slawomir Raszewski is a research associate in the Department of War

Studies, King’s College London. He is author of numerous publications
in the fields of energy, policy and governance, as well as a frequent
speaker at international conferences and events, and a media commen-
tator on energy and security issues including for the BBC. He also serves
as a member of an advisory committee on energy to the European
Commission. Raszewski holds a PhD from Leeds, UK, where his research
focused on the role of energy transit in the external energy policy of the
European Union.

Licínia Simão is a researcher at the Centre for Social Studies and Lecturer
in International Relations at the University of Coimbra. Portugal. She is
currently Head of the IR Department and of the BA degree in IR, and
she is the national coordinator of the CASPIAN Marie Curie Innovative
Training Network. Her research interests include foreign policy analysis,
security studies, and EU relations with the former Soviet space. His
published works include the special issue co-edited with E. Korosteleva
and M. Natorski, ‘The European Neighbourhood Policy in the Eastern
Region: The Practices Perspective’, East European Politics (2013), several
academic articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, and book chapters.

Çiğdem Üstün is Associate Professor of European Union Studies,

currently working in the Political Science and Public Administration
Department, Gediz University, Turkey. She holds a PhD in European
Studies from the University of Limerick, Ireland, where she prepared
her dissertation, Globalization of Security Threats and Comparison of EU
Notes on Contributors xiii

and Turkish Security Cultures. Üstün’s main areas of research are security
studies, EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, Neighbourhood Policy
with special emphasis on the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions. Her
works concentrate on effects of Europeanisation on Turkish foreign
policy with special emphasis on the Black Sea region, NATO–Turkey
Relations, and comparative security culture studies.
Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

This edited volume addresses the perceptions and practices of foreign

policy by the European Union (EU), Russia and Turkey, toward their shared
neighbourhood: the Black and Caspian Seas, the Mediterranean basin,
the Middle East and Central Asia. These territories represent key strategic
interests for each of the three regional powers which need to be protected
by active foreign and security policies. In return, European, Russian and
Turkish policies are essential for the stability of these areas and for the
overall peace and prosperity in this common security complex. Those
regions are also characterised by fast changing dynamics of political and
social change within a sphere of geostrategic competition.
All three geopolitical players have also undergone important domestic
changes, influencing and motivating their foreign policies. The adoption
of the Lisbon Treaty by the European Union significantly modified the
EU’s foreign and security policymaking, providing the Union with both
political and military capabilities to act regionally and globally as a secu-
rity actor. Moreover, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) offers a
common European policy framework to address the EU’s strategic inter-
ests in the neighbouring regions. Building on the achievements of the
European integration and on previous enlargement processes, the EU
now has the capacity to reach beyond its traditional sphere of influence
and deepen its relations with neighbouring regions. For example, the
EU reinforced its energy security by strengthening its ties with Central
Asia. Similarly, the Union remained strongly engaged in the Middle East
conflicts through high profile diplomatic efforts such as the Quartet on
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and 3+3 Talks on Iran.
The EU’s stand as a relevant regional actor has to be assessed in the
light of increasing regional instability. The European Security Strategy,
approved in 2003, acknowledges the importance of the European

2 Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

neighbourhood and brings together areas of particular interest and rele-

vance for the Union’s security which require an increased engagement
and additional resources. Ensuring security through stability, political
reform and economic development – an approach reminiscent of the
Union’s own internal development process – remains the privileged
strategy (European Council, 2003).
However, more than a decade after this seminal text and the subse-
quent development and implementation of the ENP, the European
achievements are far from significant. To the East, tensions in rela-
tions with Russia are at an all-time high. The two actors have failed
to consolidate the institutional framework for the Strategic Partnership
and have instead become involved, directly or indirectly, in the violent
confrontation in Ukraine. In parallel, the processes of democratic and
economic reform and gradual integration with the EU envisioned by
the Eastern Partnership (EaP) have been stalled in most partner coun-
tries or actively undermined by the influence of the Russian Federation.
Finally the domestic economic, social and political crises of the EU raise
further questions as to the level of attractiveness of the EU’s model and
its concrete capacity to act as a vector of regional peace and stability.
At its southern border, the European Union also faces instability in the
Mediterranean after the so-called Arab Spring and subsequent violence
shuttered domestic institutions in Libya and Syria, raising humani-
tarian concerns about refugees and migrants trying to reach European
shores. The securitisation of migration and its association with inter-
national terrorist threats has done little to address the insecurities felt
by these communities and has rather radicalised and militarised the
EU’s response (Bigo, 2002; Léonard, 2010; Huysmans, 2000, 2006).
The ongoing conflict in Syria and the emergence of the Islamic State
further underline the EU’s limited abilities to address global threats and
the need to coordinate with other regional and global powers such as
Russia, Turkey or the United States. Moreover, the stalling of the Turkish
accession process to the EU has further reduced the European Unions’s
influence to the East; Ankara, in turn, has developed its own ambiguous
foreign strategy with the aim of re-establishing its past influence over
the Mediterranean basin.
Russia’s widely acknowledged new assertiveness in international
affairs under the leadership of president Putin also has significant
implications for the area. Energy, trade, regional integration and mili-
tary power, as well as cultural and linguistic affinities have long been
among the tools used by the Russian leadership to exert influence on
the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members and beyond.
Introduction 3

Most recently, Moscow has actively sought to recover its central role
in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, as shown during the wave
of recent conflicts in Libya and Syria, as well as in the negotiations
over the Iranian nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the Balkans and Central Asia, Russian influence is such that neither
European nor Turkish foreign policy strategies can avoid addressing
Russia’s reasserted appetite for regional hegemony.
The lack of avenues of cooperation between Russia and Western
countries both through bilateral talks and global institutions has
raised questions about the relevance and effectiveness of the existing
global governance structures as well as the dangerous consequences of
geopolitical competition on regional stability and development. The
ongoing conflict in Ukraine has weakened the security of other Central
and Eastern European countries but has also, above all, raised concern
that global power competition might ruin cooperative efforts in other
regional conflicts (Trenin, 2014). Similarly, relations between Moscow
and Ankara remain rather pragmatic, but the escalation of tensions
has created additional concerns in Turkey regarding the balancing act
between NATO allies and Russia (Elman, 2104). The fragility and interest-
based nature of Turkish-Russian relations poses further challenges and
opportunities for the EU, which need to be addressed (Bechev, 2015).
Finally, Turkey has been among the most active regional actors as
shown by Erdogan keenness on increasing Turkish influence in the
Mediterranean region. Under the AKP leadership, Turkey has indeed
embarked on an active neighbourhood policy, developing a new set
of proactive policies towards the Middle East, Central Asia, the South
Caucasus and the Black Sea. In parallel, the stalling of the Turkish EU
membership has led to the emergence of a more conflictive relation
between Ankara and its Western neighbours. As a result, Turkey’s assertive
role in the region has been reaffirmed since the start of the commonly
labelled Arab Awakening. This new stance, as well as its impact on
European and Russian interests in the region, requires a detailed analysis
at a time of significant instability in the Mediterranean basin.
Despite Ankara’s efforts to have a more prominent foreign policy
profile in its neighbourhood under the AKP leadership, Turkey’s status as
a regional power remains to be acknowledged by regional actors. Turkey
has traditionally sought to advance its interests in the Middle East and
the Mediterranean while remaining careful of American and EU percep-
tions of its role in regional dynamics. Yet recently, those perceptions
have diverged over several issues such as the Turkish recognition of
Palestine and its relations with Israel, its participation in the conflict in
4 Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

Syria as well as its relations with Russia. Yet, Ankara remains overall
well aware that its NATO membership and EU accession prospects
are still relevant assets to ensure its security (Falk, 2014; Tezcur and
Grigorescu, 2014).
This book covers a wide range of regional relations and debates between
the three regional actors, describing the contours of what otherwise
remains a fluid definition of their common regional neighbourhood,
and reflecting the often antagonistic visions promoted by the three
actors. Through an analysis of the diverging conceptualisation of these
regions within their respective foreign policies, the book provides an
important contribution to the study of the geopolitical balance and the
policies of proximity. The notion of ‘spheres of influence’ and ‘regions
of privileged interest’ have always been present in international affairs
and more specifically in triangular relations between Europe, Russia
and Turkey (Kerr 1995; Trenin, 2009; Berryman, 2011) and this volume
engages with these conceptual frameworks by underlining their imple-
mentation in a context of power asymmetry within a joint security
The different levels of power each actor has over their shared neigh-
bourhood results both from material resources, such as geography,
population, economic and financial capabilities as well as their respec-
tive military presence and normative historical influence and attractive-
ness. Each geopolitical pole stands as a civilisational model for countries
in the region, adding a complex ideological component to the equation
and reinforcing the need for and relevance of an updated conceptuali-
sation of the triangular sphere of influence over this geostrategic and
unstable territory. These remain, nevertheless, constructed ideas about
geography and politics, and as such require a critical analysis of the
conditions under which such narratives come about and of the effects
they produce regarding the identity of regional actors.
Overall, the volume not only maps these evolving concepts of neigh-
bourhood but also addresses the way in which their approaches towards
these regions of shared influence and the role each aims to play affect
their bilateral relations with each other, both materially and ideation-
ally. Effectively, the nature of relations between the three actors is indeed
a fundamental element in their foreign policy approaches towards their
smaller and less powerful neighbours in the Balkans, the South Caucasus
or the Middle East. The ability to cooperate in seeking common solu-
tions to regional challenges or, alternatively, the promotion of logics
of competition largely find their roots within the quality of bilateral
relations among the three powers. For instance, the difficult relations
Introduction 5

between the EU and Russia have created added levels of pressure for the
countries in the so-called overlapping neighbourhoods, as the respective
programs of economic integration and political association promoted by
both regional hegemons became largely incompatible. Those competi-
tive institutional models should not be perceived as mere mechanisms
to limit the influence of the other; rather they provide frameworks, both
institutional and ideational, to harness and guide the development of a
complex region under the normative and security umbrella of one actor
or the other.
Similarly, Russia and Turkey have a long record of competition for
influence in the Black Sea region and the Middle East, at times destabil-
ising the region itself. Yet both powers have also maintained much less
conflictive relations over other parts of their shared neighbourhood thus
providing interesting insights on the necessary conditions for regional
cooperation. Finally, the analysis of Turkish-EU relations and policies in
the region is rendered more complex by the chaotic accession process
and the modularity of the existing relations between Turkey and indi-
vidual European states. The same can be underlined in the analysis of
Russian-EU relations, for which the diverging perspectives of individual
EU members have a significant impact on the policymaking processes in
regard to their overlapping neighbourhoods.

The structure of the book

The book addresses important trends and developments at the EU’s

borders and is an important resource for the understanding of the
sources of regional instability and domestic unrest in neighbouring
countries. The contributing authors cover a wide range of issues and
topics at the core of European, Russian and Turkish foreign policy
processes and diplomatic posture toward these regions. The issue of
perceptions is the first to be addressed, in order to set the stage for the
analysis. Tom Casier’s chapter engages with the debates and approaches
dealing with mutual perceptions between the EU and Russia, arguing
that these should be understood as formative processes of identity
which shape foreign policy making. For the author, this analytical shift
is fundamental to understanding how the EU has prioritised certain
actors in its neighbourhood according to their perceived (or attributed)
level of Europeanness. This EU approach has thus marginalised Russia
and places bilateral EU-Russia relations on a more conflictive level as
the EU sees the domestic Russian economy and polity as increasingly
less Europeanised.
6 Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

Maria Raquel Freire, in contrast, addresses the conceptualisation of

‘greater Europe’ from a Russian perspective and how this is reflected in
its regional foreign policy agenda and mechanisms. The author clearly
sees the Russian perceptions of greater Europe as resulting from the inter-
actions with both its European and Turkish neighbours, either limiting
or widening the scope of options for Russian foreign policy towards its
near abroad. From the analysis of Russian foreign policy approaches
and mechanisms, this interaction and these dynamics are assessed and
Çiğdem Üstün takes on the issue of the evolving Turkish foreign policy
towards its neighbouring regions from a historical perspective. She under-
lines the relevance of perceptions to explain how Turkish foreign policy
has been nourished by its own understanding of Russian and European
interest, defining it in turn as a result of Ankara’s place in the region.
Analyzing the successive periods of progress and disenchantment in the
Turkish EU adhesion bid, the chapter underlines how the self-perception
of Turkey as a European country or as a regional balancing option has
guided its foreign policymaking over the last decades.
Sandra Fernandes’ chapter engages with the role of non-state actors
in EU-Russia relations, namely the role of civil society in normative
convergence issues. She engages with the question of how non-state
actors affect expectations of reciprocity among actors. She addresses
how these actors create new dynamics of political convergence or diver-
gence which need to be fleshed out and better grasped in EU-Russia rela-
tions. Finally she demonstrates how non-state actors are often focused
on the institutional settings within which these relations have tradition-
ally developed.
In its second part, the volume addresses security dynamics and conflict
in the shared neighbourhood in order to untangle the complex web
of regional relations, which are impacted by protracted, frozen, violent
and many other forms of conflict. The overlapping spheres of influ-
ence of the EU, Russia and Turkey remain largely unstable spaces where
political structures are fragile, economic development either elusive or
unsustainable and external intervention continuous and systematic
(Oskanian, 2013; Popescu, 2011; Ayoob, 1981; Toaldo, 2013). All three
regional powers have been engaged in regional security dynamics, often
creating sources of contention but also offering opportunities for coop-
eration, both bilateral and regional, if each were to acknowledge their
interdependence and shared interests.
Introduction 7

The chapter written by Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias addresses
the impact of Russia on the formation of EU policies of securitisation of
its neighbourhood. The authors argue that Russia and its policies towards
the former Soviet Republics have been essential in the EU’s gradually
increasing understanding of the dynamics in its Eastern neighbourhood
as a source of threat to its security. Furthermore, the authors argue that
the securitisation of the EU strategy towards its shared neighbourhood
has been a fundamental element justifying the expansion of European
integration as a stabilisation mechanism.
The chapter from André Barrinha and Laura Bastos analyses Turkey’s
role in the Middle East and how interactions with Russia and the EU have
occasionally shaped Ankara’s self-perception and foreign policy calcula-
tions. The evolving balance of power in the region and the growing
economic and political influence of Turkey in the Mediterranean and
beyond have reshuffled the cards for Ankara. Overall, the Middle East
has emerged as an alternative foreign policy priority to European inte-
gration, raising new questions and responsibilities for Turkey as well as
underlying the need to redefine its role in the regional space and its own
The third and final part of the book deals with the evolving models
of political and economic integration currently competing in the
different geopolitical spaces encompassed in the constructed concept
of overlapping neighbourhoods. These processes of integration further
and deepen the political and normative influence of the three regional
powers. Each institutional project and integration framework is built on
specific and often exclusive political and economic models. For example,
the steady attempts from the European Union to export its governance
model – through its enlargement processes and the implementation of
its European Neighbourhood Policy framework – clash with Russian
ambitions in the region and Moscow’s desire to reinforce its sphere of
‘privileged interests’ in the former-Soviet countries. This attempt is also
actively contested by Turkey’s domestic dynamics and its vision of the
regional role it should play.
Russia and the European Union advocate for a different set of insti-
tutional constructions and practices, both regionally and domestically.
As a result, they significantly influence the political structures of neigh-
bouring countries. A managed democracy, seen by Russian leaders as
the most beneficial model for itself and its allies, falls far short of the
liberal principles championed by the European Union. Similarly, Turkey
8 Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

is keen on exporting its own institutional model, arguing that it is better

adapted to the balancing of secular aspirations and religious beliefs in
several countries of the region and using Islam as a vector for integra-
tion. This final part of the book thus provides insights on the conten-
tious issues linked to the diffusion of different normative integration
policies and models. It also suggests ideas for bridging them, or finding
compromises, and builds on the analysis of past cooperation attempts,
despite their limited success.
The chapter from Ekaterina Koldunova uses the Arab Spring events as
the point of departure for her analysis on the migration of political ideas
across regional settings and applies this conceptualisation to Central
Asia. The chapter considers Central Asian states’ reactions to the turbu-
lence in the Middle East with particular attention to the prospects of
political regime reforms in the region and security dynamics, as well as
the macro-regional implications of potential political changes in Central
Asian states for Russia, Turkey and the European Union.
The final two chapters address the issue of energy as a central element
driving politics and economic development in and around the European
Union, Russia and Turkey. Energy has indeed gradually become a
major aspect of these actors’ bilateral relations and regional strategies,
anchoring the foreign policies of smaller peripheral states to the inter-
ests of their powerful neighbours. In his chapter, Slawomir Raszewski
addresses the role of energy security concerns in the development of
EU, Russian and Turkish foreign policies. He analyzes how these actors
address the interdependence which characterises their energy relations
and how such a perception draws the main line of bilateral cooperation
or conflict. Finally, Bradford McGuinn takes the case of Azerbaijan to
assess how energy has come to be the basis of a process of geopolitical
shifting of Azerbaijan, from a location of marginality to a new centrality
in its relations with both the West and with Russia. His chapter provides
a pertinent case study of a country located in the joint neighbourhood
addressed by this book and underlines how smaller states navigate
between their powerful neighbours and rely on their respective, some-
times limited, resources and assets. Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon resources
place the country in a very specific condition to interact with Russia,
Turkey and Europe and restrict the geopolitical strategic options between
energy consumers (EU), energy transit countries (Turkey) and a major
energy competitor (Russia).
Overall the volume puts forward an eclectic collection of chap-
ters enriched by different theoretical approaches, yet linked by the
Introduction 9

overarching desire to better grasp the evolving dynamics defining what

we refer to as the overlapping neighbourhoods of the EU, Russia and
Turkey. The acknowledgement of the centrality of these actors in the
development and security dilemmas of smaller powers in their sphere
of influence is a fundamental step towards mapping the fast changing
regional contexts, within which the interests, policies and normative
values of the three regional actors are being redesigned.
The independent and profoundly interrelated nature of their domestic
and foreign policies are the very roots of the dynamics of change and
continuity which define the identity of bordering countries and the
regional dynamics at play in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Greater
Mediterranean and Central Asia. We hope that this first attempt to map
these dynamics will provide our readers with a more nuanced view of
these complex and interrelated paradigms.

Ayoob, M. (ed.) [1981] 2014. The Middle East in World Politics. Oxon: Routledge.
Bechev, D. 2015. Russia and Turkey: What Does Their Partnership Mean for the
EU? EPC Policy Brief, 13 February.
Berryman, J. 2011. Russia, NATO Enlargement, and ‘Regions of Privileged
Interests’. Russian Policy in the 21st Century. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave
Macmillan: 228–245.
Bigo, D. 2002. Security and Immigration: Toward a Critique of the Governmentality
of Unease. Alternatives, 27(Special Issue): 63–92.
Elman, P. 2014. Split Three Ways on Ukraine: Turkey in a Changing Regional
Order. Polish Institute of International Affairs, Strategic File, 10(46), 1–5.
European Council. 2003. A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security
Strategy. Brussels, 13 December.
Falk, R. 2014. Can the U.S. Government Accept an Independent Turkish Foreign
Policy in the Middle East? Insight Turkey, 16(1), 7–18.
Huysmans, J. 2000. The European Union and the Securitization of Migration.
Journal of Common Market Studies, 38(5), 751–777.
Huysmans, J. 2006. The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration and Asylum in the EU.
London: Routledge.
Kerr, D. 1995. The New Eurasianism: The Rise of Geopolitics in Russia’s Foreign
Policy. Europe-Asia Studies, 47(6), 977–988
Léonard, S. 2010. The Use and Effectiveness of Migration Controls as a Counter-
Terrorism Instrument in the European Union, Central European Journal of
International and Security Studies, 4(1), 32–50.
Oskanian, K. 2013. Fear, Weakness and Power in the Post-Soviet South Caucasus: A
Theoretical and Empirical Analysis. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Popescu, N. 2011. EU Foreign Policy and Post-Soviet Conflicts: Stealth Intervention.
Oxon: Routledge.
10 Licínia Simão and Rémi Piet

Tezcur, G. M. and Gigorescu, A. 2014. Activism in Turkish Foreign Policy:

Balancing European and Regional Interests. International Studies Perspectives,
15(3), 257–276.
Toaldo, M. 2013. The Origins of the US War on Terror: Lebanon, Libya and American
Intervention in the Middle East. Oxon: Routledge.
Trenin, D. 2009. Russia’s Spheres of Interest, Not Influence. The Washington
Quarterly, 32(4), 3–22.
Trenin, D. 2014. The Ukraine Crisis and the Resumption of Great-Power Rivalry.
Moscow: Carnegie Moscow Center.
Part I
Triangulating Perceptions
among Regional Powers
Identities and Images of
Competition in the Overlapping
Neighbourhoods: How EU and
Russian Foreign Policies Interact
Tom Casier


When the European Union (EU) interacts with Russia, in a setting prior
to the crisis over Ukraine, it does not do so in the first place on the basis
of what Russia has actually done. Rather the EU acts on the basis of
what it believes Russia has become. The Union and its member states
redefine the identity of Russia, aggrandise differences between perceived
‘European’ and Russian identities and eventually – in a context of rather
acrimonious relations – read bad intentions into Russia’s behaviour.
Something similar happens the other way around. Russia is primarily led
by the images it holds of the EU. It redefines the EU’s identity up to the
point where any move is understood negatively as aimed against Russia.
Identities of both actors are not given, but change in the process of
interaction itself. Over roughly the last decade this process has resulted
in a competitive logic between the two big neighbours over their respec-
tive roles and policies in the overlapping neighbourhoods.
Conventionally this competition in the neighbourhood is explained
on the basis of incompatible interests or diverging normative prefer-
ences. By looking at identities rather than interests, this chapter takes a
different approach. It looks at images of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ of the EU and
Russia as regional actors in their overlapping neighbourhoods: how they
perceive themselves, how they perceive the other and in particular how
they understand their respective roles in the overlapping neighbour-
hoods. The chapter zooms in on the (non-) recognition of identities. It

14 Tom Casier

is argued that it is not so much the interests as such that are incompat-
ible, but rather the images of identities through which these interests
are understood.
This chapter starts with the presentation of a theoretical framework,
based on findings from social constructivism and cognitive psychology.
It leads us to the analysis of different dimensions of identities and images
in EU–Russia relations. First the shared understanding of the strategic
environment is explored. Next we address the mutual non-recognition
of the EU’s and Russia’s regional roles. The following section suggests
how hierarchies of identities are created. Finally, we link the concept of
sovereignty to identities, demonstrating how the rhetoric of sovereignty
is affected by identities.
The claim of this chapter is not that EU–Russia relations can be entirely
explained on the basis of identities, but that identities and images are
key factors for understanding these relations. To put it differently,
rather than looking at competition, we focus on how the perception
of competition is interwoven with constructed identities and images.
The current conflict with Ukraine demonstrates vividly how the images
that different parties hold of each other matter and have contributed
to a logic of competition. It equally illustrates how identities are rede-
fined and mobilised within the context of the conflict: strong dichoto-
mous identities are promoted or radicalised (e.g. between ‘European’
and ‘Russian’ or ‘Ukrainian’ and ‘Russian’) and identity choices are
It is equally clear that a structural solution to the war in Ukraine will
require a long and tedious process of trust-building. This requires moving
beyond current negative images and reversing a downward spiral. This
chapter, however, will not deal with the most recent developments, but
rather seeks to understand how a logic of competition, driven by nega-
tive images, unfolded and contributed to the direct confrontation in
which the EU and Russia find themselves today.

Understanding dynamic and relational identities

This chapter moves away from a large part of the literature on EU–Russia
relations that focuses on diverging interests or a gap between an EU norm-
driven agenda and a Russian interest-driven agenda. Such approaches
are based on an essentialist concept of interests. Interests are seen as a
priori given and exogenous. The process of interest formation itself is
not addressed and rationalist approaches ‘either bracket the formation
of interests, treating them as if they were exogenous, or explain interests
Identities and Images of Competition 15

by reference to domestic politics, on the assumption that they are exog-

enous’ (Wendt, 1994: 384).
Largely following a constructivist line of thought, this chapter contests
the essentialist conception of interest. Interests are not out there, ready
to be grabbed, but minimally require a degree of social interpretation.
In other words, interests do not come to us as an objective a priori
given ‘fact’. Rather they are understood, produced and reproduced
within complex social processes. Within this process identities play a
crucial role. Several authors have indicated how identity is central to
understanding EU–Russia relations (for example Sakwa, 2011, 2012;
DeBardeleben, 2012; Tsygankov, 2007; Splidsboel-Hansen, 2002).
We understand identities as ‘images of individuality and distinctive-
ness (“selfhood”) held and projected by an actor and formed (and modi-
fied over time) through relations with significant “others”. Thus the term
(by convention) references mutually constructed and evolving images of
self and other’ (Jepperson et al. 1996). Following Jönsson (1983), we link
these images of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ to images of ‘Situation’, through which
actors understand, define and transform their identity as a function of
how they perceive their position in a certain context.
From this perspective, identities are not disconnected from interests
or norms, but imbue them with meaning. Interests, for example, are
not an objective given, emerging from the material reality of EU–Russia
relations. Rather, they are understood and get meaning in a continuous
process of social interaction. The evolving images that actors hold of
each other, the identities they project and the degree to which they get
(or do not get) recognised in this identity, impact the way they see their
interests and how they understand the intentions of their counterparts
and give meaning to their action in this light. Identities, given they are
formed and reproduced in a process of social interaction, are not static
but transform over time, albeit often changing only slowly, seemingly
‘resistant to change’ (Wendt, 1992: 418).
Many Constructivists tend to put a strong emphasis on structure
and on the ‘shared understandings’ within which identities are created
(Kowert, 1998: 102). Alexander Wendt famously analysed how shared
understandings of anarchy produced a social reality in international rela-
tions in which all states operated as if anarchy was an objective given,
rather than an intersubjective product. In other words, relations between
states give rise to collective identities: states share certain meanings of
the international environment in which they operate and continu-
ously confirm these intersubjective meanings by the way they interact.
If states share an understanding of living in a competitive, anarchic
16 Tom Casier

environment in which they have to maximise their power in order to

provide for their own security, they will confirm these understandings
by the way they interact on a daily basis. Hence Wendt’s conclusion that
‘anarchy is what states make of it’ (Wendt, 1992).
However valuable this approach is, it can be criticised for underrating
the importance of agency: the degree to which politicians, diplomats,
citizens, media, etc. create identities in a complex, competitive and
all but one-dimensional process. Following Kowert (1998), we need to
add a second dimension to identity, taken from cognitive psychology,
claiming ‘that the ordinary function of human cognition cleaves the
social world into “self” and “other” categories of agency’ (Kowert, 1998:
106). Simple divisions between groups are enough to create categories
of in-group and out-group which are linked to diverging identities.
As ‘political categories become more salient’ (Kowert, 1998: 110), the
parties will exaggerate the identities both of the in-group and of the
From cognitive psychology and specifically from the ‘minimal group
paradigm’, Kowert concludes that there is a tendency ‘to exaggerate
differences between political groups and to underestimate differences
within these groups’ (Kowert, 1998: 108–109). In other words, the
coherence of the in-group is overrated, as well as the differences with
the out-group. Moreover, there is a tendency ‘to attribute the behaviour
of political out-groups to the intent or desire of those groups; in-group
behaviour, however, will more often be attributed to the influence of
environmental constraints. Perceived increases in the power of out-
groups will strengthen the tendency to assume intent (attributional
bias)’ (Kowert, 1998: 109).
Jepperson et al. (1996: note 85) distinguish between two basic forms
of identities:

those that are intrinsic to an actor (at least relative to a given social
structure) and those that are relationally defined within a social
structure. ... Put in the language of game theory, intrinsic identities
are constituted exogenously to a game (though they might be repro-
duced or transformed through play of the game), whereas relational
identities (“roles”) are constituted by the game itself. In the latter
case, part of what is “going on” in a game is the reproduction and/or
transformation of identities.1

While this chapter does not study the process of domestic identity
formation as such, it is also seen as a social process (in this sense it is
Identities and Images of Competition 17

exogenous to the game of international relations only). More impor-

tantly, as Sakwa has argued in the context of Russia’s relations with
the West, the domestic and the international are intertwined. Identity
formation happens ‘at the interface of domestic and international proc-
esses’ (Sakwa, 2012: 972). What Jepperson et al. (1996) called intrinsic
and relational identities are by no means separated: domestic and inter-
national processes of identity formation interact. For example, if a state
develops a strongly nationalist identity, this will affect the images it
promotes of itself on the international scene and the images other actors
hold of it. The other way around, the way a state perceives itself to be
treated internationally and the degree of (non-) recognition of its iden-
tity, will impact on domestic processes of identity formation.
On the basis of the above, this chapter focuses on the following
aspects of EU–Russia relations. First, the chapter examines the images
the EU and Russia hold of the broader strategic context in which they
operate and the way shared understandings of a competitive context
have come to dominate. Secondly, the chapter analyses the exaggera-
tion and non-recognition of identities of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ as regional
actors and how they lead both actors to read bad intent into the behav-
iour of the ‘Other’. Thirdly, the chapter discusses why the creation of
hierarchies of identities matter. Finally, we link relational identities to
the concept of sovereignty, indicating how the latter is imbued by the
interpretations given to one’s identity in connection to others.

From cooperative to competitive strategic environment

‘[M]uch of the post-Cold War malaise is derived from identity factors’

(Sakwa, 2011: 957). The story of post-1991 identity developments can
be read as one of redefining the international situation, changing identi-
ties and seeking recognition of identities. This section analyses how the
shared understanding of the post-Cold War strategic context in which
the EU and Russia operated developed from cooperative, but asymmetri-
cally EU-centred, to competitive.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the young post-communist
Russia took on a new identity. It adopted a liberal-democratic constitu-
tion and sought recognition in the community of Western states. In an
era which has been labelled by some as the ‘honeymoon’ of relations
between Russia and the West, Moscow displayed a strong willingness to
cooperate with the West. Originally it followed an America-first policy,
later on the emphasis would shift to the EU as key strategic partner. During
most of the 1990s the EU and Russia had a collective understanding of
18 Tom Casier

their strategic environment as predominantly cooperative. This resulted

in the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and
the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT).2 By the end of the decade relations
between Brussels and Moscow were increasingly framed in terms of a
Strategic Partnership. While being cooperative, relations were asymmet-
rical. The newly established EU was the stronger partner and relations
were largely based on the transfer of EU rules, norms and institutional
practices to Russia. The EU and its member states very much appeared
in the role of the stronger partner, assisting Russia on the path of transi-
tion. The EU promoted democracy and liberal economic principles in
ways similar to the other East–European countries. Russia was extremely
weak, suffering from economic decline and political chaos, culminating
in the 1998 financial crisis. If it was seen as a potential threat in those
days, it was not because of its strength, but because of risks of instability
or lack of control over nuclear material.
The shared understanding of the strategic context of EU–Russia rela-
tions in the first half of the 1990s was thus one of cooperation, with
the EU acting as teacher and Russia accepting its role as pupil. This
shared understanding came under increasing strain towards the end of
the decade. Several structural reasons can explain how it came to an
end. On the Russian side, there was increasing frustration over not being
recognised in the identity it pursued as a post-communist country and a
member of the (western) international community of states: it was often
involved, but not fully accepted as a member. When it came down to
important decisions, with a potentially important geostrategic impact,
the Russian government often felt left out. In particular, the decision
to extend NATO eastwards – and to a lesser extent EU enlargement –
was not received well in Moscow. The map of Europe was redrawn and
former Soviet allies became members of the western alliance, without
‘partner’ Russia having a say in this process. Some authors have regarded
1999 as a watershed year (Light et al., 2000). This was the year of the
Kosovo crisis, when the US and the UK bombed Serbia without a United
Nations (UN) mandate or prior consultation with Russia. It was also the
year when the first wave of the Eastern NATO enlargement took place
and when the Alliance adopted its new Washington Strategic Concept.
Light et al. (2000) state that, as a result, a new nationalist consensus
emerged around the idea that Russia needed to defend its interests
more consistently. In the following years, several developments would
further change the mutual images of Russia and the EU (Simão, 2011).
The 2004 EU enlargement de facto changed the geostrategic context.
Moreover, the colour revolutions of 2003 and 2004, in particular the
Identities and Images of Competition 19

Orange Revolution in Ukraine, were seen by Russian leaders as master-

minded by the West. Fears over similar scenarios replaying in Russia
fostered an assertive diplomatic language. Though meant to avoid new
dividing lines, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) created a
fertile ground for perceptions of competition. Because of Moscow’s deci-
sion to withdraw at the last moment, it is at this point that the EU’s
policies towards Eastern Europe and Russia were decoupled and started
to diverge. The launching of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in 2009 was
seen very negatively in Russia, further adding to the understanding of
relations as competitive. Tensions continued to mount as the signing of
the first Association Agreement with Ukraine, originally scheduled for
the Vilnius summit of 28–29 November 2013, was drawing closer. Also
the perception that the EU tried to restrict access of Russian companies
to its energy market contributed to this negative understanding.
All this went hand in hand with considerable domestic changes.
Russia was slowly recovering economically, riding the waves of higher
energy prices. From developing a more stable leadership, it evolved to a
consolidation of power structures around president Putin. Fears that the
colour revolutions would be repeated in Russia contributed to internal
repressive measures and a crackdown on perceived external influence,
as demonstrated by the law on foreign agents.3 Not unimportantly,
Moscow invested heavily in nation-branding and even in the marketing
of its president, aiming to create an image of Russia as a country that
was ‘back’ on the international stage. It sought to promote an image
of a ‘great power’, resisting external pressure. No doubt these images
were ambiguous. Russia appeared as a country that was simultaneously
promoting pragmatic and assertive images (Feklyunina, 2012). But, argu-
ably, this campaign of nation branding has been rather successful in the
West, where Russia is no longer seen as a weak state with huge internal
problems, but as a strong and assertive state (Snetkov, 2012; March,
2012). Russia’s identity promotion as the return of a great power can be
seen both as a result of frustration over lack of international recognition
as an equal player in the international community (see below) and as
a result of domestic developments, not least the formation of a more
nationalist consensus in a context of regained political stability. Writing
before the Ukraine crisis, Luke March (2012) even argues that the Putin
regime – moderately nationalist itself – selectively and inconsistently
mobilised extreme nationalism, making Russia an unpredictable player
on the international scene. This view is further sustained by develop-
ments in 2014. Putin’s speech of 18 March 2014 clearly sought to legiti-
mise the annexation of Crimea on nationalist and historical grounds,
20 Tom Casier

making unusually strong reference to national symbols and the ‘Russian’

identity of Crimea (Putin, 2014). Throughout the conflict there was a
very explicit rhetorical use of identities, drawn more sharply than ever
by all parties. Identities that had been ambiguous for centuries were
presented in essentialist and one-dimensional ways. Russian speakers
or Russians living in eastern Ukraine, for example, were now unequivo-
cally defined as ‘ethnic’ Russians. The complexity of identities at the
individual level, with many people coming from mixed families, was
ignored. People were forced to choose sides and to identify themselves
exclusively as Russian or Ukrainian, something they may not have done
in unambiguous terms before.
On the EU’s side, the first signs of a new policy towards Russia appeared
around the start of the new millennium. At that point the policy of rule
transfer and democracy promotion became increasingly overshadowed
by a more pragmatic policy of ‘constructive engagement’. The normative
and structural agenda faded to the background. Several events would
strengthen the EU’s perception of relations with its big eastern neigh-
bour in a more competitive way. First of all, there were concerns over
the domestic situation in Russia, in particular about human rights and
democracy, as well as over Moscow’s increasingly assertive language. The
perception that Russia was drifting away from a ‘European’ model grew
stronger. The natural gas conflicts between Russia and Ukraine in 2006
and 2009, directly affecting EU member states, would create a psycho-
logical shock and strengthen images of Russia as an unreliable partner
and potential threat. The war with Georgia in 2008 further boosted
concerns. Also the creation of the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and
Putin’s plan to create a Eurasian Union (Putin, 2011) were regarded with
suspicion. The EU’s self-image remained very much that of a ‘normative
power’, but this image increasingly clashed with its pragmatic policies.
Here it is important to note the importance of domestic changes as well.
Arguably the eastern enlargement of the EU reinforced negative images
of Russia as a threat among EU member states. Moreover the European
sovereign debt crisis had a profound impact on the EU’s legitimacy as
an international actor (Smith, 2013), undermining the legitimacy of an
asymmetrical policy in which EU rules and norms would be transferred
in a non-reciprocal way.
Intertwined with a process of changing identities, Moscow and
Brussels thus increasingly understood the geostrategic context in which
they operated as a competitive one, in which both parties had opposite,
incompatible interests, not least in their overlapping neighbourhoods. A
shared understanding of competition differs from an understanding of
Identities and Images of Competition 21

relations as conflictual (Hayes-Gries, 2005; Zagorski, 2010).4 Pragmatic

cooperation continued to dominate a large part of the agenda. But the
two parties became much more suspicious of each other’s intentions,
interpreting the behaviour of the counterpart increasingly in zero-sum
terms. It may be argued that these images were more likely to emerge,
because historical experience created a fertile ground for suspicion.
Arguably both parties still suffer from the ‘phantom pain of the Cold
War’ (Chizhov, 2011).
In particular in the overlapping neighbourhoods the logic of compe-
tition reached unexpected heights. Russia’s initiative to form the ECU
entered into direct collision with the EU’s EaP. Ukraine’s imposed
choice for closer integration with either Moscow or Brussels took on a
symbolic dimension. Both sides denied they were exerting any pressure
on Kyiv, but were perceived by their counterpart as doing exactly that.
A zero-sum logic dominated EU–Russia relations. If Ukraine were to sign
the Association Agreement with the EU, Moscow would ‘lose’ Ukraine.
If it were to decide to join the ECU, Brussels would ‘lose’ Ukraine. While
Russia can be seen as having instigated this logic to a large degree, not
least by imposing restrictive trade measures on EaP countries, the EU
got entangled in a similar ‘either with Russia or with us’ logic. This logic
was not necessarily supported to the same degree by all actors within
the EU. Arguably, it was more strongly defended by some of the newer
member states, because of their own heritage of acrimonious relations
with Russia. But also within the European External Action Service (EEAS),
similar attitudes prevailed.
While the EU may not have developed this attitude as a conscious
strategy, these zero-sum views of EU–Russia relations over their overlap-
ping neighbourhoods are surprising. First of all, the cooperation envis-
aged was primarily economic: a customs union with Russia, a deep and
comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) with the EU. In a different
context the EU would rather welcome regional cooperation between
third states. In this context, however, two factors are different. First, the
ECU and the DCFTA are mutually exclusive (Dragneva and Wolczuk,
2012). The Common External Tariff characterising a customs union is
incompatible with the free trade measures of the DCFTA. Secondly, any
development is understood in a geostrategic context, in which Ukraine
and other EaP countries have to side either with Russia or the EU. The
‘imagined’ context is that of Brzezinski’s analysis after the Cold War,
when he stated that Ukraine’s choice to go either West or East would
determine the geostrategic situation in Europe (Brzezinski, 1998). In the
run-up to the EaP summit in Vilnius in November 2013, this process
22 Tom Casier

escalated. Brussels and Moscow increasingly interpreted each other’s

action as inimical, trying to cause strategic damage to the ‘opposite’ side.
Alternative non-competitive approaches were largely discarded. Such
approaches could have included long-term plans to make the ECU and
DCFTA compatible, by fostering the original plans to create a Common
Economic Space between the EU and Russia. Also a broader multilateral
approach, involving the counterpart in regional cooperation initiatives,
would have created an opportunity to reverse the competitive logic. It
goes without saying that this would also have helped the countries of
the common neighbourhood to make unwelcome choices.
This constructed context of regional competition also needs to be situ-
ated in a broader international context. Sakwa explains Russia’s neo-
revisionist policy on the basis of its unease with current structures of
international governance. Russian leaders believe these structures to be
unrepresentative, Western-biased. They do not need be overhauled, but
need to become more inclusive. In other words, the current international
governance structures do not allow Russia ‘a worthy and equal place’ in
the international system (Sakwa, 2012: 963). March adds: ‘Western poli-
cies have certainly created an environment where the Russian elite can
readily portray the nation as isolated, victimised and threatened, even if
the Kremlin exploits this environment opportunistically’ (March, 2012:
421). In a similar way Tsygankov argues that Western ‘external actions
may serve the purpose of external legitimisation of Russia’s behaviour
on the international scene’ (Tsygankov, 2012: 710).

The mutual non-recognition of identities

As argued above, the EU has come to see itself as a regional power with a
particular responsibility in its neighbourhood. As a result of the enlarge-
ments of 2004 and 2007 and of the ENP/EaP, the EU has given itself a
central role to play in the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe. This
role is driven both by fears of instability and by concerns that enlarge-
ment risks creating new dividing lines in Europe and would thus run
counter to the founding principles of European integration. The EU’s
self-image is very much coloured by the idea that it forms a community
of values, driven by different goals than traditional actors. It sees itself as
a normative actor, actively exporting norms and ‘shaping the conceptions
of the normal’ (Manners, 2002) in the international arena. The resulting
policies, ENP and EaP, can be seen as vehicles to export the EU model
of rules, norms and institutional practices to its Eastern neighbours.
The latter get the chance to associate themselves with the EU and enjoy
Identities and Images of Competition 23

certain benefits of European integration, without immediate prospect

of accession. The EU’s self-image as a regional power is thus strongly
imbued with a sense of the EU being a ‘force for good’ (Aggestam, 2008),
resorting to a language of the EU as ‘helper’: ‘assisting’ its neighbours
in, for example, their democratisation efforts or in restructuring their
energy market.
This image of a regional normative power acting for the good of its
neighbours, however, is not recognised by Russia. In particular since the
launching of the ENP and later the EaP (which would decouple the EU’s
Russia policy from its policy towards other former Soviet states in Eastern
Europe and the southern Caucasus), Russia has been concerned about
the EU’s intentions in Eastern Europe. Many in Moscow see the ENP/EaP
and the transfer of internal EU rules and norms as nothing but a geopo-
litical strategy (Haukkala, 2008: 43). When the Eastern Partnership was
launched, Foreign Minister Lavrov hinted that the EU’s ambition was to
build ‘a sphere of influence’ (Lavrov, 2009). Also Russia’s rejection of the
EU’s normative agenda can be seen as following inter alia from frustra-
tion over the EU’s ‘normative hegemony’ (Haukkala, 2010) and mistrust
vis-à-vis the intentions behind it. In sum, the EU is seen as seeking to
create a sphere of influence through the expansion of its own regula-
tory model, as an intruder in the post-Soviet space, where then-President
Medvedev claimed ‘privileged interests’ for Russia (Reynolds, 2008).
Russia’s self-image of an important and legitimate regional power in the
post-Soviet space has never disappeared from its discourse. The assump-
tion of asymmetry between a strong, leading Russia and weak, dependent
neighbouring states has been expressed in different terms in foreign
policy, from the concept ‘Near Abroad’ to Medvedev’s ‘zone of privileged
interests’.5 Russia’s role as the leading power in the post-Soviet space
was naturally seen as legitimate, following from historical reasons and
‘logical’ because of geographic conditions, cultural links and economic
significance. While Russia’s identity as a regional power has never disap-
peared, it has certainly received new emphasis with regained self-con-
fidence and a more assertive foreign policy as of Putin’s second term as
president (2004). It has also undergone change in two substantial ways.
First, early initiatives were mainly taken within the broad and diffuse
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). These initiatives led to few
tangible results and produced agreements that would often not materi-
alise. More recently, Russia has resorted to a different type of integration
initiatives. This is most notably the case of the ECU with Belarus and
Kazakhstan, mentioned above, which forms a more viable and advanced
form of integration (Dragneva and Wolczuk, 2012). If fully implemented
24 Tom Casier

it may have profound consequences and reshape the geo-economic

post-Soviet space. The initiative indicates that Russia has come to see
regional integration as a crucial way of enhancing its leading position.
No longer does it try to achieve this solely through the too large and
inefficient CIS, but it now seeks to make progress through ‘coalitions of
the willing’: it engages in far-reaching agreements with those countries
who are willing to accept substantial integration with Russia, without
waiting for the others. However, it is clear that Putin’s ambitions go
further. In October 2011 he presented in Izvestiya his vision of a Eurasian
Union, an alternative for integration in West–Central Europe, ‘one of
the poles in the modern world’ and ‘a bridge between Europe and the
dynamic Asia-Pacific region’ (Putin, 2011). Secondly, Russia’s regional
role began to include more elements of soft power (see for example
Makarychev, 2008), which went hand in hand with remaining coercive
elements in its relations with former Soviet states. The complementary
soft power features of Russia’s regional policy have been seen by some as
a reaction to the colour revolutions (Popescu, 2006).
Also, Russia’s self-image as a legitimate regional power is not recognised
by the EU. While Russia’s regional ambitions are definitely detected,
they are not seen as legitimate. This non-recognition was even quite
explicit at the EU–Russia summit meeting in June 2012. Putin insisted
on negotiations on a new agreement to be held between the EU and the
ECU (rather than just Russia). He used the argument that this would
make more sense as some competencies had already been transferred to
a supranational institution. The EU refused, claiming it had no mandate
for this.6 No doubt there were also different reasons for this, not least
that negotiations with the ECU would force the EU to negotiate with
Belarussian President Lukashenka. But clearly, this was also a refusal on
the EU’s side to recognise Russia’s regional status and ambitions. Even
stronger, Moscow’s ambitions are often regarded as neo-imperialist behav-
iour, in the most extreme case as an attempt to return to the old Soviet
empire. However, a distinction needs to be made. Certainly before the
Ukraine crisis, the official discourse at the EU level would rarely contain
explicit references to neo-imperialist Russian behaviour. It was put most
strongly by then-External Relations Commissioner Ferrero–Waldner,
who referred to ‘Russia’s drift to a bloc mentality’ and ‘zero-sum attitude
to cooperation with the European Union in [its] New Neighbourhood
Countries’ (Ferrero-Waldner, 2005). It is, however, easy to discern a sub-
stream discourse where an understanding of Russia’s regional foreign
policy is seen much more explicitly as neo-imperialism of some sort.
Arguably this discourse can be said to be rather widespread in the media
Identities and Images of Competition 25

and among politicians in EU member states in non-representative func-

tions. Russia’s behaviour in the Ukraine crisis and its annexation of
Crimea have only reinforced this perception. The Kremlin’s behaviour,
and in particular the lack of clarity over its strategic objectives, sustained
the neo-imperialist narrative considerably.
To summarise, both the self-images of the EU and of Russia as regional
powers are insufficiently recognised by their counterpart. Both tend to
see each other as influence maximisers at the expense of the other. In
the run-up to the crisis over Ukraine this created a climate in which the
actions of the other were understood in a negative way as illegitimate and
as moves aimed against the ‘other’. This is a clear instance of the ‘attri-
butional bias’ (Kowert, 1998: 109). As noted above, behaviour of the out-
groups is attributed to their bad intentions. This tendency grows stronger
as the power of the out-group is perceived to increase. In-group behav-
iour, on the other hand, is understood as a function of environmental
constraints, leaving no choice but to act in a certain way. In other words,
competition in the region is seen from both sides (Moscow and Brussels)
as the result of the negative behaviour of the counterpart, seeking an inap-
propriate degree of influence at the expense of the other. At the same time
Russia and the EU understand their own behaviour as reasonable given
the setting, for which they bear no responsibility. The result is an escala-
tion of the competition logic. Both parties understand their own policies
as an inevitable response to the malicious policy of the other.

Hierarchies of identities

The (non-) recognition of identities goes largely beyond rhetoric. In a

subtle way it can serve instrumental purposes and ultimately it is at
the heart of power politics. A strategic use of identities does not need
to challenge the identity of the ‘Other’ directly. It is equally possible to
create a hierarchy of identities, recognising certain countries as closer to
one’s own in-group. In the slipstream of Russia’s last minute withdrawal
from the ENP and the subsequent decoupling of the EU’s Russia policy
from its Eastern Europe policy, a clear reorganisation of the hierarchy
of identities occurred. By the latter is meant the way in which the EU
recognises third countries as being closer to their self-defined identity of
Europeanness, thus granting them recognition and legitimacy. As a domi-
nant organisation in Europe, the EU can be seen as the main producer of
a European identity, based on a European community of values. The EU
regards itself as the embodiment of genuine European values (see also
Laffan, 2004; Mayer and Palmowski, 2004; Simão, 2011).
26 Tom Casier

While historically embedded discourses of ‘othering’ Russia – defining

it as substantially different or inferior – are still very strong (Diez, 2005;
Klinke, 2012), the non-recognition of Moscow as an equal player in inter-
national governance structures by the highest EU levels often happens
indirectly, by including others into the European family of states, rather
than by explicitly excluding Russia from that community. Here we see a
clear evolution vis-à-vis the 1990s, when relations with Russia and other
former Soviet states, like Ukraine, were all strongly defined and legiti-
mised on the basis of a shared commonality and common normative
ground (Haukkala, 2010: 3). In key documents, such as the Partnership
and Cooperation Agreements of the early 1990s, relations were presented
as based on shared values and partners were recognised as European.
Under the impulse of the ENP/EaP this recognition has been reinforced
in relations with Ukraine.7 For example: ‘Ukraine as a European country
shares a common history and common values with the countries of the
European Union. The EU acknowledged Ukraine’s European aspirations
and welcomed its European choice’ (Association Agenda, 2009: 2). For
Russia, however, the recognition of being a European country in part-
nership with the EU on the basis of shared values has faded away. It
is recognised as a strategic partner, but the normative grounds for the
partnership have largely disappeared. This creates an important hier-
archy – if not dichotomy – of identities: the relations with Ukraine
and other ‘included’ states appear as natural and logical; the relations
with Russia, excluded from the European community of values, appear
as inevitable, a ‘necessity’, justified on pragmatic grounds, but by no
means as natural.
Of course this recognition of identity in terms of belonging to the
European family is not one-dimensional and is thus fraught with ambi-
guities. Beyond rhetoric we see a complex process of hierarchisation of
identities. Depending on the issue and on the preferences of different
member states and other actors, we see diverse and competitive processes
of prioritisation. In certain cases Ukraine will come first, in others Russia
will still be the chosen partner. The fundamental difference, however, is
how the political choice and interaction are justified: on a fundament of
shared normative belonging in the case of Ukraine; as inevitable, neces-
sary constructive engagement in the case of Russia.
The EU’s success in creating this instrumental hierarchy of identities
among some of its neighbours is dependent on the domestic willingness
to take on this ‘European’ identity and to prove their Europeanness by
carrying out certain reforms. At the time of writing the EU’s success in
creating a sustainable hierarchy and ‘normative hegemony’ (Haukkala,
Identities and Images of Competition 27

2010) in its neighbourhood seems to be challenged. Armenia joined the

Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with Russia on 1 January 2015. After
the ousting of President Yanukovych, Ukraine eventually signed the
Association Agreement with the EU in 2014, together with Moldova and
Georgia. In the case of the former, the developments after the standoff
between Brussels and Moscow (Euromaidan protests, regime change,
annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine) have made the
future of the Association Agreement highly uncertain. The implementa-
tion of part of the Association Agreement was delayed. It should also
be noted here that the EU has now signed Association Agreements with
three countries that have a territorial dispute with Russia. In the case
of Belarus and Azerbaijan, the EU has failed from the beginning to use
recognition of identities to steer policies in the direction of approxima-
tion with those of the EU. As for Russia, despite its limited successes in
regional integration with Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia, it is doubtful
whether it has sufficient capacity to project identities on neighbouring
states. Due to its complex and variegated historical links with its neigh-
bours, it lacks a strong potential to become a producer of identity or a
normative hegemon within its neighbourhood in the same way as the
EU. It has actively tried to generate more soft power (see Makarychev,
2008), but lacks the capacity to project a clear identity which is attractive
to its neighbours. The attempts to create a Eurasian identity of some sort
around Russian-led integration projects may be regarded as an attempt
to do so. Currently, however, this remains very weakly developed as a
foundation of shared norms and a platform for creating hierarchies of
identities. Moscow has also been less successful in developing a rhetoric
of common identities and shared values in its regional policies.

Relational identity and sovereignty

This last section looks at identities as a function of sovereignty and post-

sovereignty. This is interesting for two reasons. First it is a point on which
the EU and Russia seem to differ considerably, while the normative refer-
ences in their foreign policy rhetoric otherwise display striking simi-
larities. The EU is traditionally seen as a post-sovereign actor (Sorensen,
2008; Cooper, 2004), while Russia is a defender of sovereignty and non-
interference (DeBardeleben, 2012). Secondly, we have seen an inter-
esting evolution from Russia being seen as an actor in limbo between
clinging to either a modern or post-modern notion of sovereignty to
an image of Russia as a staunch defender of sovereignty today. Cooper,
for example, writes in 2004 that it is still uncertain whether Russia will
28 Tom Casier

choose the modern or the post-modern path (Cooper, 2004). Up until

the annexation of Crimea, Russia was often seen – with China – as the
bulwark defender of sovereignty in the UN Security Council. This image
had been reinforced by Russia’s stance on Syria, but also by domestic
discourses on sovereign democracy.
From an interest-focused perspective, the centrality of ‘sovereignty’
is seen as the ultimate proof of Russia’s interest-driven foreign policy.
Defending national sovereignty is a key interest of the Russian state. It
is also where it is seen to clash with the EU’s interests, intertwined with
its post-sovereign project.8 From an identity perspective, however, we
can approach Russia’s defence of sovereignty differently by returning
to the distinction by Jepperson et al. (1996) between ‘intrinsic’ and
‘relational identities’. Adherence to sovereignty is often assumed to be
an integral part of Russia’s intrinsic identity, often backed by historical
reference to the tsarist empire and its strictly hierarchical structure. The
key question, however, is whether the norm of sovereignty is intrinsi-
cally given and whether Russia’s reiteration of the norm is inherent to its
cultural tradition. By adding this relational perspective of identity and
Jönsson’s ‘image of situation’, we may also understand the emphasis on
sovereignty as a result of relational positioning of identities. In this case,
Russia’s emphasis on sovereignty is not intrinsically given, a static iden-
tity resulting from age-old history. Instead, the stance on sovereignty
results from how Russia perceives its own position (image of ‘Self’), how
it sees the EU and the West (image of ‘Other’) and of the international
context in which it operates (image of ‘Situation’).
In other words, the centrality of sovereignty in Russian discourse
can be understood against the background of Russia’s frustration over
international institutions and governance structures, which it sees as
non-representative, non-inclusive, dominated by the US and dispro-
portionally representing Western interests (Sakwa, 2012). In this world
it feels relatively isolated and underrepresented. Its attempts to be
accepted by the Western/international community of states in the early
post-communist years have been unsuccessful and reinforced images
that the West was exploiting Russia’s weakness. For these reasons, Russia
takes a neo-revisionist stance (Sakwa, 2012). It is not rejecting interna-
tional governance structures altogether, but aims at changing them so
that they become more inclusive and representative. The retreat to a
discourse of sovereignty is logical in this respect. Sovereignty, more than
anything else becomes the guarantee against the interference of a non-
accepted international structure (or against the non-accepted normative
hegemony of the EU). This is also what unites the otherwise diverse
Identities and Images of Competition 29

BRIC countries, in particular Russia and China. If seen from a relational

perspective their strong emphasis on sovereignty is not necessarily part
of their ‘intrinsic identity’, but rather a statement against the perceived
American dominance in non-inclusive international structures.
Such an approach to sovereignty avoids static images of identities.
By looking at how interrelated images of ‘Self’, ‘Other’ and ‘Situation’
develop over time, we come to understand changes in Russia’s foreign
policy beyond simplistic images of Russia returning to its ‘normal’,
age-old intrinsic identity. As a post-communist country Russia has
evolved from a state actively seeking recognition as a prominent member
of the (Western) international community of states – accepting US- or
EU-centred relations – to a country strongly affirming its sovereignty vis-
à-vis international governance structures and vis-à-vis the EU’s norma-
tive hegemony, whose interference Russia rejects. It should be noted that
this emphasis on sovereignty is in the first place rhetorical. Sovereignty
and non-interference are two recurring principles in Russian diplomacy.
It does not mean that Moscow applies this principle consistently and
certainly not towards its neighbours; its interference in internal affairs
of former Soviet states has been widely discussed. Tolstrup (2009), for
example, described Russia as a ‘negative external actor’, pursuing poli-
cies of managed (in-) stability to keep loyal regimes in place or to desta-
bilise unfriendly regimes. When taking control of Crimea, Moscow
broke a core taboo in post-Second World War Europe, that of annexa-
tion. It was interesting to note how Putin tried to save Russia’s identity
as a defender of sovereignty in his speech regarding Crimea on 18 March
2014 (Putin, 2014). He mixed a nationalist discourse imbued by histor-
ical references, with legal argumentation to stress the legality of Crimea’s
integration into the Russian Federation. Kosovo featured centrally as a
precedent. Despite these attempts, the developments on the peninsula
could not but underline the ambiguity of Moscow’s selective references
to sovereignty. The annexation raised concerns in allied countries like
Kazakhstan and Belarus, with the latter’s President Lukashenka speaking
of ‘a dangerous precedent’.9 It is more than probable that the develop-
ments in Crimea and Ukraine have heavily damaged Russia’s credibility
as defender of sovereignty and international law.


Moving beyond dominant perspectives of interest, this chapter

approached EU-Russia relations in their overlapping neighbourhoods –
up to the Ukraine crisis – from the perspective of dynamic and relational
30 Tom Casier

identities. Identities of both actors are not given, but are constituted
through interaction.
EU-Russia relations have changed from a collective understanding
in the post-communist strategic environment of the 1990s as asym-
metrically EU-driven, but cooperative, to a competitive environment
leading up to today’s radical new stage of confrontation. A large part
of the escalation of mistrust and the perception of competition in the
overlapping neighbourhoods of Russia and the EU in this process is due
to the incompatibility of images they each hold of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’.
The EU sees itself as a benign normative power helping the countries in
the neighbourhood. Russia sees itself as a legitimate regional player, a
country which logically has a leading role to play in the neighbourhood
because of historical, cultural and economic ties. Both self-acclaimed
identities are not recognised by their counterparts and reflect a clear
attributional bias: while they each see themselves as acting on the basis of
external constraints, Russia and the EU see each other as malign regional
players, pursuing their interests and seeking to build spheres of influ-
ence. Russia’s behaviour in the neighbourhood is understood as neo-
imperialist. The EU is seen as an intruder seeking to increase its sphere
of influence under the pretext of norm diffusion. These images have
reinforced the understanding of relations in the neighbourhood as a
competitive zero-sum game. In this context discourses of sovereignty
may be understood, not as an element of Russia’s intrinsic identity, but
as part of its relational identity, rejecting the EU’s normative hegemony
and the interference of international governance structures which it
considers to be non-representative. The process was also characterised
by re-hierarchisation of identities among neighbouring states. Through
its ENP/EaP, the EU projected new images on neighbouring post-Soviet
countries. Some of them seemed to accept this new identity as a member
of the EU-acclaimed ‘European family’ and have tried to prove their
genuine Europeanness by carrying out the reforms demanded by the EU.
This has led to a new hierarchy of identities in Eastern Europe, through
which countries like Ukraine came to be defined as true European part-
ners, sharing values with the EU. Russia, on the other hand, was seen as
a partner by default: a country the EU inevitably had to cooperate with,
not on the basis of shared values or Europeanness, but on pragmatic
grounds. With the EaP facing huge obstacles, it is unclear at this point
whether this decoupling of Russian and East–European identities will
lead to a sustainable redrawing of Europe’s map.
While one may argue that the crisis over Ukraine proves that Russia is
effectively seeking to build a sphere of influence, the argument of this
Identities and Images of Competition 31

chapter would exactly be that it is the Russian image of the West seeking
to increase its influence at the expense of Russia that has pushed it to
this extreme reaction. Reasoning within geopolitical images of zero-sum
game competition, leaders in Moscow may have understood the regime
change in Kyiv as the ‘loss’ of Ukraine to the West. Within the horizon of
such images, this may have prompted them to a radical action, annexing
Crimea and destabilising the new regime in Kyiv. This is not to say that
interests did not matter, but rather that interests were strongly perceived
in the context of antagonistic identities that had grown in a yearlong
logic of competition and escalating distrust.
The implication is that we should not understand EU–Russia rela-
tions in their overlapping neighbourhoods as an inevitable clash of
given interests, but we should understand them primarily as a clash of
identities which fostered a reading of diametrically opposed interests.
Both Russia and the EU pursued identities which were not recognised
by their counterparts. This mutual non-recognition of identities has fed
perceptions of competition, leading to negative interpretations of each
other’s foreign policy and mistrust. Rather than being the root cause of
tensions in EU–Russia relations, the formulation of interests and norms
can be seen as the epiphenomenal outcome of underlying incompat-
ible self-images. For policy-makers this implies that in the longer term,
if the conflict over Ukraine were to come to an end, the restoration of
trust and reversing the logic of competition will be essential. But it goes
without saying that in the current context of confrontation, there is
little hope for such a scenario.

1. See also Tsygankov (2007) who analyses how Russian foreign policy trans-
formed along three civilisational ideas in reaction to both domestic and
external changes.
2. Russia signed but did not ratify the ECT.
3. The controversial ‘foreign agents law’ was passed in 2012 and forces non-
governmental organisations who are engaged in ‘political activity’ and receive
foreign funding to register as ‘foreign agents’.
4. Hayes-Gries (2005) presents a similar model, distinguishing between four
stages in the evolution from in-group identification to conflict: in-group
identification, in-group positivity, intergroup competition and intergroup
5. The term ‘Near Abroad’ was mainly used in the 1990s in post-communist
Russian foreign policy to refer to the other former Soviet states. President
Medvedev referred to the same area as a zone where Russia had privileged
interests for cultural, economic and political reasons (Reynolds 2008).
32 Tom Casier

6. Euractiv, ‘Putin Promotes Eurasian Union at EU Summit’, http://www.euractiv.

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tive in the Association Agreement, eventually signed in 2014. The recognition
as part of a European community of values is thus primordially symbolic.
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Russian Foreign Policy and the
Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’
Maria Raquel Freire


The evolution of Russian foreign policy since the end of the Soviet Union
has revealed linkages between the domestic and external dimensions
of the foreign policy agenda, the multiplicity of actors involved in the
shaping and making of decisions, and the variety of instruments avail-
able in both bilateral and multilateral contexts. Russian foreign policy
rests on a multivectoral formula adopted soon after the end of the Soviet
Union. This means it is organised around multiple vectors of a geopo-
litical nature, with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
constituting the most important vector, followed by the ‘Western’ (e.g.
European Union (EU) and US) and ‘Eastern’ (e.g. China) vectors. The
international system is understood by Russian foreign policy as polyc-
entric with asymmetric power constellations promoting fundamental
shifts in the international order, as demonstrated for example by the
BRICS alignments. Also, normative considerations based on the United
Nations (UN) Charter principles governing international security, such
as the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference
in internal affairs of states, indivisibility of security, human rights and
freedoms, are in line with ‘Russia’s definition of a great power’. This
‘entails a normative dimension based on a type of order enshrining
sovereignty, non-interventionism and a pluralism of regime types’
(Sakwa, 2012: 322).
Over the last 25 years, Russia’s approach to the European space has
been refined to make more explicit its willingness to integrate with
the European order, where Russia might be an active player in secu-
rity matters, economic issues and political decisions. The Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which emerged as a

36 Maria Raquel Freire

pan-European framework for security matters in 1975,1 and promised to

bring together divergent perspectives into a European security regime,
had lost momentum. Other multilateral regional formats such as the CIS
(1991), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO, 1992), the
Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC, 2000), or the Organization
of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC, 1992), in their different,
though many times inter-related areas of actuation, sought to respond
to the double-edged dynamics of integration/exclusion. This reflects the
dynamics of cooperation and engagement, as well as competition and
containment that developed in the enlarged European area, involving
Russia, the EU and Turkey.
This chapter looks at Russian foreign policy tools and Moscow’s
relation with regional actors in bilateral and multilateral contexts, in
particular at the intersection of Russian, Turkish and EU neighbour-
hoods, from a Russian perspective. It analyses the conceptualisation of
‘greater Europe’ and how this construct molds distinct understandings
about ‘neighbourhood’. Despite this neighbourhood being ‘shared’ in
geographic terms, in political/discursive, economic and security terms,
it is both shared and contested. Looking at the intersection of Russia, the
EU and Turkey’s neighbourhoods, and how these different actors define
and interpret this broad space, the chapter seeks to shed light on how
Russian foreign policy has been materialised in the so-called ‘enlarged
neighbourhood’. The analysis looks into the way Russia conceptual-
ises and implements foreign policy: how goals are matched by actions
in a power asymmetry context, how policies reflect active/reactive
approaches, and how the interrelations taking place in this enlarged
space contribute to enhancing or restraining the promotion of Russian
foreign policy goals.
Looking at this broad space, three aspects should be highlighted. First,
the evolution of Russian foreign policy demonstrates a conceptual and
normative consolidation in terms of underlining principles and norms,
such as sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, polycentrism,
and international law according to the UN Charter principles. These
normative considerations are not fundamentally different from the EU’s
approach2 or Turkey’s approach.3 However, this does not preclude these
actors from pursuing distinct foreign policy goals. Second, these actors
promote diverse understandings of what the European order should
mean and look like, based on inclusive/exclusive dynamics that sustain
conflicting readings about ‘greater Europe’. These have consequences
on the positioning of these actors in the status quo order, with revi-
sionist trends of the power asymmetries between them becoming ever
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 37

more evident. Russian actions and reactions, particularly with regard to

Ukraine, exemplify how these perceptions of imbalance contribute to
shaping policy options. Third, the chapter analyses how the overlapping
and conflicting readings of the neighbourhood result from these distinct,
though in several aspects similar, approaches. It is in this understanding
of neighbourhood that Russian foreign policy has been evolving, pointing
to (1) reactive approaches to what is perceived as politics of interference
in the post-Soviet space, defined as a primary area of influence for Russia;
(2) active political dealings to empower an understanding of the Western-
influence-limit, such as illustrated by the annexation of Crimea; and
3) the use of both war instruments and diplomatic tools to address differ-
ences, again with Ukraine constituting a good example. The active/reac-
tive nature of Russian foreign policy, along with the instruments it has
been employing demonstrate the dependence/interdependence relations
that prevail in the enlarged European area, as well as the relevance of
finding common denominators for understanding within this same area.
As much as this reading of ‘Europe’ is fundamental in shaping Russian
foreign policy, it also builds on support of domestic constituencies as a
source of legitimisation for a power projection policy abroad.

‘Greater Europe’?

The idea of ‘greater Europe’ despite encompassing a positive connota-

tion has elicited disparate views of what it means or ought to mean. The
different political, economic and security projects that have been taking
shape in this space illustrate the dynamics of cooperation and competi-
tion that describe well the relations between Russia, the EU and Turkey.
If in the immediate years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia
sought integration into Western institutions, it gradually opted for a
more independent approach.
However, the idea of ‘greater Europe’ that was present in Russian
foreign policy in the first years after the end of the Cold War has been
recently reintroduced in a number of different ways, from the proposal
of a European Security Treaty4 (EST) as formulated in the summer of 2008
(President of Russia, 2009) to the Modernisation Policy initiated in 2010
(Medvedev, 2010). With regard to the EST, which was even mentioned as
Helsinki II, referencing the inclusive nature of the Helsinki Final Act of
1975, its main goal was to promote an inclusive European security order
in which Russia would have a voice and be heard. Despite the evolution
of the proposal and the fact that it did not result in anything concrete, it
clearly signalled Russia’s willingness to have a more direct involvement
38 Maria Raquel Freire

in European security issues, diminishing the Atlantic Alliance’s centrality.

As formulated by then-President Medvedev (President of Russia, 2009),
the ‘principle of indivisible security’ in ‘a common undivided space in
order to finally do away with the Cold War legacy’ demonstrates Russia’s
position regarding a more inclusive institutionalisation of European
In fact, just as the EU understands its neighbourhood as an area where
stability is fundamental for its own security, as explicitly stated in the
European Security Strategy (European Council, 2003), Russia understands
that being surrounded by friendly states will contribute to its security.
As Igor Ivanov (2015) states, ‘one cannot seriously discuss the European
security without Russia and Turkey – if our two countries are not a part
of the equation, the eastern and the southern EU borders remain chroni-
cally instable’, advancing an encompassing understanding of security
and its central actors. Therefore, as Tsygankov (2011: 41) argues, Russia
‘will try to have a definitive voice in structuring the region’s security
architecture’. As for the Modernisation Policy put forward by Medvedev,
it focuses on economic and technological modernisation, seeking to
avoid dependency on energy resources and providing Russia a sustain-
able basis for growth. The Modernisation Policy has a domestic dimen-
sion related to the fight against corruption, reform of the judiciary,
research and development support and technological advances, but it
also underlines the need for including ‘the EU, the USA and China –
important competitors and clients for the Russian economy, recog-
nising that some level of interdependence is needed for modernisation
to be achieved’ (Freire and Simão, 2015). This means that the process
of integrating Russia into European structures is fundamental at both
the domestic and external levels. According to Russian authorities, the
process should follow equity principles:

Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and

European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans.
We are by no means indifferent to developments in united Europe.
That is why Russia proposes moving toward the creation of a common
economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – a
community referred by Russian experts to as ‘the Union of Europe’,
which will strengthen Russia’s potential and position in its economic
pivot toward the ‘new Asia’ (Putin, 2012).

Several aspects contributed to the Russian perception of EU policies as

conflictive with Russian interests in the ‘shared neighbourhood’: the
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 39

understanding of the EU as a hegemonic and excluding bloc, and the

post-2003 neighbourhood initiatives (Commission of the European
Communities, 2003a, b; 2004), namely the ‘Wider Europe’ initiative,
the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership
(EaP) (EaP Summit, 2009). Despite the fact that Russia acknowledges
substantial limits to the EU’s Eastern policies, highlighted by the 2008
financial crisis that severely hit the EU, these has raised concerns. These
pertain mainly to the multilateral dimension of the EU’s Eastern poli-
cies and the drivers they might ignite in terms of regional cooperation
that would potentially limit Russian political, economic and military
projects for the CIS area, as well as diminish its leverage over states in
the area. In fact, the European presence in this ‘shared neighbourhood’
is understood as countering Russian goals. Thus, Russia is reacting to
the EaP in order to prevent it from hampering the economic integration
projects Moscow is promoting in its neighbourhood. Further EU engage-
ment in the processes of political settlement of the protracted conflicts
in the post-Soviet space, and ‘exclusion-inclusion options’ in the rela-
tions of these countries with Russia and the EU are of concern (Zagorski,
2011: 47). The events in Ukraine point to the triggering of such tensions
highlighted in Russian readings of the EU’s informal integration with
the post-Soviet countries, following previous criticisms about the colour
revolutions and how these constituted destabilising factors in the post-
Soviet area.5
The Russian response has, however, been reactive. Not in terms of the
definition of the CIS states as part of its area of interest, which has been
clear for a long time, but with regard to counterbalancing what it under-
stands as growing influence and presence of the EU in a number of these
states (excluding Central Asian republics, where the EU’s penetration
has been minimal). Nevertheless, the conceptualisation of ‘neighbour-
hood’ differs also among the post-Soviet states.

Most of post-Soviet countries would disagree with their inclusion

in a Russia-dominated political bloc; moreover, most of them quite
explicitly develop multivectoral diplomacies that conceptually chal-
lenge the premises of spheres of influence. By the same token, Russia
lacks convincing mechanisms of efficient governance in zones of
its interest, which questions the efficacy of the spheres-of-influence
model in wider Europe (Makarychev, 2014: 71).

The recognition of limitations has led Russia to follow a revisionist

course and a more assertive foreign policy, as most notably seen in the
40 Maria Raquel Freire

cases of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 (to cite the most extreme
examples), aiming at maintaining and if possible increasing its leverage
in this area of particular interest. Other means, such as energy supplies,
economic diplomacy and economic and political modernisation, have
also been put at play in the complex relations developed by Russia with
neighbouring states.
In the reconfiguration of this space – ‘greater Europe’ –, the inclusion
of Turkey as an active player is interesting. As a candidate country for EU
membership (after the Helsinki European Council of December 1999),
in a process that has been both long and contested, Turkey has had an
active foreign policy in its neighbourhood. Energy issues have been a
centrepiece of Turkey’s geoeconomic positioning in regional terms. Also,
politically, it attempted to pursue a policy of good neighbourly relations
(the ‘zero-problem with neighbours’ policy), which has increasingly
been replaced by the so-called ‘precious loneliness’, in face of political
options that have been facing increased criticism. For example, the posi-
tioning towards Egyptian politics after the ‘Arab Spring’ led to diplo-
matic problems with Israel, Syria and Egypt (Bagci, 2013).
With regard to Russia, relations have reached what the parties call a
‘strategic’ level (TASS, 2014), with economic investment in the area of
construction and trade, tourism and agreement on a visa-free regime for
trips up to thirty days, the negotiation of new pipeline deals after Russia
gave up on the South Stream (to a great extent as a consequence of the
souring of relations with the EU in the context of the Ukrainian crisis),
and the building of the Akkuyu nuclear plant in Turkey by Russian
state-owned company Rosatom (see Adilgizi, 2014; Markedonov, 2011).
These are some examples of how Russia-Turkey relations have become
more interdependent, with Turkey constituting Russia’s second-largest
European importer of natural gas after Germany (Tharoor, 2014). The
negotiations towards the building of the Blue Stream pipeline, which
will bring three billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey, and the agree-
ment reached to lower prices in gas supplies from Russia beginning 1
January 2015, have been important outcomes of Putin’s visit to Ankara
in December 2014 (TASS, 2014). Portrayed by the Russian and Turkish
leaders as a strategic deal in face of uncooperative trends in relations
with the EU, the agreement was described in Western circles as a defeat
of Putin, forcing Russia to review its energy strategy (Roth, 2014). In face
of falling energy prices and a faltering economic situation, the halting of
the South Stream project has political as well as economic implications.
However, President Putin turned his comments onto the disadvantages
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 41

to EU countries arising from this twist, stating that ‘[i]f Europe does not
want this to be realised, then it will not be realised’, adding that ‘such is
the decision of our European friends. They are, in the end, customers. It
is their choice’ (Putin cited in Roth, 2014).
Nevertheless, the agreement, part of a broader trade project amounting
to $100 billion by 2020 (Cohen, 2014), allows Russia to build on invest-
ments already made within the framing of the South Stream project,
namely sections that are already built and might be included in these
new plans. It also allows Russia to refrain from investing in Ukraine as
a transit country, adding further pressure to that country’s economy. In
this way, Russia is playing a dual game. On the one hand, it is consoli-
dating ties with Turkey, which in the current context of tensions with
relations with the EU, and in face of disparate readings about ‘greater
Europe’, contributes to reinforcing Russian politics in this enlarged area.
In fact, the December agreement signed between Russia and Turkey is a
statement about geopolitics and geoeconomics in Europe. On the other
hand, by changing the route of the gas pipeline, Russia is gaining new
leeway towards Ukraine, using energy as a pressuring mechanism on the
authorities in Kiev. In this regard, Moscow has been acting proactively
to counter Ukrainian integration into Western structures, using both
hard tools, such as the use of force, and softer ones, such as illustrated
by the gas deal implications for Ukraine.
There are, however, evident difficult issues to this bilateral relationship,
including the non-recognition of Crimea by Turkey or opposite positions
with regard to the conflict in Syria. Also, the Islamic dimension of the
Turkish state raises concerns in Russia and the EU, and the diffusion of
Turkey’s influence in the ‘shared neighbourhood’, promoting different
principles of political and social organisation, constitutes a further chal-
lenge to the management of relations. But the pragmatic approach that
has been sustaining Russia-Turkey’s relationship has prevented these
differences from hindering cooperation at various levels. This has been
described as ‘compartmental thinking’ allowing for building on areas
where both parties recognise clear advantages from cooperation, and
leaving aside issues that are divisive (see, for example, Bagci, 2013). This
strategy has been paying off in a context where Russia and Turkey share
a feeling of ‘inequality’ towards the EU, and where relations particularly
between Russia and the EU are at a low level.
According to Richard Sakwa (2012: 315–316), the idea of ‘greater
Europe’ is becoming more explicit in Russian policies, but it has also
been implicitly developed by Turkey. It rests on an alternative vision of
42 Maria Raquel Freire

the European idea, away from the EU’s hegemonic posture, and devising
a more equitable ordering. Sakwa argues that

[t]he greater European idea encompasses Turkey, and it puts Russia,

not surprisingly, at the heart of an alternative project. It does not
deny the EU, but it seeks to look at the question of European integra-
tion from less of an institutional perspective and with more focus on
the attempt to create an alternative international regime in which
European multipolarity could be formalized (Sakwa, 2012: 315–316).

The proposal is therefore a way of creating a multi-order Europe where

the EU does not necessarily embody the place of the stronger player,
but where different poles are recognised and new avenues for coopera-
tion delineated on the basis of equality and reciprocity. In fact, ‘greater
Europe in the Russian conception is to be populated by a number of great
powers (and this includes Turkey), and not a single expansive hegemon
in the form of the EU’ (Sakwa, 2012: 317). In this sense, Turkey is being
increasingly recognised as an actor playing a pivotal role in this multi-
pole formula promoted as a reconfiguration of the ‘greater Europe’ space
(Krastev and Leonard cited in Sakwa, 2012: 322). In the words of Igor
Ivanov (2015),

the two nations [Russia and Turkey] with their rich histories, great
cultures, economic potentials and geopolitical ambitions can hardly
accept the position of being nothing more but a part of the ‘European
periphery’. They claim – and rightly so – more central places in the
emerging system of international relations of the 21st Century. And
they are not likely to agree to an inferior status that Brussels might
want to offer them.

These divergent readings of the ‘greater Europe’ are becoming more

evident in the conceptualisation and implementation of Russian foreign
policy. The following section analyses the main goals and instruments
Russia has been utilising in terms of promoting its objectives in this
enlarged area.

Russian foreign policy: looking towards an enlarged


Russian foreign policy has been evolving in the last twenty-five years,
adjusting to a differentiated geopolitical, security, economic and social
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 43

context. The fact that the first post-Cold War decade was mainly char-
acterised by adjustments to the end of the Soviet Union, implying
structural reforms internally in Russia and the definition of the new
contours of relations with the newly independent states after the Soviet
collapse, as well as with the ‘Western’ world, did not mean that foreign
policy was off the agenda. In fact, the multivectoral blueprint of Russian
foreign policy was defined in the mid-1990s. By late 1992, and into
early 1993, the CIS became a priority in Russian politics. However, in
the second decade after the end of the Cold War, and particularly after
Vladimir Putin became president of the Russian Federation in 2000,
foreign policy consolidated conceptually. This is visible in terms of
both its material and ideational dimensions. In material terms, Russia
defined areas of primary interest (such as the CIS, relations with the
EU, the United States or China for example) as well as sectorial areas
of intervention (military or economic issues). In ideational terms, the
great power status of Russia became a stated goal underlining Russian
policies and actions (FPC, 2000, 2008, 2013). Simultaneously, lines of
cooperation, support, co-optation, competition and coercion, were
established in the Russian foreign policy strategy. These become visible
in the inter-relations developed both in bilateral and multilateral
contexts. Within the CIS or regarding the EU, cooperation and compe-
tition are identifiable. At the bilateral level, for instance, the Russia-
Georgia relationship demonstrates competition and coercion, whereas
the Russia-Armenia relation shows support and co-optation. Relations
with Germany have followed a general trend of cooperation, following
a sometimes conflicting trend with EU policy, while the reverse might
be said about relations with the United Kingdom, for example. This
means Russia pursues different approaches following a pragmatic line
of action.
These disparate responses result from asymmetric contexts and percep-
tions of limits and challenges to Russia’s policies and visions for the
European space.

Russia advanced a number of smaller integration projects, notably

the CSTO and the EurAsEc, to compensate for the evident lack of
unity on a CIS-wide basis, but throughout has rejected the need for
a positive normative basis for such projects. Indeed, a negative norm
is advanced, namely non-interference in the internal affairs of other
states, the legitimism propounded by the Congress of Vienna, and a
Westphalian notion of sovereignty, accompanied by the assertion of
multi-polarity (Sakwa, 2012: 317).
44 Maria Raquel Freire

Identifying the EU as ‘one of its main political and economic partners’,

cooperation ‘devoid of expediency fluctuations’ is sought. However, the
development of the ENP and later the EaP, the involvement of the EU in
an area of primary interest to Russia in a non-inclusive way, generated
dissatisfaction and lack of trust. As analysed, the reticence of Moscow
is compensated by a policy formulation calling for a more inclusive
Europe, where the EU would become a pole in the multipolar European
order. In the 2008 Foreign Policy Concept Document, Moscow deplores
that the relations between the EU and Russia are being superseded by
the increased ambitions of the EU towards its Eastern Neighbourhood.
This means Russia is clearly voicing concerns about the consequences
that might result from an empowered position of the EU in the ‘shared’
neighbourhood area with regard to Russia’s sphere of influence. The
understanding of the European space as inclusive of Russia is implicit,
as is the principle of avoiding ‘new dividing lines’ that contribute to the
‘periphery effect’ of Russia in the European space.
Further engagement in the Black Sea space is relevant in Russia-Turkey
relations, as a different setting from that in which relations with the
EU take place (Romania, Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic are full
members of BSEC). For Russia it means a balancing mechanism where
it might play a relevant role, particularly in energy-related matters.6
It also means a way of enhancing its presence through political and
economic means, in particular, within an institutional format where it
has a relevant place. Also, engaging with Turkey in the area provides
Russia increased competitive advantage close to the EU borders. Russia
joined the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group initiated by Turkey
in 2001, and participated in Operation Black Sea Harmony in March
2004 (Warhola and Bezci, 2013: 7), understanding these joint exercises
as signalling alignment with its partner, particularly in view of the fact
that Turkey is a NATO member. Promoting joint cooperation in security
matters has been used as a mechanism for deterring NATO’s involve-
ment in the Black Sea area (Flanagan, 2013: 168). Nevertheless, it might
be argued that there is no explicit Russian strategy for the Black Sea
space, despite the recognition of the added value that might arise from
further engagement with the countries in this broad area. Arguably,
what might be understood as the ‘Russian strategy’ consists mainly of
a listing of objectives regarding security, economic and energy matters
that drive Russia’s actions towards this space. These are in line with the
stated foreign policy goals of Russia, with particular focus on its near
neighbourhood, where Moscow seeks to maintain and if possible rein-
force its presence and/or influence (Freire, 2014: 374). However, and
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 45

independently of Russia’s goals, cooperation within the Black Sea space

has revealed limits, both in economic terms with no substantive integra-
tion taking place among its members, apart from energy-related projects,
and regarding security issues, as evidenced in the lack of response to the
Georgia war in 2008 (ibid.).
Other multilateral organisations have performed this same role of
balancing Western organisations and influence while promoting Russian
leadership. These include the more security oriented CSTO, playing the
counter-role to that of NATO, or in more economic terms the Eurasian
Economic Union, in effect from January 2015. The CSTO has ended
up being more of a Russian-Kazakh project in military terms than a
multilateral framework combining military industrial complexes from
member-states. The Rapid Deployment Force is a good example of how
cooperation has been difficult to pursue within the organisation, with
states reluctantly contributing to the project (see Saivetz, 2012: 403).
Moscow has been promoting the Eurasian Economic Union as a coun-
ter-weight to both the EU-economic bloc and Chinese growth. It follows
from the Customs Union involving Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Membership is still reduced and it is expected that Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan
or Moldova might integrate the new project, but Ukraine, considered
a key actor in this integration format, might never join. According to
Putin, this institutional scheme should constitute the basis for a more
inclusive project, the Eurasian Union, modelled after the EU, which
would assist in making a Russian-centred regional integration organisa-
tion a rule-maker and active part of the global economic processes. ‘I
am convinced that the establishment of the Eurasian Union and effi-
cient integration are approaches that will enable members to take a
prominent place in our complicated 21st Century world’ (Putin [2011]
cited in Saivetz, 2012: 409). In this context, Russia has extended integra-
tion options to Turkey as a way to further advancing the ‘strategic rela-
tionship’ that it has been consolidating in the last years. Nevertheless,
Turkey has refrained from active engagement since it is formally in the
process of accession to the EU. Moreover, as much as Russia portrays the
Eurasian Union as a balancing act to the EU, dynamics within the organ-
isation seem imbalanced. Russia’s lead role might hinder the proclaimed
equity goal of a multipolar Europe, including with regard to Turkey.
Thus, in different sectorial areas and through different instruments,
including both bilateral and multilateral frameworks, Russia seeks to
promote its foreign policy agenda. However, this has not been without
constraints as the crisis in Ukraine that escalated in November 2013
clearly demonstrates. The reactive approach characterised by coercion
46 Maria Raquel Freire

and negative measures, also included energy pressure through an increase

in prices or a decrease in supplies; trade embargos, mainly related to
agricultural products; and the use of force as in the case of Georgia in
2008 where Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia against the position of most CIS states.7 But if these are para-
digmatic examples of a rupture in relations, other examples of Russian
intervention, through economic or political incentives, have shown the
success of the Russian strategy of affirmation in its neighbourhood. The
negotiations regarding the military bases in Kyrgyzstan and preferen-
tial energy agreements with Moldova, Armenia or Tajikistan, are good
examples of positive rewards for complying states.
Russian politics have thus been reactive to attempts at interference
in the post-Soviet area, resorting to both hard and soft power mecha-
nisms. Along with concrete actions, the doctrinaire approach in Russia
has been consolidating. The Foreign Policy Concept Document of 2013
(FPC, 2013) states clearly the contribution of Russia for a new order in
face of the crisis in the EU and the ‘Arab Spring’ outcomes. It under-
stands Russia’s exclusion from the European order as putting at risk the
centrality of Europe in a changing world. Therefore, it paves the way for
an enhanced role of Russia in the building of the international order.
Profound changes are identified as a result of the 2008 global economic
crisis and its effects in the international order that is now redefined as
polycentric. The civilisational issue is reintroduced in a different way
considering the global financial crisis and the trends towards a more
polycentric world order. The ‘greater Europe’ idea has gained further
relevance in an unfavourable context for the EU. Written before the
events in Ukraine, the 2013 Foreign Policy Concept Document states
the pursuit of ‘friendly relations’ with the EU, avoiding ‘dividing lines’
(the divisive and unequal European order underlined once more), as
well as the intention of pursuing negotiations towards the signature
of a new framework agreement for the strategic partnership, based on
principles of equality and mutual benefit. The intention of develop-
ment of stronger ties with the EU, as a fundamental partner of Russia,
lost momentum after the escalation of tensions in Ukraine. In fact, the
events seem to demonstrate that existing frameworks for dialogue and
cooperation are limited in terms of their reach, and that much of the
stated cooperation goals were not really socialised and internalised in
the agendas and procedures of both actors. Lack of trust remained an
obstacle in this relationship as clearly shown in the current context of
high tension. Slowly, the relation has moved from a values-oriented
approach to a technical one.
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 47

It is nevertheless interesting to note the appeal for diplomatic means

and multilateral mechanisms, building on existing networks, for the
promotion of cooperative initiatives. This statement emerges as a balance
to the bloc’s approach reminiscent of the Cold War period. In the context
of the recent crisis in Ukraine, or Georgia in 2008, this reference gains
added relevance. The pursuit of a policy that is simultaneously asser-
tive and defensive, reveals the ambiguities Russia faces in dealing with
competitive dynamics in its neighbourhood. Also, the sovereignty prin-
ciple that has been very much present in the Russian discourse, against
violations of the internal affairs of states or state sovereignty, seems
not to apply to the post-Soviet space. These ambiguities have become
acute with the case of Ukraine. What is defined in the various Foreign
Policy Concepts (2000; 2008; 2013) as a ‘predictable foreign policy’,
seems not to be so predictable. These ambiguities also contribute to
misconceptions about Russian goals and actions particularly in the post-
Soviet space where the trend seems to be a reactive aggressive-defensive
posture, including through support in military and economic terms to
anti-governmental forces, as a way of assuring the maintenance or even-
tual reinforcement of its influence in this area of interest. However, the
increasing heterogeneity in the post-Soviet space is visible in terms of
these countries’ policies and options (Zagorski, 2011: 44).
From this analysis, three main ideas should be highlighted. First, Russia
aims at a consolidated internal development course as well as an active
foreign policy, projecting itself as a great power in a polycentric inter-
national system. Second, there is a constant duality between the stated
principles that sustain this vision of Russia’s place in the international
system, and its posture within and before this order. The Ukrainian case
demonstrates this dualism by confronting basic principles stated in these
fundamental documents in terms of objectives and instruments. The
‘sovereignist’ perspective together with a defensive foreign policy in the
post-Soviet space, translated into offensive actions whenever Moscow
feels the need to defend its interests in this area, seem to underline the
dilemmas for Russian foreign policy when seeking to achieve different
objectives. The repositioning of Russia as a major power with prevailing
influence in the post-Soviet space has been sought both in territorial
terms, as the case of Crimea illustrates, and on the basis of consolida-
tion of influence, such as in the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Political and economic influence have been the privileged instruments
at the service of Russian foreign policy, with Crimea constituting an
exception. The Russian rhetoric of justifying the ‘reintegration’ of the
Crimean territory on the basis of history and international law, does
48 Maria Raquel Freire

not preclude this from being an illicit act of ‘annexation’ of a territory

strategically located. Additionally, this Russian move sent a clear signal
to the central authorities in Kiev about the need to balance European
aspirations with neighbourly relations with the Russian Federation.

Conclusion: Russia and ‘greater Europe’

Russia has been promoting what might be called a ‘policy of differen-

tiation’ through its affirmation as a distinct actor in the international
system that can offer alternative paths to development and moderni-
sation. This emphasis results from the understanding that the leading
Western models of political and economic governance are hegemonic
and excluding. Difficulties regarding integration processes, specifi-
cally in the Euro-Atlantic space, defined as selective, and therefore as
excluding Russia, are mentioned as examples of the distancing that is
resulting from readings about the ‘greater Europe’. For example, the
Russian proposal on a European Security Treaty or its approach to the
modernisation policy demonstrate both the feelings of exclusion in
Moscow, and a willingness to become a more active participant in this
broad European space, where the neighbourhoods of the EU and Russia,
in particular, meet. The proposal for a ‘multipolar European order’ in
which the EU’s dominant role is counterbalanced by Russia and Turkey
also reflects disagreement with an order that Russia understands as
unequal. However, it should be highlighted that Turkey’s ambition to
enter the EU seems distant, and other states neighbouring the Union,
such as Ukraine and Georgia, hardly seem to have chances of joining,
at least in the medium-term. This means that the ‘greater Europe’ space
should remain unchanged with regard to the current placing of the EU
(even if the Balkans enlargement takes place), Russia and Turkey.
Discussions about the meaning of ‘strategic partnership’ or of what
could be a ‘new framework agreement’ between Russia and the EU point
to the fact that the distance in perspectives is harder to bridge than
the formulation suggests, despite dialogue on concrete areas of disagree-
ment. The current tense relations between Russia and the EU and the US,
in particular in face of the Ukrainian crisis, are a clear example of how
there is a long road ahead in moving from words to deeds. The under-
standing of logics of imposition coming from the EU with regard to
socialisation of norms, even if falling into a technical line, has hindered
cooperation. ‘[S]tarting in 2000, the EU opted for a pragmatic approach
of “constructive engagement” with Russia, where a partnership was seen
as a requirement, rather than a choice on the basis of shared values or
Russian Foreign Policy and the Shaping of a ‘Greater Europe’ 49

norms’ (Casier, 2013: 1380). Also, ‘instead of dialogue with Russia and
genuine attempt to understand Russian concerns, the Brussels bureauc-
racy simply prefers to impose its own standards on Moscow without
taking into account the ability of Russia’s economic and social system
to comply with these standards’ (Kazantsev and Sakwa, 2012: 291). This
complex setting for relations is further deepened in distancing logics
by competition over the ‘shared neighbourhood’, with the EaP and the
‘near abroad’ approach, as pursued by the EU and Russia respectively,
conflicting (Makarychev, 2014: 68).
Nevertheless, there is still space for cooperation in this ‘shared neigh-
bourhood’, with issues such as counter-terrorism, energy or technolog-
ical cooperation playing high on the agenda. The transnational nature
of many issue-areas in the working relationship between the EU and
Russia might prove an element of convergence, despite the current deep
divergence trends.

On the one hand, relations between the EU and Russia are highly
structured and institutionalized (with over 30 working groups and
regular meetings) ... On the other hand, however, the EU’s view of
modernization is closely linked to liberalisation, whereas Russia’s
focus has been on innovation ... Furthermore, as the competition
over the former Soviet space between the two partners becomes more
polarized and increasingly focused on trade integration issues, this
will also represent further hurdles to the modernisation partnership.
(Freire and Simão, 2015).

Thus, overcoming the current polarised state of affairs is essential to

unblock cooperation, even if at a more technical level.
Russian foreign policy has used different instruments ranging from
cooperation to coercion, but the underlining principles of actuation have
remained centred on the role and place of Russia in the international
order, defined as polycentric. Contestation of Western hegemony has
increased and the current context of difficult relations with the EU and
the US has prompted closer relations to Turkey and the BRICS, in search
for alternatives. ‘For more than 20 years, Moscow had made clear its
claim to a privileged position in what it saw as its periphery ... while the
EU appeared to assume that the neighbourhood was empty of risk, there
was good reason to expect pushback from Russia. The failure to address
the Russian dimension as the Vilnius process [the Eastern Partnership of
the EU] went forward directly challenged Russia’s preoccupation with its
status as a regional power’ (MacFarlane and Menon, 2014: 96–97). The
50 Maria Raquel Freire

redesign of the ‘greater Europe’ that Moscow is seeking envisages, there-

fore, what it describes as a more inclusive order, where Russia’s status as
an influential power is recognised.

1. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was estab-
lished in 1975, and from 1 January 1995 its name was changed to OSCE.
2. See Casier (2013: 1381) on how the norms identifiable in fundamental Foreign
Policy Concepts of the Russian Federation (FPC, 2000, 2008, 2013) do not
differ much from those stated in the European Security Strategy (ESS, 2003).
3. See Davutoglu (1998) on the perception of unequal treatment by the EU and
how this provides space for different readings about ‘Europe’.
4. The EST proposal emerged first as involving only European states, thus
excluding the United States as a participating member, evolving afterwards to
a more inclusive document, not only extending the possibility of membership
to the United States but also envisaging the possibility of including interna-
tional organisations, such as NATO or the CSTO. Overall, the proposal ended
up in too broad a format which would hardly become an effective working
mechanism; however, its symbolism in terms of its meaning for European
security must be highlighted. Russia demonstrated its willingness to devise a
new European security architecture beyond the Atlantic Alliance’s prevalence,
one that would be inclusive in its design, i.e. allowing Russia a voice and a
vote on European security issues. See for example Baranovsky (2010), Diesen
and Wood (2012).
5. See for example Tsygankov and Tarver-Vahlquist (2009); Kanet and Freire
(2012); Averre (2007).
6. For a discussion on this topic see the special issue ‘The European Union and
the Black Sea: The State of Play’, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies,
edited by Sinem Akgul Acikmese and Dimitrios Triantaphyllou (2014).
7. The withdrawal of Georgia from the CIS was ratified by the Commonwealth
in November 2008.

Acikmese, S. A. and Triantaphyllou, D. (eds.) 2014. Special Issue: The European
Union and the Black Sea: The State of Play. Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern
Studies, 16(3).
Adilgizi, L. 2014. Old Rivals or Regional Partners: Russia, Turkey and Crimea,
Al-Jazeera, 16 March. Available at
[Accessed: 4 May 2014].
Averre, D. 2007. Sovereign Democracy and Russia’s Relations with the European
Union. Demokratizatsiya, 15(2), 173–190.
Bagci, H. 2013. Turkey-Russia Relations: A Partnership of Trust, Despite Some
Differences, Valdai Club, 16 December. Available at
asia/65520.html. [Accessed: 4 May 2014].
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Baranovsky, V. 2010. Russia’s Approach to Security Building in the Euro–Atlantic

Zone. The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs, 45(2),
Casier, T. 2013. The EU-Russia Strategic Partnership: Challenging the Normative
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Cohen, A. 2014. Turkey and Russia: Alliance or Battle Over Energy?, The Globalist,
9 December. Available at
ance-or-battle-over-energy/ [Accessed: 4 February 2015].
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final, Brussels, May.
Davutoglu, A. 1998. The Clash of Interests: An Explanation of the World (Dis)
Order. Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, II, 4(17).
Diesen, G. and Wood, S. 2012. Russia’s Proposal for a New Security System:
Confirming Diverse Perspectives. Australian Journal of International Affairs,
66(4), 450–467.
EaP Summit 2009. Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit,
Prague, 7 May, 8435/09 (Presse78). Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.
eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/er/107589.pdf [Accessed: 4 May 2012].
European Council 2003. A Secure Europe in a Better World – The European Security
Strategy. December, Brussels..
Flanagan, S. 2013. The Turkey-Russia-Iran Nexus: Eurasian Power Dynamics. The
Washington Quarterly, 36(1), 163–178.
FPC 2000. The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation. Approved by the
President of the Russian Federation V. Putin, 28 June. Available at http://www. [Accessed: 4 November
FPC 2008. The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, 12 July. Available
at [Accessed: 4
November 2013].
FPC 2013. Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, Approved by
President of the Russian Federation V. Putin on 12 February 2013, 303–18–02–
2013. Available at
2E0039B16D [Accessed: 4 November 2013].
Freire, M. R. and Simão, L. 2015. The Modernisation Agenda in Russian Foreign
Policy, European Politics and Society, 16(1), 126–141.
Freire, M. R. 2014. Russian Reactions towards EU-Black Sea Integration. Journal of
Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 16(3), 370–382.
Ivanov, I. 2015. Russia, Turkey and the Vision of Greater Europe. Russian
International Affairs Council (RIAC), January 12. Available at http://russian- [Accessed: 4 May 2012].
Kanet, R. E. and Freire, M. R. (eds.) 2012. Russia and European Security. Dordrecht:
Republic of Letters Publishing.
52 Maria Raquel Freire

Kazantsev, A. and Sakwa, R. 2012. New ‘Dividing Lines’ in Europe: A Crisis of

Trust in European-Russian Relations. Communist and Post-Communist Studies,
45, 289–293.
MacFarlane, N. and Menon, A. 2014. ‘The EU and Ukraine’. Survival: Global Politics
and Strategy, 56(3), 95–101.
Makarychev, A. 2014. Russia and the EU in a Multipolar World. Discourses, Identities,
Norms. Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag.
Markedonov, S. 2011. Turkey and Russia: An Evolving Relationship, Center for Stra-
tegic and International Studies (Russia and Eurasia program), Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, Washington, D.C., 19 August. Available at http://carn-
Medvedev, D. 2010. Speech at meeting with Russian ambassadors and permanent
representatives in international organizations, Russian Presidential Executive
Office, 12 July. Available at: [Accessed: 4
May 2012].
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Presidential Executive Office, 29 November. Available at: http://eng.kremlin.
ru/news/275 [Accessed: 4 May 2012].
President of Russia 2014a. Treaty on Eurasian Economic Union Signed, Russian
Presidential Executive Office, 29 May. Available at:
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Valdai Club, 27 February. Available at:
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4 February 2015].
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Neighbors, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 45, 401–412.
Sakwa, R. 2012. Looking for a Greater Europe: From Mutual Dependence to an
International Regime, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 45, 315–325.
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and the Russia-Georgia Divide. Foreign Policy Analysis, 5, 307–326.
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Turkish Relations: Where Are They Headed? Sage Open, July–September, 1–15.
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping
Neighbourhood with Russia and
the European Union
Çiğdem Üstün


After the enlargements of the European Union (EU) in 2004 and 2007,
the importance of the Black Sea region, including the Caucasus (Wider
Black Sea), increased in the agenda of the Union, and Russia became
a geographical neighbour of the EU. Whereas the EU started showing
interest in the region only after its enlargement, Turkey emphasised its
importance by initiating the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)
already in 1992, immediately after the end of the Cold War. By doing so,
Turkey demonstrated its intention to focus on a multilateral regional
approach, until the international conjuncture and the surprise effect
of the changes in the international scene following the 9/11 attacks
forced Turkey to address other priorities. Similarly, for more than two
decades, Turkey has been making efforts towards strengthening its rela-
tions with Russia while balancing its policies towards the west and the
east. The first part of this chapter analyses Turkey’s regional policies in
relation to the EU, the second part in relation to Russia. The chapter
concludes by answering questions regarding Turkey’s perception of the
EU and Russia in the region, its own role and its EU accession ambi-
tions. The questions that the chapter tackles include: How does Turkey
perceive the other two actors and their policies in its neighbourhood?
How does Turkey see its own role in its neighbourhood? How does
Turkey define its changing foreign policy in relation to its EU accession

54 Çiğdem Üstün

EU and Turkey in the Wider Black Sea

The EU has been active in the Black Sea region, especially after its enlarge-
ment in 2007. The fact that the two new members, Romania and Bulgaria,
border the Black Sea made the EU a part of the region and legitimised
it as a regional actor. As was the case in previous enlargements, the EU
was concerned about a negative ‘exclusion effect’ on the neighbours in
these regions and the creation of dividing lines between ‘ins’ and ‘outs’
(Aydın, 2005: 259). As it did when constructing a Mediterranean policy
after the membership of Spain and Portugal, in 1986, or establishing the
EU’s northern dimension covering the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland
after the 1995 enlargement, the EU designed a Black Sea dimension after
the 2004/2007 enlargement.
The Black Sea has been significant in terms of energy security, since
several member states are heavily dependent on the secure and steady
flow of oil and gas from this region or from Middle Eastern imports
transiting through the region. The region is a bridge between Europe,
the Caspian Sea and Central Asia, working as an energy and transpor-
tation corridor between these areas. The resources of the Caspian Sea
represent ten per cent of world energy resources (NATO Parliamentary
Assembly, 2006)1 and have become strategic for Europe’s energy secu-
rity, especially after the energy crises with Russia, in 2006 and 2009,
increased the significance of diversifying energy resources and alterna-
tive energy projects. Europe imports nearly 50 per cent of its energy
through complicated and dangerous routes, such as the Caspian Basin.
Twenty-five per cent of the EU’s energy imports transit through the
Black Sea region (Middel, 2007). Therefore, the EU gives special impor-
tance to energy and infrastructure projects as the most promising fields
for constructive cooperation in the region (Emerson et al., 2002: 11).
Following the disruptions in energy flows from the region to EU coun-
tries, the EU found it necessary to work on energy security strategies
which focus on internal policies for effective use of energy as well as
diversifying external supplies. But still, cooperation mechanisms such
as the Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA)/Baku
Initiative2 and the INOGATE program3 continue to hold their impor-
tance for cooperation in the energy sector. Through the development of
a Neighbourhood Policy and through securing energy routes, the EU has
thus tried to simultaneously stabilise its external borders and address
demands for further enlargement from its new neighbours across the
Black Sea region, preventing negative feelings (ICBSS, 2006: 1). On the
other hand, the EU has experienced a growing demand from regional
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 55

countries asking for a deeper involvement in the region at a multilateral

level, in order to create a more structured dialogue, ensure better imple-
mentation of regional development policies, and identify new synergies
of mutual interest (Celac and Manoli, 2006: 202).
In parallel, by the end of the 1990s the EU started to focus on Turkey’s
potential role in the Black Sea region and welcomed Turkey’s efforts to
align itself with EU positions: ‘Turkey, since the Helsinki Summit, has
regularly aligned its positions with those of the Union and when invited
to do so has associated itself with the Union’s joint actions and common
positions’ (European Commission, 2000: 67). As a result, Turkey was
encouraged to formalise the Caucasus Stability Pact proposed by Turkish
President Süleyman Demirel, which was akin to the EU’s Stability Pact
for South East Europe and was to be established under the Organization
for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) umbrella.
Turkey has sought to increase its role and engagement in the Wider
Black Sea region since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of
Soviet Union, although with limited success. In 1992, Turkey, along with
Greece, pioneered the establishment of the BSEC, with the participation
of all littoral states. However, political and military conflicts among the
regional states prevented a smooth-functioning multilateral organisa-
tion in the region. Süleyman Demirel’s suggestion for a Stability Pact
in the 1990s was thus another Turkish attempt to increase the interna-
tional community’s attention towards the region and highlight the need
for stability in the Caucasus. His plan had two stages: first, the establish-
ment of such a pact, to bring the issue to the agenda of the interna-
tional community; and secondly, negotiations between the actors, with
the aim to increase commercial and economic relations. However, this
project remained stillborn, due to the inhospitable international envi-
ronment. In the 1990s, the Black Sea and the Caucasus were not counted
as priority areas for the EU, but Demirel’s suggestion of creating such a
cooperation mechanism through the OSCE was nevertheless welcomed
by the EU member states. However, the fact that the proposed pact did
not include the Russian Federation explains why the establishment of
Caucasus Stability Pact was met with adversity at the time (Kanbolat,
During the 2000s, the EU put a lot of effort into enhancing the foreign
and security policies of the Union, and in 2003 published its first Security
Strategy, entitled ‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’. This strategy paper
focused on the new security challenges, such as regional conflicts,
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), state failure and organised crime,
while proposing objectives such as building a secure neighbourhood and
56 Çiğdem Üstün

an international order based on effective multilateralism. The strategy

identified key challenges and objectives focusing on the Mediterranean
and the Middle East as well as the new neighbourhoods in Southern and
Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea region as a whole (European
Council, 2003). Since the 1990s, Turkey as a regional state emphasised
the importance of regional cooperation and multilateral relations in the
region. Thus, the emphasis on the neighbourhood and multilateralism
have been welcomed by Turkey and perceived as an opportunity for
Ankara in creating regional cooperation mechanisms with the support
of the EU.
The most relevant EU project for Turkey in the Black Sea region was
TRACECA, linking countries from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Turkey
became part of the programme in 2002, perceiving it as a fundamental
step to increase its share and role in regional transportation corridors
while decreasing the traffic at the Bosphorus straits (Kaya, 2003). This
programme is seen as a crucial tool to increase the share of the Black Sea
harbours in the global energy markets and make Turkey a connecting
hub for three regions via railroads and highways, while increasing the
strategic value of Turkey for European countries. Therefore, Turkey places
special emphasis on the railroads to connect Kars, Tbilisi and Baku,
Hopa-Batumi and Trabzon-Erzincan (Şensoy, 2007). Turkey believes that
TRACECA is the most effective project for Turkey to increase foreign
direct investment, tourism, regional development, hard-currency
income and employment rate (Aytaç et al., 2007).
Turkey is also a part of the Black Sea cross-border initiative, and some
cities on the Black Sea coast, i.e., Istanbul, Tekirdağ, Kocaeli, Zonguldak,
Kastamonu, Samsun and Trabzon, are covered by the Black Sea Basin
Programme (European Commission, 2007). However, these initiatives
are of secondary importance due to the fact that they are limited to
maritime issues. In addition to energy, environment and transport, the
region is crucial to the EU’s efforts in fighting against organised crime,
illegal drugs, human and weapon trafficking, corruption and money
laundering. In this framework, Turkey’s steps towards furthering coop-
eration in the Black Sea region were welcomed by the EU. Peaceful
relations and solutions to the frozen conflicts in the region have been
Turkey’s priority, while emphasising the value of rule of law, democratic
transition and respect for human rights and establishing collaboration
on regional matters with the West (Davutoğlu, 2009). In this collabora-
tion, it has to be stated that Turkey has been aware of the importance
of Russia’s weight in the region. Therefore, although integration with
the EU was not explicitly advocated, increasing ties between western
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 57

countries and regional countries including Russia stood out as the main
approach of Turkey.
Georgia’s territorial integrity and the safety of the pipelines became
more important for Turkey, particularly after the construction of the Baku-
Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. In this context, Turkey sided with inter-
national efforts to resolve the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
A press release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Turkey stated
that ‘We follow with concern the events which have started yesterday
afternoon and led to wide-scale armed clashes this morning between
Georgians and South Ossetians’ (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008). In its
policies during the five-day war, Turkey mainly tried to balance its posi-
tion between NATO, the EU and Russia. Turkey’s position regarding the
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict however has been rather different from its
balanced position in the case of Georgia.Although Turkey has supported
the international response to the conflict in Nagorno–Karabakh, it has
developed close relations with Azerbaijan, which prevented it from acting
as a mediator in the OSCE Minsk Group, even though it wanted to do so
in the early 1990s. Especially after the exercise of the embargo towards
Armenia in 1993 and suspension of diplomatic relations, Turkey became
an actor rather than a mediator in this conflict. In 2015 President Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan clearly stated during Aliyev’s visit to Ankara that Turkey
will continue to support Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
so that it finds its solution within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan
(Today’s Zaman, 2015). Turkey’s position regarding the withdrawal of
the Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani regions is aligned with
the EU’s. However, the general understanding is that the EU is still a
peripheral actor in the conflict although it has been made a priority
in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and Eastern Partnership
(EaP). However, the neighbourhood policies utilising different tools,
such as the civil society, increased trade and economic activities, do not
seem to be successful in making the EU an influential actor on conflict
related issues (Janssen, 2012).
In addition to Turkey’s priorities and preferences, Russia is a deter-
mining factor in Turkish policy towards the region (Kona, 2008: 15).
Since the 1920s, Turkey has been careful and prudent regarding relations
with Russia. Therefore, Turkey underlined its preferences in the region
towards the settlement of conflicts in line with international rules
and regulations set by the United Nations (UN) and/or the OSCE, but
also stated several times that involvement of actors such as the United
States (US) should be minimised while the EU’s involvement in coop-
eration with the BSEC should be increased (Loğoğlu, 2007). Although
58 Çiğdem Üstün

EU member states are also part of the NATO structures, Turkey gener-
ally believes that multilateral cooperation mechanisms such as BSEC
including the EU would create a better environment for conflict resolu-
tion in this region rather than through US involvement.
Despite a number of discrepancies and conflicts between the regional
states – namely Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia – relations
with the EU have been the unifying element among them (Tarkhan-
Mouravi, 2007). The EU is eager to be involved in the resolution of
conflicts in the region for its own sake as well as for the benefit of the
regional states (Grabbe, 2004: 1). However, the EU is hesitating to take
firm steps because of its poor relations with Russia (Grabbe, 2004: 3).
Both the EU and Turkey believe that these conflicts hold the potential
to further destabilise the Caucasus with negative consequences beyond
the region (Hunter, 2006: 123). This multiplicity and diversity of players
and policies complicates the regional conflicts and relations among the
players. However, it has been argued that the EU has the reputation
of an ‘honest broker’ and is known as having a wide scope of instru-
ments for achieving peace and stability (Indans, 2007: 143). Especially
through BSEC, the EU has been seen as the most pertinent actor to
bring a multilateral approach in the region.4 After the Ukrainian crisis in
2014, Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner
Štefan Füle’s visit to Ukraine was an important step in demonstrating
the EU’s ability to sustain a long term soft power approach. But one
should also consider that the EU is still lacking the political determina-
tion in offering a European perspective in the region, i.e., EU member-
ship, which created a disappointment (, 2014).
In contrast, some argue that the EU would have less chance to influ-
ence the outcome of conflicts in the region since the resolution of the
conflicts is largely dependent on political-military patron states (Nodia,
2004: 7) and the EU’s record in conflict resolution efforts – such as in the
Balkans and Cyprus – is not very promising. In order to be successful,
European initiatives towards conflict resolution in the region should
thus include regional states and organisations such as the BSEC. The
approach that both the EU and BSEC have preferred has been to focus
more on low level politics i.e., transportation and cross-border initia-
tives. Since 2007, EU has been acting as an observer in BSEC and an
environmental partnership was launched in 2010. In 2012, the Turkish
chairmanship of BSEC promoted a meeting of the BSEC Troika and the
Working Party on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) under the
EU Council of Ministers. Therefore, it is fair to argue that Turkey wanted
to act as a leading regional actor while bringing the EU and the regional
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 59

organisations closer to each other. Turkey’s policies towards the region

aim not only at being a regional leading figure but also, and maybe more
importantly, proving itself valuable to the EU in its relations with the
Black Sea regional states. Consequently, this pushes Turkey not to exer-
cise hard security measures and not to act with hard power measures,
but instead to exercise a more normative power while making efforts to
spread the EU’s policies and cooperation models regarding economic,
cultural and social policies, such as the Black Sea Ring Highway,
exchange programs for university students, tourism, abolition of visas,
development aid, etc.
However, Turkey’s relations with Armenia have hampered Turkish
capacity to intensify relations among the regional states. As Turkey’s
relations with Armenia were constantly criticised by the EU, tentative
steps were taken to gradually normalise realtions between the two coun-
tries, such as the establishment of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation
Commission, involving several civil society organisations, parliamen-
tarians and local government representatives with a view to encourage
Turkey and Armenia to open the Kars-Gyumri border. After Turkey’s
involvement in TRACECA, the problematic relations between Azerbaijan,
Turkey and Armenia became a concern for that programme as well. In
this framework, especially after Armenia’s complaints to the EU regarding
Turkey’s aloof attitude towards this multilateral agreement (Armenian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2002), the EU has started to firmly advise
Turkey on the normalisation of relations with Armenia.
In response, some further positive developments in relations with
Armenia took place in 2002, as seen in the European Commission’s
Regular Report on Turkey:

positive developments have taken place in bilateral relations [between

Turkey and Armenia]. Bilateral meetings between the Turkish and
the Armenian foreign ministers took place on several occasions. The
Armenian foreign minister visited Turkey to attend the Black Sea
Co-operation Council in Istanbul in June 2002. Visa requirements for
Armenian citizens entering Turkey by plane from Armenia have been
simplified. Several initiatives have taken place at the grass root level of
civil society to promote closer co-operation between the two countries.
The activities of the Turkish Armenian Business Council (TABC) are
worth mentioning in this context. (European Commission, 2002: 128)

In 2007, steps were taken to further relations with Armenia, and the
EU welcomed the high level meetings between Armenian and Turkish
60 Çiğdem Üstün

officials. Turkey and Armenia began implementing confidence-building

measures, including facilitation of transit transportation to and from
Armenia, and direct flight connections between Yerevan and various
destinations in Turkey. Besides these measures, an initiative regarding
the establishment of a commission comprised of Turkish and Armenian
historians, as well as other experts aiming to study the 1915 events,
was welcomed by the EU and perceived as a constructive step to move
forward on the track of normalisation of relations.
The EU has also emphasised Turkey’s role in the Black Sea region and
perceives Turkey as an important actor in promoting stability and secu-
rity in the region. As the EU focused more on Turkey’s regional role,
Turkey took further steps towards increasing multinational cooperation
in regional security and defence policies, such as the establishment of
the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group (BLACKSEAFOR) in 1998.
BLACKSEAFOR aimed to improve peace and stability in the region, with
the participation of littoral states, by enhancing the cooperation between
maritime forces. The agreement on BLACKSEAFOR was signed in 2001,
with Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and
Ukraine agreeing to form a multinational force, and identifying ‘mili-
tary exercises’, ‘search and rescue operations’, ‘humanitarian assistance’
and ‘port visits’ as possible areas of cooperation. The ‘First Political
Consultations’ meeting under the BLACKSEAFOR took place in 2004,
with the participation of representatives of foreign ministers, under-
lining the significance of the region and the importance of maintaining
its peace and stability through the engagement of common assets and
capabilities (Bozkurt, 2011: 5). Meetings among the participant coun-
tries continued in the following years in Moscow (2004), Kyiv (2005)
and Tbilisi (2005). Although these efforts, combined with those of the
BSEC and other regional organisations, aimed at increasing Turkey’s role
as a gatekeeper to and from the Black Sea, the conflicts in the region
prevented the continuation of these meetings and operations. In order
to increase its role, Turkey also conducts a national maritime operation
entitled Black Sea Harmony, securing sea lanes in the Black Sea in line
with UN Security Council resolutions to provide support in the global
war on terror. Turkey’s main goal has been to enhance this operation
with the participation of littoral states, such as Russia, and turning it
into a multinational effort (Babaoğlu, 2005).
The EU welcomed all these efforts, as stated in the Regular Reports:

Turkey has continued to participate in the Stability Pact for South-

Eastern Europe, chairing Working Tables I and II. Turkey promotes
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 61

co-operation around the Black Sea including the Black Sea Economic
Co-operation Organization and the BLACKSEAFOR. (European
Commission, 2003: 123)

In the 2004 report, the European Commission continued to note that

‘Turkey promotes cooperation around the Black Sea including the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation Organisation and the BLACKSEAFOR which entered
into force in November (2001)’. (European Commission, 2004: 153)
In 2006, another multilateral initiative was initiated by Romania,
entitled ‘Black Sea Forum for Partnership and Dialogue’, in which
Turkey participated as an observer. The forum’s basic goal was to
encourage democratic transformation, improve security and bring an
end to conflicts while ensuring economic progress (, 2006). It
was meant to hold annual presidential level summits and thematic or
sectoral cooperation meetings during those annual intervals. However,
Russia’s unwillingness to collaborate in this forum hindered further
cooperation. Similarly, Turkey approached this initiative with caution
due to concerns over other regional cooperation initiatives such as
the BSEC. Although Turkey has good economic and political relations
with Romania, Turkey was concerned that the BSEC could be overshad-
owed, and argued that the sustainability of good relations lies at the
core of existing cooperation instruments within the region such as the
BSEC, the BLACKSEAFOR and Operation Black Sea Harmony, in which
Turkey fully participates (Atalay, 2006). Also, Turkey, perceiving itself as
a leading actor in the region, prefers the cooperation mechanisms that
were initiated by itself while utilising a balanced policy towards Russia.
As a result of reciprocal needs, in 2006 the European Commission adopted
the Communication on ‘Strengthening the European Neighbourhood
Policy’ (Triantaphyllou, 2007: 298) followed by the Black Sea Synergy
Paper entitled ‘A Black Sea Synergy – A New Regional Cooperation
Initiative’ in April 2007. The two documents focused on democracy and
good governance, immigration, promoting confidence-building measures,
energy security, support for regional transport cooperation, environment,
trade, fisheries, maritime policy, research and education, science and
technology, employment and social affairs and regional development as
the main areas of cooperation. This communication was prepared with a
view to open a window on fresh perspectives and opportunities, requiring
a more coherent, longer-term effort to bring increased stability and pros-
perity to the region (European Commission, 2007: 10).
Finally, at the end of 2008, the European Commission published the
Communication on Eastern Partnership towards Armenia, Azerbaijan,
62 Çiğdem Üstün

Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine, laying out

guiding principles in fostering stability and prosperity, trade rela-
tions leading to the establishment of a network of free trade agree-
ments (FTAs), visa liberalisation, deeper cooperation in energy security,
reducing disparities, and improving the capacity of regional institutions.
The partnership foresees the establishment of Association Agreements,
a comprehensive institution building programme, FTAs, mobility
and security pacts and a new framework for multilateral cooperation
(European Commission, 2008). All of these policy areas presented by the
EU have been welcomed by Turkey. Especially after the start of the acces-
sion negotiations, Turkish authorities perceived them as an opportunity
to develop synergies between the EU and Turkey. In the beginning of the
2000s, Turkish foreign policy’s motto has been set as ‘zero problems with
the neighbours’, which coincided with the motto of the neighbourhood
policy in a nutshell. The possibility to increase the cooperation mecha-
nisms though the EU including Turkey as a candidate country did suit
the foreign policy aims of Turkey. That is why the Black Sea Synergy,
which was more comprehensive and inclusive than the EaP, was more
appreciated by Turkey. In the Eastern Partnership, Turkey felt that not
only had it been excluded but also that Russia would be left out of the
regional cooperation mechanisms.
Turkey was satisfied with the EU’s efforts after the publication of the
Black Sea Synergy, and stressed the importance of the EU’s existence as a
neutral actor in bringing peaceful solutions to the conflicts in the region
(Ustun, 2010). However, Turkey believes that the favourable atmos-
phere that was created after the publication of the Black Sea Synergy
faded away when the EU published the Communication on the Eastern
Partnership, due to the fact that some of the regional actors (such as
Turkey and Russia) were excluded from both bilateral and multilateral
initiatives, creating the very ‘exclusion effect’ that the EU had been
trying to prevent (Emerson, 2004). The EU’s new initiative is strength-
ening the divisions among the regional states, which are already divided
due to clashing conflicts of interests. Therefore, Turkey believes that the
EU needs to concentrate its energy on existing initiatives such as the
Black Sea Synergy rather than creating new initiatives and new dividing
lines among the regional states.5

Russia and Turkey in the Wider Black Sea

Russian-Turkish relations have had their ups and downs throughout

the centuries. During the imperial era (Ottoman and Russian Empires),
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 63

Russo-Turkish wars started in the mid-1500s and continued till the

end of the 1800s. After the establishment of the new Turkish Republic,
Turkey signed one of its first bilateral agreements with Russia, in 1925,
on neutrality, non-aggression and mutual consultation. However, after
the signing of the Montreaux Convention, 1936, Russia complained
about Turkey several times in the press, and during World War II, Russia
demanded the modification of the convention (Sadak, 1949: 452). In
1952, Turkey’s membership in NATO and its acting along with the US
deepened the divide between the two neighbours. However, the end of the
Cold War brought fundamental changes to Turkish and Russian external
policies. While Moscow adopted policies aimed at keeping Turkey out
of the Wider Black Sea region (Tuncer, 2000: 104), Turkey insisted on
creating cultural, political and military bonds with regional countries.
Therefore, there has been a fundamental conflict of interests between
these two major regional actors. However, during the last decade, and
in spite of all the political controversies, official trade between Russia
and Turkey increased to 3.5 billion US Dollars and unofficial luggage
trade6 was estimated between six and ten billion US Dollars. As Sezer
(2000) agues, the managed geopolitical rivalry of the 1990s together
with economic cooperation brought virtual rapprochement.
During the Cold War, larger parts of the Wider Black Sea region were
under control of the powerful Soviet Union. When this control eroded in
the 1990s, Russia tried to take advantage of the opportunities offered by
its strategic place and political heritage (Security Council of the Russian
Federation, 2009). Its objective was to shape events in the region and
thus strengthen its international standing (Legvold, 2001). This was
particularly important towards its near abroad – including Moldova,
Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – which has been
one of the main concerns of the Russian Federation after the dissolu-
tion of the Soviet Union. Borrowing from its imperial past, Russia has
perceived itself as the guardian of stability in the region, and a balancer
between East and West, as the unique moral authority (Benes, 2010).
Accordingly, in 2010 Russia’s military doctrine emphasised the need for
a new international security architecture, since the existing structures
did not provide equal security for all states (President of the Russian
Federation, 2010).
Regionally, in the political vacuum left by the dissolution of the
Soviet Union, Turkey saw a window of opportunity to reach out to
the newly independent Turkic states, but also to increase its political
influence in the whole region, including the Black Sea itself. Turkey
acted fast in recognising the newly independent post-Soviet states and
64 Çiğdem Üstün

in opening embassies. In the 1990s, Turkey’s governments empha-

sised the importance of cultural, linguistic and ethnic ties with the
Central Asian and Caucasus countries, in order to increase cultural ties
as well as foreign policy options (Punnsman, 2012). As two regional
actors, Russia and Turkey, simultaneously tried to increase their polit-
ical leverage in the region, their respective interests led to conflicts
regarding political and military strategies, cultural and economic ties,
as well as energy needs.
In the 1990s, the Russia-Turkey relation experienced some impor-
tant hiccups, namely regarding the support for ethnic separatism in
Chechnya and the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan). Chechnya’s decla-
ration of independence in the mid-1990s led to a domestic debate in
Turkey, since a sizable Chechen community lives in Turkey. Turkish
public opinion and a number of politicians showed support for the
Chechen movement through the media, causing tension in the rela-
tions with Russia. Already in 1995, a visit from Chechen leaders to
Turkey had caused controversy, and the discontent in Moscow increased
in 1996, when Chechen groups hijacked the Avrasya Ferry.7 Since the
Turkish government did not react as harshly as Russia requested, then-
President Boris Yeltsin accused Turkey of being slow to launch opera-
tions to rescue the ferry (Kinzer, 1996: A3). In retaliation, Russia did
not hesitate to play its Kurdish card and Russian government officials
attended a conference organised by the PKK in Moscow. These tensions
between Russia and Turkey had consequences in their relations with
neighbouring countries. Russian cooperation with Iran, and the pres-
ence of military bases in Georgia and Armenia increased the concerns
over Russian-Turkish relations. Similarly the close relations between
Turkey and Azerbaijan as well as its naval superiority in the Black Sea
added to the negative perception of Turkey among Russian leaders.
Furthermore, in the Balkans, by the end of the 1990s, Russia and Turkey
backed opposing sides in the wars following the collapse of the former
Yugoslavia as Russia supported Serbia and Turkey sided with Bosnia and
Kosovo (Sezer, 2000: 76).
While confrontations and controversies shaped relations between
Russia and Turkey in the 1990s, the start of the next decade was marked
by renewed bilateral cooperation. Following the 9/11 attacks, a meeting
between Turkish and Russian Foreign Ministers led to the drafting of a
common action plan including cooperation in political and economic
fields and against terrorism (Kasım, 2004). After Putin’s election, Russia
recovered from its image of a collapsed empire and started to be perceived
as a strong country in the region. Putin’s election in Russia coincided
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 65

with the election of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey. Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defined Russia as a crucial friend in trade,
tourism, energy and investment. In the 2000s, with the reformulation of
Turkish foreign policy, instead of a threat factor, Russia became an ally.
In the field of energy security however, Turkey’s closure of the Black Sea
Straits to large oil tankers and potential new energy agreements among
regional countries excluding Russia troubled relations between the two
nations. Thus, when Putin came to power discussions on new pipeline
projects involving Turkey and Russia were driven up in the bilateral
agenda. As energy security became a crucial debating topic in the region
and in Europe, Russia reemphasised its leading role in production, while
Turkey highlighted its strategic geographic situation and role in energy
transit. In 2014, Putin’s statement regarding the abandonment of the
South Stream project to bring Russian gas to Bulgaria under the Black
Sea, bypassing Ukraine, opened debate on the construction of a new
pipeline through Turkey. The main aim of European and Turkish states
is to ensure access to Caspian reserves and bring gas from the Caspian
and the Middle East to European markets, in order to increase European
energy security by using fully commercially run pipeline systems passing
through Turkey and the Balkans (Roberts, 2004: 112). This is crucial in
an era when the EU grapples with the interrelated problems of ensuring
energy security and the provision of energy supplies from multiple
sources at competitive prices (Roberts, 2004: 112). In this environment,
Turkey has realised the necessity of investing in alternative projects to
guarantee an affordable, secure, uninterrupted flow of resources, both
to benefit from its geopolitical position and to become an energy hub
for the EU (Nasirov, 2009), since it is perceived as a natural transit point
(Öğütçü, 2000) for the region.
However, the energy-rich regions of the Wider Black Sea and the Middle
East are politically volatile and impacted by great power politics and
external dynamics, thus limiting the ability to realise projects. Caspian
politics is a complicated poker game that is being played within a global
chess game (Öğütçü, 2000). In this political environment, Turkey, as one
of the biggest investors in the region, is willing to use its close historical,
cultural and economic ties to link European energy-consuming countries
with Caspian energy-producing countries, while increasing its regional
role in the Caspian, Middle East and Europe (Yalçınkaya, 2006).
Although both Turkey and Russia emphasise energy security in their
relations with the EU, their approach to relations with the Union remains
very different. Turkey’s status as a candidate country means that its rela-
tions with the Union have been shaped by the accession negotiation
66 Çiğdem Üstün

process since 2005. On the other hand, Russia has rejected inclusion
in the ENP framework, arguing that the strategic relationship between
the EU and Russia could not follow the ENP’s dynamic (DeDardeleben,
2010: 250). Thus the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
and the EU-Russia Four Common Spaces8 serve as the relevant insti-
tutional frameworks for energy relations and negotiations. Although
Russia’s most important markets for energy exports, and for trade and
technology acquisitions are in the EU (Ker-Lindsay, 2008: 55), the EU’s
political leverage over Russia has been considerably less important than
its leverage over Turkey.
Also, Russia has been very careful about new actors in this very compet-
itive region, and has attempted to mitigate influence and interference
from the EU, the US, Turkey, Iran and Israel (Aydın, 2004: 6). The region
has become a frontline of global importance (Shaffer, 2010: 54) and
Russia has been concerned about the European enlargement into eastern
and south-eastern Europe. Turkey, in a similar way, has been perceived as
the ‘other’, due to its historical legacy together with cultural and religious
differences. The notion of outsiders is increasingly used in the literature
to describe Russia and Turkey in their relations with the Union (Sakwa,
2010). Thus, Turkey and Russia, both aiming to be the main influencing
actor in the region, have found themselves in an uneasy partnership
(Torbakov, 2007: 9), which has also fueled their economic complemen-
tarity as Russia has become one of Turkey’s largest trading partners with
bilateral trade volume reaching 38 billion US Dollars in 2008 (Aras, 2009:
7). In the first nine months of 2014, trade volume reached 24 billion US
Dollars (International Bussiness Times, 2014).
In 2008, frozen conflicts in the region proved their explosive poten-
tial with the Russian-Georgian War. This conflict affected Turkey’s
relations both with Russia and its neighbourhood, i.e., Georgia and
Azerbaijan. While transportation and trade between Russia and Turkey
were affected negatively, an explosion in the Turkish section of the
BTC pipeline close to the Georgian border a few days prior to the mili-
tary operations raised some concern about the possible targeting of the
pipelines (Coskun and Yevgrashina, 2008). Turkey, as part of the western
security structure and a candidate to the EU, put an enormous effort
towards balancing relations with its western and eastern neighbours
while emphasising the need for creating confidence building regional
mechanisms, not only during the Five Day War but also since the
collapse of the Soviet Union. This has been the reason behind the forma-
tion of BSEC (Micu, 2012), as well as the Turkish-Georgian-Azerbaijani
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 67

multilateral security cooperation in 2002, and the Caucasus Stability

and Cooperation Platform in 2008.
After the proposal to establish the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation
Platform, 2008, bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey have
improved and visits of President Gül to Moscow, meetings of Prime
Ministers in Sochi, and the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs meeting
with Russia’s Minister of Energy paved the way to the Joint Economic
Commission meeting and Putin’s visit to Turkey. Therefore, it has been
argued that Russia has positively reacted to most of Turkey’s suggestions
for creating regional mechanisms due to its economic interests (Trenin,
1997), and that Russia’s new foreign policy is based on pragmatism,
meaning an intention to go about business in practical ways, curbing
historical biases and ideological distractions (Legvold, 2001: 71). During
the 2000s, Russia and Turkey focused more on their commonalities
rather than the conflicts in their relations, increasing economic and
trade relations, as well as diplomatic relations between the two countries
(Aktürk, 2013: 13).
However, as mentioned before, Turkey’s relations with Russia had
ups and downs and, with the Arab revolts in the Mediterranean
region, 2011, the relations between these two main trading partners
have been affected negatively once again. The Russian-Turkish wars,
animosity during the Cold War years, and conflicts between the two
countries due to their respective support for Chechen and Kurdish
groups were the main issues affecting neighbourly relations. During
the Arab uprisings, Russia’s relations with Syria and Turkey’s opposi-
tion to Assad put Turkey in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis Russia
(Zarakol, 2012: 2). In addition to the tensions regarding Syria, Iran’s
nuclear programme has been an interstitial case at the global level in
the UN, and between Russia and Turkey at the regional level. Following
the Syrian case, the Ukrainian crisis also created concerns in the rela-
tions. Turkish authorities emphasised the importance of Ukraine’s
territorial integrity, sovereignty and political unity. However, it has
been observed that Turkey has been reluctant to adopt an aggres-
sive attitude toward Russia in this conflict (Adilgizi, 2014). Even in
Crimea, home for the ethnic Turkish minority of Tatars, Turkey raised
some concerns, but it has been observed that Turkey preferred not to
disturb the relations with Russia in the region. At the international
level, Turkey as part of the OSCE was more engaged and Ambassador
Ertugrul Apakan of Turkey was appointed Chief Monitor of the OSCE
Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
68 Çiğdem Üstün


In light of the analysis presented above, the answers to the research

questions leading this chapter are now clearer. The questions included:

1. How does Turkey perceive the other two actors and their policies in its
2. How does Turkey see its own role in its neighbourhood?
3. How does Turkey define its changing foreign policy in relation to its EU
accession ambitions?

In order to answer these questions, the relationship between the histor-

ical legacies and the foreign policy aims of the Turkish Republic in the
region should be understood. Turkey, with its imperial past and as a result
of political changes occurring in the region over the last two decades,
had the intention to regain its power as a determining and indispensible
regional actor. In this framework, Turkey presented itself not only as a
model but also as a big, caring brother, while using its cultural, political,
economic and social links and strategic location between east and west.
Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey placed emphasis on neighbour-
hood policies in the Mediterranean but also the Black Sea region. In the
Black Sea, Russia and Turkey perceived each other as rivals in the 1990s;
but in the 2000s, Turkey realised the importance of cooperation with
Russia in order to become a more effective regional actor. In the 1990s,
Turkey was surprised by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, unable
to adapt to the new international setting, was caught up in the security
threats of the region. By the end of the 1990s, Turkey started emphasising
the importance of good and friendly neighbour relations while learning
to act more strategically in this particular region. Davutoğlu, who acted
first as the advisor in foreign affairs and then became the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, continued this policy by adding new principles such as
rhythmic diplomacy, zero problems with neighbours, balance between
security and freedom, proactive peace diplomacy and the multilateral
approach, in order to decrease the securitisation of relations among the
regional countries and introducing a more regional approach.
All the same, Turkey increased its trade and economic relations with
Russia by focusing mainly on construction and tourism sectors, lifted
visas to ease travel, especially of business people, and placed a special
value on energy relations, with an aim to provide both domestic and
European energy security. These policies resemble the EU’s partnership
Turkey’s Policies in Its Overlapping Neighbourhood 69

policies towards Russia. Also, Turkey’s increased trade and social rela-
tions with its southern neighbours were similar and mostly in line with
the EU’s neighbourhood policies towards the Mediterranean. Turkey
also demonstrated that it is giving priority to a more regional multilat-
eral approach during the crisis situations, i.e., the Five Day War in 2008,
as a result of its new foreign policy architecture.
In this context, Turkey welcomed the EU’s Black Sea Synergy, since it
has perceived the policy as an opportunity to contribute as an indispen-
sible regional actor. However, when the EU announced its new regional
policy, the EaP, in 2009, Turkey criticised the Union because the policy
excluded Turkey and Russia. Turkey always defended the position that
policies should include Russia and Turkey if the EU wants to be an
effective actor. Besides, Turkey emphasises the importance of including
regional organisations, to create a confidence-based peaceful region
through increased political and social dialogue. Therefore, Turkey reem-
phasises its role in energy, transport, trade, environment and conflict
resolution policies to be applied in the whole region, either through
regional organisations or the EU.
Turkey’s intensified relations with its eastern neighbours created ques-
tions regarding Turkey’s foreign policy axes. Turkey had never given
up its European ambitions, and in 2005 accession negotiations started
with the Union. Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic, balance
between the eastern and western countries has been the main policy in
its external affairs, although relations with the east ceased during World
War II and the Cold War. Resumed relations after the Cold War are still
in the process of development, but it must be admitted that they are
still in their infancy. Also, it needs to be stated that the EU is also trying
to develop its policies towards the region and these two actors do have
converging interests which necessitate cooperation. Thus, Turkey argues
that its developed relations with the region and its membership in the
EU will contribute to further development of the EU’s regional policies
in the Black Sea, since it can play the role of gate keeper.
All in all, as Turkey sees the multilateral approach as the most effec-
tive way to increase its political leverage in the region; it has empha-
sised the importance of the regional approach for regional problems and
conflicts since the 1990s. This approach is also believed to strengthen
Turkey’s hand in controlling the other regional actors; thus it believes
that by increasing multilateralism it would increase its role as a regional
actor. As the EU has become more interested in the whole region and
developed closer relations with Russia, Turkey’s multilateral regional
70 Çiğdem Üstün

approach could be used for the EU’s benefits as well. Thus, the general
argument can be summarised as: Turkey’s increased regional activity
would prevent the EU’s exclusive relations with Russia, but would force
it to include Turkey in its future policies.

1. Information available at NATO Parliamentary Assembly, ‘Frameworks and
Areas of Cooperation in the Black Sea Region’,
2. Information available at
3. Information available at
4. In the Istanbul Summit Declaration in 2012, it was stated that the BSEC
confirms the importance of establishing a strategic relationship between BSEC
and the EU, and that the BSEC is commited to strengthen cooperation with
the EU as well as other international organizations.
5. Interviews conducted by the author, EU4SEAS project, 2007–2010.
6. Luggage trade is unofficial cross-border economic trade especially between
Russia, CIS countries and Turkey. In the 1990s, this type of trade was estimated
at an amount of $10 billion. The visitors are popularly known as luggage
traders because of the huge amounts of goods they buy and pack in their
luggage for the return trip. Laleli, a district of İstanbul, is known as the trade
center for luggage trade.
7. Avrasya ferry was hijacked in 1996 in the Black Sea by five Turkish nationals
and two Chechens as the ferry was departing from Trabzon en route to Sochi.
The group demanded that Russian forces to halt the operations at the border
between Chechnya and the Russian republic of Dagestan.
8. In 2003, EU and Russia agreed to reinforce cooperation covering the economic
space, space of freedom, securiy and justice, space for external security and
space for research and education.

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EU–Russia Relations and Norm
Diffusion: The Role of Non-state
Sandra Fernandes


The European Union (EU) and Russia have developed an intense dialogue
that has been deepened and enlarged from the year 2000 onwards.
Despite growing misunderstandings, the interaction in the institutional
framework of cooperation has shown that the existence of a dialogue has
been valuable to partially bring together mutual perceptions (especially
the EU28 and the more assertive Russia). In some cases, the dialogue
may be compared to a ‘dialogue of the deaf’ because Brussels would like
to interact with a more European Russia and one which is convergent
with its political values and economic rules; whereas Russia wants to be
recognised as an equal partner, and is willing to redefine some rules of
the international game.
In this context, it can be argued that both actors can benefit from
fostering ‘reciprocity’ to manage interdependence in their relation-
ship and in their shared neighbourhood. This is particularly relevant
because both actors’ pledges for closer relations with the countries of
the neighbourhood are increasingly competitive – as the Georgian 2008
war and the Ukrainian crisis of late 2013 illustrate – thus impacting
on developments in these countries. In International Law, reciprocity
explains why states respect rules without coercion (Keohane, 1986;
Mavroidis, 2008). Thus, reciprocity may promote stability in global poli-
tics. This phenomenon has been explained by game theories, namely
the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’, which explains how cooperation is possible
provided that actors can learn to overcome a dilemma (Devin, 2002: 38;
Rasmusen, 2001). As a consequence, iterated games favour confidence

76 Sandra Fernandes

and the practice of cooperation instead of go it alone and defensive

strategies (Murnigham and Roth, 1983). Axelrod has also contributed to
explaining the phenomenon by evidencing the effect of iterated games
in creating reciprocity, namely among states (Axelrod, 1984; Wu and
Axelrod, 1995). The perspective of future encounters with the same
player is an incentive for both to cooperate and reciprocate strategies
since it may be repeated in forthcoming situations. Globally, reciprocity
in iterated games diminishes the fear of cheating, which is the biggest
obstacle to cooperation. Consequently, reciprocity is able to promote
stability in a direct (between states) or indirect (multilateral agree-
ments) way. In this context, international regimes organise reciprocity
(Dougherty and Platzgraff 2003: 669–676). Regimes are, then, a provider
of global governance on specific issues; they facilitate norm diffusion
and contribute to the institutionalisation of cooperation.
Additionally, international relations are not the pure product of inter-
state relations; these relations are better defined as relations between
different types of actors, namely between different social groups across
borders. Smouts and Badie (1995) analyse the transformations of the
international system and underline the challenges faced by the state as
a universal model. They observe that this model is undermined by the
proliferation of transnational actors that are not, de facto, controlled
by state sovereignty. This phenomenon is not new but it is acceler-
ating, based on the increasing sophistication of means of commu-
nication. Moreover, ‘the increased mobility of the individual in the
international system tends to concede specific resources that gradually
turns him into a full player in international relations’1 (Smouts and
Badie, 1995: 15–16).
The contribution of the literature on ‘reciprocity’ and norm diffu-
sion tends to place the focus on state actions or on formal institutions,
as above mentioned. In the case of EU-Russia relations, studies have
evidenced, for instance, the role of EU institutions or the role of President
Putin’s leadership in shaping the difficult agenda of norm convergence.
The reactions from some Russian citizens towards what was perceived as
an unfair electoral environment in 2011–2012, and legal cases against
Russian citizens such as the ‘Pussy Riot’ feminists and the oppositional
lawyer Magnitsky, have shed light on the role of non-state actors in the
issue of norm diffusion, beyond the role of formal institutions.
This chapter aims at analysing how civil society plays a role in shaping
EU-Russian relations by contributing to norm diffusion. The chapter
observes Russian civil society in the context of the functioning of
democracy, particularly in the latest electoral ballots, and the role of the
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 77

EU business sector. We define ‘civil society’ as ‘organised groups free to

promote their interests independent of the state, such as trade unions,
business associations, agrarian cooperatives, churches, academic and
professional bodies’ (Rose et al. 1998: 34). The actions underpinned by
civil society reinforce the issue of values and principles and of Russian
divergence from democratic rules (Tocci, 2008). The private business
sector is interested primarily in defending trade interests, thus this
sector takes a more pragmatic approach towards Russia that does not
prioritise value observance. Nonetheless, these actors also need stable
rules for trade (reciprocity, predictability), as is the case in the sensitive
energy sector. Although they push for agreements to favour business
relations, an appropriate environment is also needed to develop busi-
ness in Russia. This environment should be provided by an adequate
visa policy and civil liberties, namely the right to private property.
Additionally, tackling the issue of corruption in Russia is important to
develop business in Russia.
Considering EU standards, we firstly analyse how the Putin regime
has evolved towards a model of democracy that external observers
consider deviant (Orttung, 2010; Freedom House, 2014). We present the
(in-) actions of civil society in Russia. We give special emphasis to the
2007 and 2008 elections since they showed the consolidation of Putin’s
rule, creating an outcry among critics. Secondly, we consider the cate-
gory of business people and their interest in promoting the diffusion of
the principle of ‘reciprocity’ in order to promote reciprocal and liberal
economic rules.

Civil society in the Russian ‘unfinished’ democracy and

divergence from the EU model

In a study about post-communist societies, Rose states that ‘[t]he most

important features of the post-totalitarian legacy are the things that are
missing – the rule of law and the institutions of civil society. The actions
of Communist regimes created distrust of major institutions of society’
(Rose et al., 1998: 66). The issue of the non-democratic political regime
of the Russian Federation, the lack of rule of law and the level of authori-
tarianism informing Russian politics is a recurring debate since the end
of the Cold War (Merlin, 2007a). It has been particularly debated since
Putin rose to power and especially since his second mandate (Shevtsova,
We may nonetheless criticise an exaggerated interpretation of Russian
politics based on an understanding of Russian relations with Brussels
78 Sandra Fernandes

as purely a product of Putin’s political regime. Other factors influ-

ence decision-making in the Federation. Trenin (2002) underlines that
Russian internal transformations are key elements in Russian relations
with the rest of Europe. In 2006, it became increasingly clear that these
evolutions were not in line with the democratic model defended by the
EU. This fact impacted negatively on EU-Russia relations but it had also
facilitated the emergence of non-state actors that opposed government
policies. As Trenin (2002: 1) underlines, ‘Russia’s “entry into Europe”
cannot be negotiated with Brussels. It has to be first “made in Russia”
itself’. The internal level is thus instrumental in the issue of normative
convergence with EU standards.
We do not tackle here the debate about Russia being a democracy or
not, and in particular the criteria to make such a measurement. We raise
instead the question of whether Russian civil society has had a role in
fostering convergence to the standards set by the EU, taking into consid-
eration Russian political developments and criticism by the Union. The
deputy head of the Russian mission to the EU explains how Russians
approach the issue of shared values (Trofimov, 2007). He underlines
that ‘each person has a view on democracy’ and questions the correct
application of democratic rules in the Union. He stresses that no one
can claim to have a perfect model of democracy and that its definition
depends on the public perception of what is happening in a country.
According to him, ‘that is what democracy is’. With this observation,
the Russian diplomat expresses the Russian view on the relativity of the
notion of ‘democracy’ as opposed to a universal approach to it. This
constitutes a gap perception between the EU and Moscow.
The latest electoral periods have been particularly illustrative of the
difficulties in creating the above-mentioned dynamic of convergence
with the EU. The 2007–2008 ballots in Russia constituted a turning-point
in the consolidation of Putin’s regime. In 2008, observers noted a rela-
tive decline of democracy in Russia, referring namely to the uncompeti-
tive elections in Russia and to its worst performance in the category of
civil society according to The Freedom House (2009: 2, 4). The December
2007 legislative elections confirmed the United Russia Party as the ruling
party and secured Medvedev as its candidate and as future president of
Russia from 2008 to 2012. In the presidential ballot, Medvedev obtained
roughly 70.2 per cent of the vote (United Russia Party), followed by
the Communist Party with 17.8 per cent. The ultranationalist Liberal
Democratic Party received 9.4 per cent and the arguably Kremlin-backed
Democratic Party had 1.3 per cent. Turnout attained a comfortable 65
per cent (Jégo, 2008a).
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 79

United Russia, created in 2001, is considered to be Putin’s party. It

resulted from the merger of two parties: the centrist Fatherland – All
Russia and the pro-government United Party of Russia. Since its crea-
tion, it has obtained increasing electoral victories in Duma and presiden-
tial elections (PBN, 2007; Russia Votes, 2007; 2008). This dominating
tendency is not, however, seen in elections for regional parliaments since
the creation of the party. Despite the fact that United Russia won these
elections, the results have been lower than expected (Petrov, 2006).2
As far as regional elections are concerned, Meleshkina (2003: 107–118)
relativises the grip of the Kremlin’s centralisation on the results. These
results are explained by the Russian system of corruption informing the
deviations to the rule of law (see below). Meleshkina underlines that
the control over the media was only partial and that local populations
hope that the regions will eventually beneficiate from the wealth of the
governor (municipalities do not have resources for social policies).
Orttung (2010) considers the Russian system as ‘an authoritarian one
defined by the lack of an opposition, difficulties recruiting new leaders,
and an increasingly brittle information-gathering process’ (2010: 6).
The successive rounds of legislative and presidential elections have
also improved the ability of the leadership to control electoral results.
Orttung further presents the constitutional and electoral law reforms as
key elements that have curtailed the democratic functioning in Russia
(2010: 6–10). Kryshtanovskaya (2007), a sociologist specialising in the
study of the Russian political elite, considers that United Russia has
built its biggest strength in the creation of a network. Trenin (cited in
Buckley, 2007) underlines that there is no social base of the party but
that it is a party of the ‘bosses’ instead. Both analysts agree on the fact
that the party is a powerful instrument used by political leaders and
The Levada Centre also points out that most Russians are indifferent
to these political dynamics, since their survival (nation and livelihood)
is still a priority for them as compared to the daily life difficulties of the
1990s. This social apathy is in line with the low degree of openness of the
Russian society. Taking into consideration travel statistics, the Russian
society is still relatively closed, since only eight per cent of the popula-
tion travels abroad regularly. The author of the study also considers that
only this small liberal minority of Russians understands clearly the situa-
tion in Russia and abroad.3 The Levada Centre also analysed civil society
opinion concerning the 2007 and 2008 elections. A majority of Russians
(83 per cent) considered that they were not in position to influence
politics whether they vote or protest in the streets. It is a consequence
80 Sandra Fernandes

of the Soviet era, during which people had to adapt individually and did
not trust collective solidarity. Despite the existence of NGOs and a struc-
tured civil society large-scale demonstration are unlikely in this context.
Putin’s supporters were the only actors who wanted to take part in the
campaign and electoral game.
The fact that the 2007 and 2008 elections were not observed by the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) casts
a serious shadow on the legitimacy of the results. The organisation
declined to send observers alleging that Russian authorities had placed
too many restrictions on its work (Buckley and Belton, 2008). It was the
first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that the OSCE’s Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) cancelled an elec-
tion monitoring mission in Russia (Belton, 2007b). ODHIR is considered
Europe’s main election watchdog and the failure to launch the mission
has casted serious doubts about the poll’s integrity. Additionally, the
Communist Party and a Russian NGO named Golos denounced irreg-
ularities even before the end of voting (Golos, 2008). The Council of
Europe, the only international body sending observers, did not consider
the election as being ‘fair’ and ‘free’ nor that the ballot had attained
its ‘democratic potential’ (Le Monde, 2008). Concretely, the President
and his supporters dominated the national television channels; oppo-
sition parties participated in broadcasted debates in which the ruling
party declined to participate; protesters such as Kasparov were jailed on
unconvincing charges. Additionally, the ‘tiny minority parties, which
hold to values that would be recognised as genuinely democratic outside
Russia, are harassed as if they were a threat to the state’ (Financial Times,
2007). The leader of the liberal party Yabloko declared that United Russia
is a state party that dominates the political scene and that it is very
difficult to organise any kind of resistance (Yavlisnky, 2007). According
to Shevtsova (2008), the Russian population sees political parties that
are cynical and corruptible and a parliament that obeys the executive.
In this context, the population does not expect better outcomes from
an eventual multiparty system considering the fake liberalism of the
In the specific context of the 2007 legislative elections and 2008
presidential elections, the issues of democracy, freedom of speech and
association, party politics and rule of law were particularly visible in
the agenda of EU-Russian relations. This period is, thus, particularly
interesting in the analysis of the impact of civil society in bridging (or
not) the growing gap between, on the one hand, Brussels’ expectation
of transforming Russia in accordance with the same principles that it
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 81

applies in its neighbourhood policy4 and, on the other hand, Russia’s

claim to develop its own model. It is not argued here that the issue
of democracy has impacted on the agenda of cooperation as such but
that the issue of values and principles has gained visibility, which has
been more advanced by EU defenders of a principled relationship. The
role of civil society in the political debate supported the critics against
the authoritarian deviation of Putin’s Russia. For pragmatists, the elec-
toral period was synonymous to ‘standing by’ because a new leadership
was needed to advance further concrete cooperation.5 The expectation
of a new president was putting ‘on hold’ any further developments in
EU-Russian relations.
Irregularities and lack of freedom during the election processes not
only damaged Putin’s international image but also put a brake on coop-
erative relations with the EU since Brussels is critical of Putin’s rule and
applies, at least rhetorically, democratic conditionality to its diplomatic
relations. In 2007, a presidential decree limited further the freedom of
speech, already enforced in the written media, broadcasting and more
indirectly in NGOs. The law created a super-agency to regulate not only
the media but also the internet that had been spared until then. The use
of homicide as political method has been another negative element that
became especially visible with the death of the journalist Politkovskaya
and of the former spy Litvinenko, both in 2006. The detention of
Khodorkovski and Lebedev in the Yukos case in 2003 are also signals of
the dangers of public life in Russia, in particular for the oligarchs who
do not follow the orientations of the Kremlin. In 2009, the arrest and
death in custody of the lawyer Magnitsky brought visa sanctions from
the United States and the EU.
Some analysts suggest that Putin’s grip on power has materialised
because of the psychological impact of the Ukrainian ‘orange revolution’
and Georgian ‘rose revolution’. Trenin (2007) underlines that Moscow
does not see the ‘coloured revolutions’ as spontaneous uprisings against
unpopular regimes, but rather as the fabrication of western foreign policy.
The restriction on international monitors may also be explained by this
mind-set since external observers helped Yushchenko in his claims of
electoral fraud in Ukraine in 2004, against the pro-Putin candidate. As a
result a new ballot was organised and the opposition won the elections.
Considering this mind-set, the capacity of the Russian opposition to
promote change is not only considered a threat by the institutionalised
power but is also seen as foreign interference.
Additionally, the idea that Russia is encircled by enemies is back,
similar to Soviet times (President of Russia, 2014). In 1998, a first poll on
82 Sandra Fernandes

the issue revealed that few people considered that Russia had enemies
and half of the population recognised that the problems were internal.
However, by 2007, 77 per cent of the population was convinced that
Russia had enemies and that a war was possible. In this view, Russian
natural resources are perceived as being especially targeted by external
operations and Putin is seen as a leader who maintains national values
and a return of Russia as a world power. The assessment of Putin’s success
by the population is very much related to his foreign policy and espe-
cially to the new aggressive tone he brought on energy issues. On the
improvement of the quality of life, he is not considered very successful
since social institutions continue to be underdeveloped.6 The positive
perspective on Putin’s role for the external position of Russia and the
defence of nationalism makes it less probable that civil society will strive
for significant changes in norm diffusion to alter the model of political
values. Merlin (2007b) synthesises this paradoxical situation: the process
of ‘de-democratisation’ happens in parallel to genuine popularity of the
President. Merlin contrasts the previous violent shocks experienced by
the population with the greater economic stability under Putin.7 She
considers that Russians have lost points of reference in this evolution.
After the election of Dmitry Medvedev to the presidency in 2008,
European heads of state and governments congratulated him without
paying attention to the conditions under which he was elected (Jégo,
2008b). Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Nikolas Sarkozy and the presi-
dent of the European Commission welcomed the new president in order
to overcome the difficult relations with Putin. The US ‘reset’ policy initi-
ated towards Moscow at the time also set a positive tone for the arrival of
Medvedev, arguably undermining previous efforts of support to democ-
ratisation. Neither the EU nor the United States made significant state-
ments about the ballot, contrasting with the St. Petersburg symbolic
rally that gathered to denounce the illegitimacy of the result. Similar
rallies were prevented in Moscow by anti-riot police forces, but the
Kremlin-backed youth movement Nachi walked through Moscow with
ultra-nationalist posters, raising suspicion about an eventual Kremlin
recruitment of these young people to rally (Jégo, 2008b).
The NGO Human Rights Watch (2008) issued a special report on the
2006 Russian NGO law restricting independent civil society activism.
The report also presented recommendations, namely to the EU. The
Union is, in fact, a supporter of Russian civil society, providing them
with financial assistance. Between 2002 and 2006, the EU has granted
over six million euro to NGOs operating in the Russian Federation under
the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 83

The projects have supported local civil society in the fields of human
rights and democratisation and they have not required endorsement
by the beneficiary country. Nonetheless, the European Commission
acknowledges that they ‘have been placed under increased scrutiny from
the Russian authorities’ (European Commission, 2008: 13). On its side,
Russia has been supporting extreme right and populist movements in
Europe as partners who share views on ‘traditional family values, belief
in authoritarian leadership, a distrust of the US and support for strong
law-and-order measures’ (The Associated Press, 2014).
Clément (2007) sheds light on some evolution, particularly regarding
specific regions and issues, in the context of the still overwhelming
tendency of apathy of the Russian population. She observes that, since
2004, protest movements have intensified. An average of 50 collective
actions, mainly about housing and labour issues, takes place each week
in the country, gathering about 10,000 people (2007: 36). The poten-
tial for change is also underlined by other analysts that have observed
regional elections (Eismont et al., 2010). They alert against an oversim-
plified image of Russia as authoritarian and undemocratic. The change is
represented by the election in March 2009 of an unknown candidate for
mayor in Krasnoturinsk, who ran against a member of the United Russia
Party that was in power for 20 years. ‘There is a pretty active civil society
and, in conditions like those in Krasnoturinsk, it can easily show itself
and lead to a failure of the administrative political machine’ (Eismont
et al., 2010). Mens (2007: 29) considers that Putin traded stability for
civil liberties and wonders how long the Russian society will accept to be
censored. Despite the actual focus of the middle class on consumption
and the introversion of rural populations, the potential for opposition is
growing because time is undermining the traumatising memories of the
Yeltsin years. This evolution will push the Russian citizens to be more
demanding at the political level. The 2011–2012 electoral contexts seem
to be a signal in that direction.
On the EU side, the European Parliament (EP) is the most concerned
actor with the issue of rule of law and the political use of justice in
Russia. Eastern European Members of the European Parliament (MEP),
in particular active Baltic and Polish MEPs, have kept a strong focus on
these issues.8 Globally, the EP voices the growing EU disappointment
concerning the Russian democratic path, as the EP recommendation
to the Council about the Magnitsky case illustrates. The EP requested
visa sanctions for the Russian officials who were involved in the pre-
trial arrest and death of the lawyer Magnistky in 2009.9 The text also
included sanctions for serious human rights violations in other similar
84 Sandra Fernandes

cases (European Parliament, 2012). It was the first time that such a
measure was requested and, thus, a clear demonstration of a value-based
approach towards Russia. As the rapporteur mentioned, ‘a European
Magnitsky list ... [is] a carefully targeted affirmation of European values’.
She also stressed that ‘there should be no progress towards visa-free
travel for Russian officials without concomitant moves towards the
adoption of an EU Magnitsky law. It is time for the EU to put some back-
bone in its Russia policy and understand the leverage that it has over
the Kremlin’ (Ojuland, 2013). Russia must also answer ten questions
asked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in late November
2014 (ECHR, 2014). The Russian reaction has been to claim that the EU
and EU member states are interfering in domestic affairs and failing to
address its own human rights issues (Zakharova, 2013) and to recipro-
cate visa bans towards American nationals (Tass, 2015).
The positive record of Putin as a leader in the international arena is,
thus, a significant element in EU-Russia relations as it legitimises Putin’s
leadership despite curbing of the country’s democratic path and the
greater visibility of oppositional movements. Although the EU, mainly
through the EP, has criticised the last electoral processes and issues of
rule of law in Russia, the strategic interest of EU-Russia relations has
prevailed over the goal of the diffusion of political norms. Rhetorically
and in some projects, Brussels supports civil society initiatives but
the cooperative relation in key domains is prioritised. Nonetheless,
the acknowledgement that Moscow considers visa liberalisation a top
priority in EU-Russia relations raises seriously the issue of reforms in the
area of Justice and Home Affairs that Brussels requires to advance this
agenda.10 Visa talks were suspended in March 2014 in the context of the
Ukrainian crisis, evidencing a shift in the EU’s policy of engagement
with Moscow. Thus, the recent ballots and the agenda of cooperation
significantly raised the issue of common political values and principles
without providing significant diffusion of norms and an enhanced role
for Russian civil society.

The business sector and the interest in non-politicised

and stable EU-Russian relations

The issue of ‘reciprocity’ has also been problematic in fostering conver-

gence with Russia in trade and business relations. This section addresses
the role of the EU business sector in influencing intergovernmental
and legislative processes to diffuse norms that are in accordance with
its interests. Investment, work permits and corruption11 are especially
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 85

sensitive for entrepreneurs and EU member states that are the major
investors (and trade partners) in Russia. We address below how the need
for a favourable investment climate is pursued through norm diffusion
and a preference for non-politicisation of the relation. However, the
issue of non-politicisation has gained new impetus since 2014 with the
impact of the conflict in Ukraine on EU-Russia trade relations (reciprocal
bans have been put in practice) illustrating the linkage between poor
normative convergence between Brussels and Moscow and the evolu-
tion of the countries in their shared neighbourhood. The EU business
sector is represented in Russia by the Association of European Business
(AEB), founded in 1995. It aims primarily at promoting business with
and in the Russian Federation and with fostering EU-Russia relations.
The Association provides investment and economic advice, collaborates
closely with the European Commission and is an important partner of
EU-Russia relations.12 The Commission considers that trade has been
booming in the Putin years and that the task of the Association has
been instrumental in creating convergence. It means that the institution
does not aim at interfering in business but at creating the adequate legal
environment instead, with an emphasis on people-to-people contacts
provided by the AEB, for instance.13
The EU-Russia Industrialist Round Table (IRT) is another institution
dealing with business interests inside the EU-Russia cooperation frame-
work. The IRT defines itself as a ‘business platform’ and provides for busi-
ness dialogue and discussions on economic relations, and gives regular
recommendations to policy makers in the EU and Russia. It promotes
the goal of creating a common EU-Russia integrated economic area. In
2009, the President of the Russian Federation addressed the participants
for the first time. Emerson14 observes that the business sector values the
IRT’s work because it develops a valid activity contrary to what poli-
ticians are able to achieve. They sense that politics are often counter-
productive for relations and that the point is to address business as such.
Prior to the conflict in Ukraine, trade was been booming with Russia and
it evolved without a political framework.15
According to Souza (2008), the EU has played a major role in Russia
developing into a net foreign direct investment destination since its
economic recovery initiated in 1999, with a steady increase in foreign
direct investments from EU 28 countries. The larger European exporters
are: Germany, Italy and Finland (Eurostat, 2008). Souza (2008) under-
lines that there is ‘a consistently very high share of investment in Russia
from EU countries and territories: by September 2007, over 80 per cent
of investment inflow (and a similar figure for the stock) was from the
86 Sandra Fernandes

eight most important EU-based investors’ (2008: 4). Additionally, the

destination of foreign investment inflows in Russia shows that the larger
investors in almost all the sectors of the economy were Europeans.16
The growing interest of the EU business sector in Russia and the
concomitant need for stable rules of investment is demonstrated by the
unusual involvement of the AEB Legal Committee (a private organ) in
the drafting of a Russian law to limit foreign investment in strategic
sectors – entitled ‘On the Procedures to Make Foreign Investments
into Commercial Organisations of Strategic Importance to the Russian
Federation National Security’. The first reading occurred in the Duma in
September 2007 and was the result of a strong political signal sent by
President Putin in April 2005, when he declared that a legislative process
would be started in order to protect strategic sectors of the Russian
economy (President of Russia, 2005). The AEB supported a Russian law
about investments but was concerned by the shortcomings of the first
draft and especially about the extensive list of activities linked to national
security and the fuzzy definition of certain concepts, such as the defini-
tion of an ‘enterprise with strategic importance’ and ‘control over an
activity’ (AEB, 2007).17 Additionally, the absence of a transitional period
for the application of the law and the absence of information about the
role of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in deciding the investments
to be applied also raised concerns. The AEB wanted to intervene in the
legislative process, even in a public manner. In 2007, the business circles
were especially concerned about the electoral context that could lead
to higher restrictions on foreign investments, particularly in the energy
sector. The fact that the Samara EU-Russia Summit (May 2007) provided
for the launch of an EU-Russia dialogue on investment was considered
positive for the issue.
The AEB’s understanding was that the European Commission could
not concretely influence Russia as to the content of the law since some
European member states themselves had similar investment restriction
laws. Nonetheless, the Association sensed positively that Russians were
willing to redraft the law according to the World Trade Organisation
rules against monopolies and acknowledged the forthcoming practice
of having EU representatives (from the business sector and from EU
institutions) form a kind of ‘advisory council’ to the Duma positive and
offering opportunities to criticise and be heard.
The AEB and the European Commission participated actively in the
second draft that was submitted to the Russian lower house for a second
reading in March 2008. The revised text addressed one of the main EU
concerns: a clause preventing retroactive sanctions for decisions made
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 87

prior to passing the law (Shupe, 2008). Souza (2008: 4–6) underlines that
the main issue concerning the legal framework for foreign direct invest-
ment in Russia is not related to restrictiveness but to stability. He argues
that a lot of Russian sectors have experienced liberalisation, in particular
the electricity sector (while the gas sector remains mostly unreformed).
Stability is needed to guarantee transparent criteria for foreign investors.
The law was approved in April 2008 by the Duma and the Federation
Council, during the last days of Putin’s term (President of the Russian
Federation 2008).
The Russian visa policy is another concern for business actors. Since
July 2007, the EU and Russia have implemented a visa regime that aims
at facilitating the movement of persons between member states and
Russia. Despite this move, the business sector has encountered difficul-
ties in getting work visas. At the beginning of 2007, a governmental law
limited the number of clinics (owned by the Moscow city) that could
deliver health tests in the city. This move restricted the access to work
permits because the tests are needed to apply. The Russian authorities
argued that their quota had already been fulfilled but the AEB inter-
preted this pretext as a political move since, provided a payment from
the companies, foreigners could work in Moscow despite the quota. The
AEB acknowledged that the pressure was high to employ Russians18 and
that the working visa procedures became more complicated and, thus,
not supportive of stable and common norms in business relations.
Visa liberalisation is a top priority for Moscow but raises EU concerns
for political, security-related and technical reasons (Salimen and Moshes,
2009). Difficulties in smoothly implementing the 2007 agreement come
from the non-application of reciprocity, a core principle of the text. In
concrete terms, a visa request between an EU member state and Russia
might not require the same conditions on each side, resulting from
different criteria to issue a visa. The Commission has produced guide-
lines for the implementation of the agreement but has no means to force
Russia or European member states to implement them. More consist-
ently, one of the causes hindering the implementation of the EU-Russia
visa regime is the issue of corruption (and the lack of a centralised popu-
lation register in Russia that could ensure that one person possesses only
one passport). EU member states often advocate that corruption raises
the probability of purchasing falsified documents (Salimen and Moshes,
2009: 39). Currently, liberalisation is pursued in the framework of the
‘the Common steps towards visa free short-term travel of Russian and EU
citizens’ (European Commission, 2013). At the time of the approval of
the ‘common steps’, the EU argument to convince the reticent member
88 Sandra Fernandes

states to advance this agenda was the promotion of reforms in Russia.19

As a consequence of Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014, visa
talks were frozen.
For big companies working in Russia the priority is to assure the open-
ness of the Federation so that business could advance, considering that
Russians want to assure stability and to maintain very good growth rates
of business. Despite the impact of the 2008 financial crisis in Russia,
prospects for further growth were still positive. The continuity of the
EU-Russia dialogue in this context was important, namely to avoid
the emergence of traditional economic protectionist trends.20 An AEB
representative dealing with migrations in Russia also underlined that
the negotiations between Brussels and Moscow (for a new coopera-
tion agreement) were useful to avoid Russia drifting to a more protec-
tionist environment. He considered that Moscow is prone to assume
extreme positions and not find a balance between modernisers and
protectionists, something that has been demonstrated by the Russian
role in the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and its unwillingness to
avoid economic losses brought by visa and trade sanctions from the EU
(Dolidze, 2015). The goal of an EU-Russia common economic area has
been, thus, put in jeopardy by the economic sanctions adopted against
Moscow since 2014 as an attempt to stop its involvement in the East
Ukrainian conflict. These sanctions affect not only the Russian economy
but also EU member states because they reduce trade with Russia due to
countersanctions on food imports. Additionally, Moscow is attempting
to create its own integration project designed to attract Ukraine and
other countries of the shared neighbourhood. The Eurasian Economic
Union entered into force in January 2015 with Belarus, Kazakhstan,
Armenia and Kyrgyzstan and constitutes a challenge to EU economic
integration formats.


The EU specifically binds its relationship with Moscow to the provisions

that both parties endorsed in their framework of cooperation. These
provisions correspond to the diffusion of norms that are also promoted
by the Union in its policies towards the countries of the shared neigh-
bourhood. For the Union, achieving reciprocity is at the core of these
relationships. Nonetheless, the normative foundations of EU-Russian
relations have contributed to deepen a gap between the actors instead of
promoting approximation; this, in turn, has tended to produce competi-
tive political and economic models in Europe. The assessment of the
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 89

legitimacy of Russian political development and actions based on norma-

tive criteria has not fostered the expected convergence. Additionally, the
EU scrutiny on Moscow’s convergence, and the deepening of the Union
policies towards neighbouring countries, has contributed to Russian
resentment because the country does not accept what it considers as
undue EU ‘lecturing’ and threats against its national interests.
Civil society has played a role in the existence of a normativity and
legitimacy problem in EU-Russian relations. Whereas Russian civil
society is still conquering a significant role to influence the path towards
democracy under EU standards, the European business sector has been
able to achieve greater harmonisation of norms as far as trade relations
are concerned. This is partly explained by its close relationship with the
European Commission and its institutionalised status in the EU-Russia
framework of cooperation. Ensuring reciprocity in economic relations is
also related to the diffusion of political norms since the business envi-
ronment is highly dependent on the latter aspect of reciprocity. On the
one hand, the democratic model of the Russian Federation has been
sharply criticised, attaining a peak of criticism in the context of the 2007
and 2008 legislative and presidential elections. These critiques feed EU
positions that insist on a principled relationship with Moscow (condi-
tionality). On the other hand, the business sector pursues investment
and trade interests that imply a depoliticised relationship with Moscow.
The latter approach is limited because this sector of civil society also
has a need for stable relations that may provide an appropriate envi-
ronment for business activities. Reciprocity is, thus, a common goal
for all non-state actors, besides the EU and other organisations. The
delays in the Russian accession to the WTO were particularly illustrative
of the pursuit of reciprocity and how the lack of reciprocity (and thus
confidence) impacts negatively on further advancements of EU-Russian
The Ukrainian crisis has deepened further the issue of ‘reciprocity’
and how the dilemma between normative convergence and pragma-
tism affect EU-Russia relations and both actors’ engagement towards
countries of the shared neighbourhood. Economic interests explain the
EU’s caution in handling the Ukrainian case. The successive updates
of EU’s sanctions since 2014 to protest against Russian illegal annexa-
tion of Crimea and military backing of East Ukrainian separatists could
appear as a weak response given that the EU binds its relationship
with Moscow to principles and values that both parties endorsed. The
boomerang effect of sanctions on specific economies in EU countries
has been confirmed by Russian counter-ban on products imported from
90 Sandra Fernandes

the EU. Further sanctions might even be opposed by the most affected
EU member states.
There is a new internal dimension the Russian leadership has now
to deal with, whose effects are yet to be revealed. Despite the fact that
the majority party United Russia and Putin comfortably won the last
2011 and 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections, unprecedented
protest movements have emerged. Russian citizens have shown greater
willingness to participate in the political life of the country and, thus,
they contributed to counter the ‘vertical of power’ introduced by Putin
in 2001 and his status of legitimate ‘Czar’. The role of Russian civil
society in the issue of democracy is not yet very visible in terms of norm
diffusion. On the contrary, the role of the European business sector
has been instrumental in fostering more reciprocity in trade relations,
although the politicisation of this domain in consequence of compet-
itive models for their shared neighbourhood has been damaging the
potential achievements.

1. Author’s translation.
2. In March 2010, United Russia achieved a vast majority in regional and local
elections in 76 of the 83 regions of the Federation. They were the last major
elections before the round of national ballots held in December 2011 and
March 2012. The party managed more than 50 per cent of the votes in only
half of the regions and lost two significant mayoral elections in Irkutsk and
Ust-Ilimsk (Radio Free Europe, 2010).
3. Information gathered in Moscow, on 10 November 2007. The author partici-
pated in a non-public meeting among EU member states diplomats and a high
representative of the Levada Centre. This centre is an NGO founded in 2002 by
officials of the former All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM).
4. The EU applies conditionality in its relations with the countries of the Eastern
Partnership according to the following principles: rule of law; good govern-
ance; respect for human rights, including minority rights; promotion of good
neighbourly relations; principles of market economy and sustainable devel-
opment (European Commission, 2003). Although Brussels cannot use condi-
tionality with Russia, these values and principles are stated as the basis of
EU-Russia relationship (Fernandes, 2008).
5. Interviews realised in Brussels and Moscow in EU institutions and member
states embassies, in 2007 and 2008.
6. Information gathered in Moscow, on 10 November 2007. The author partici-
pated in a non-public meeting among EU member states diplomats and a high
representative of the Levada Centre.
7. In real terms, Russia’s economy has grown 70 per cent since 1999, helped by
high revenues from energy sales (Buckley, 2007).
8. Interview at the European Parliament Secretariat in Brussels, in September
9. The United States’ Senate has adopted a similar bill in 2011.
EU-Russia Relations and Norm Diffusion 91

10. Interviews with officials of EU institutions and member states representatives

in Brussels, in September 2012.
11. Concerning the issue of corruption, Mendras (2003) reveals a deeply rooted
system of corruption that is particularly prejudicial for citizens and the
Russian economy. Oligarchs, criminals and administrative bodies form a
systematic trio. The administration receives illegal income from the oligarchs
(bribes coming mostly from the deviation of public funds) not to apply laws
towards criminals. These criminals protect the interests of the oligarchs and
control some sectors of activity, namely the medium and small enterprises. A
representative of a Finnish company and head of the customs committee of
the AEB does not consider widespread corruption as a fatality but as a vari-
able that needs to be dealt with when doing business in Russia. Souza (2008:
5) also nuances the negative impact of corruption on investment climate by
comparing the Russian position among relevant regional and global bench-
marks. He observes that Russian performance is average in World Bank and
OCDE surveys, for instance. The continuation of corruption is explained by
the complex level of regulation that forces entrepreneurs to pay a double
price to develop their activities: first for the creation of their firms and then
to pay criminals and avoid being the victims of violence.
12. Data collected in Brussels, on 25 November 2008, during a meeting with AEB
13. Interview conducted at the Delegation of the European Commission in
Moscow, on 10 October 2007.
14. Data collected in Brussels, on 13 November 2008. We thank Michael Emerson
for his debriefing of his participation at the 10th IRT in Nice (France), on 12
November 2008.
15. Interview conducted in Moscow, on 27 September 2007, with the political
desk at the Delegation of the European Commission in Moscow.
16. The case of Cyprus is particular since almost a third of the money in the
banking sector comes from Russia because of the country’s position as a tax
shelter. This fact was highlighted recently when the EU wanted to impose a
tax on bank deposits against a governmental bailout. The Russian leadership
reacted vehemently against the tax (Hargreaves, 2013).
17. Our analysis about the AEB reaction to the law on restrictive foreign invest-
ments is also informed by a high level anonymous source of the AEB,
contacted on 24 September 2007, in Moscow.
18. Data collected in Moscow, on 24 September 2007.
19. Interview at the EEAS in Brussels, on 12 September 2012.
20. Data collected from the representative of a large French company, in Brussels,
on 25 November 2008, during a meeting with AEB representatives.

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Part II
Security in the Shared
The Securitisation of the EU’s
Eastern Neighbourhood:
What Role for Russia?
Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias


This chapter focuses on the European Union’s (EU) security relations

with the countries in its Eastern neighbourhood, namely Ukraine,
Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It assesses the
extent to which Russia’s political (in-) action contributes to EU security
policies vis-à-vis the region. It thus underlines the distinctive character
of EU relations with Russia – one of its most significant neighbours –
when compared to other smaller states in the EU’s neighbourhood. This
difference is based on this neighbour’s demands for and the recognition
by EU leaders of the strategic relevance of ‘closer relations with Russia’
for joint ‘security and prosperity’ (European Council, 2003: 14; see also:
European Parliament, 2011: 1; European Commission, 2011: 4). There
are several security issues on the common agenda, including political
stability, energy security and conflict resolution, particularly in Eastern
Europe and the South Caucasus – and towards which Russia has devel-
oped its own neighbourhood policies.
Building on the sociological approach to securitisation as developed
by Balzacq (2005, 2008, 2011), the chapter argues that there has been a
deliberate securitisation of the neighbourhood by the EU, which sought
to facilitate and justify the expansion of European integration as a stabi-
lisation mechanism (Waever, 1996; Browning, 2003; Higashimo, 2004).
It further argues that Russian foreign policy towards this common
neighbourhood has reinforced the need for the on-going securitisation
of the EU’s vicinity. The analysis focuses on the initial discussions on the
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) (2001–2009) and the growing

98 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

securitisation of EU relations with the Eastern neighbourhood through

the establishment of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). Furthermore, the
fact that the ENP’s security dimension is hardly disputed in the litera-
ture (Gänzle, 2007; Christou, 2010; Lynch, 2005; Cameron and Balfour,
2006), explains the need for an analysis of this strategy through the lens
of securitisation theories.
This chapter starts by laying down the main assumptions of the socio-
logical approach to securitisation and provides insights on the role of
agency, power and context in the securitisation process (Balzacq, 2005;
Ciuta, 2009; Williams, 2003; Knudsen, 2001). The chapter then proceeds
with a contextualisation of the EU’s security policies and approaches
to its Eastern neighbours, based on the analysis of EU discourses and
practices. The goal is to identify nodal points relevant for a systematic
analysis of the European securitisation process and the role played by
Russia. The final section devotes particular attention to the overlap of
and linkages between EU and Russian security policies in the region,
focusing on the role of agency, context and power as analytical tools.

Sociological securitisation

Security studies have benefited extensively from the work developed by

the Copenhagen School (Waever, 1995; 1996; Buzan et al., 1998), which
claims that security cannot be analysed as a given reality, but rather
must be assessed through ‘processes of securitisation’. These processes
are produced by speech acts (Waever, 1995: 55), articulated by relevant
and legitimate agents seeking to define threats to a referent object.
When successful, such definition will lead to the legitimate adoption
of exceptional political measures as a means of assuring security (Buzan
et al., 1998: 27). However, agency, power and context in this formula-
tion are severely restricted for the sake of methodological clarity; these
aspects have been addressed by its critics (Balzacq, 2005, 2008, 2011;
McSweeney, 1999), thus enlarging the grasp of the securitisation frame-
work as an explanatory tool.
According to Ciuta (2009: 317), by focusing on the ‘contextual meaning
of security’, we can develop an analysis of security which is centred on
the construction of threats, referent objects, securitisation actors, secu-
rity measures (or policies) and of the meaning of security itself. This
approach is closely related to the sociological alternative advanced by
Balzacq (2005: 172), who defines security as a circumstantial process,
where agency, power relations and context are fundamental elements.
This is because ‘while discursive practices are important in explaining
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 99

how some security problems originate, many develop with little if any
discursive design’ (Balzacq, 2011: 1). Overall, the sociological approach
to securitisation looks at security practices as actions mediated by the
agents’ context and their world-views, thus simultaneously reproducing
and transforming power relations and their social field.1
Balzacq (2005: 178) further argues that ‘securitisation is a meaningful
procedure, in a field of forces, carried out through linguistic impulses,
that strives to establish an unravelling course of events as shared concern
aimed at recommending an immediate political action’. However, it can
also be defined in terms of a field of struggles where different discourses
permanently compete with one another aiming at achieving a hegem-
onic status (Balzacq el al., 2010: 4). Therefore, in order to understand a
process of securitisation one has to analyse the ‘power struggles, strate-
gies of distinction, symbolic “consensus”, and multiple tactics of agents
through a detailed empirical analysis of a specific social universe’ (Bigo,
2011: 234).
In this formulation, agency comes as a central aspect of securitisa-
tion processes. Traditionally, security threats have been defined by states
and their elites, mainly as national security threats (Waever, 1995).
This centrality of the state, both as the agent and the referent object of
security, has been challenged by the EU in many regards. The manage-
ment of security overlaps across different governance levels and insti-
tutional constellations, including at the intergovernmental level in the
framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by EU
member states, but also at the communitarian level where the European
Commission has held an important role promoting and supporting a
more structural view of regional (and global) security (Webber et al.,
2004). As the literature on EU foreign policy has demonstrated, there
has been an increased process of ‘brusselisation’ (Allen, 1998; Juncos
and Pomorska, 2006) of EU foreign policy that has limited the control
of the CFSP by EU member states. This trend is all the more visible in
areas where the EU applies its structural tools, such as the ENP, which
was initially managed by the Directorate General (DG) Enlargement and
the DG External Relations (Kelly, 2006). However, security perceptions
of the neighbourhood in the Council are also filtered through national
preferences’ coordination and bargaining. After the 2004 enlargement,
many of the new member states used their new position to advocate for
closer political relations between the EU and the former-Soviet states.
All in all, the EU’s agency is complex and characterised by competing
dynamics, which affect the ongoing processes of securitisation of the
Eastern neighbourhood.
100 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

Therefore, agency carries an important power dimension that needs

to be taken into consideration in the analysis of these processes. In
Balzacq’s reading of securitisation, power is defined as the ability to
‘induce effects either directly or indirectly – by performing actions or
having them done by others’ (Balzacq, 2011: 26). Power comes as a
relational concept and a fundamental factor of the EU’s securitisation
process in two different, though interconnected, dimensions. On the
one hand, the securitisation of a given issue depends on the EU’s power
to construct a threat, and define the necessary strategies, policies and
practices to deal with it. On the other hand, this securitisation process
impacts on power distribution which is at the core of competing narra-
tives from Russia regarding EU securitising discourses and practices in
the Eastern neighbourhood, as analysed in the following sections.
This, however, cannot be fully understood without the inclusion of
contextual factors, seen by the sociological approach to securitisation
as simultaneously affecting and being affected by agency and power. To
analyse security issues one has to explicitly and reflexively understand
how external contexts affect securitisation, as the definition of security
depends on specific cultural and historical experiences. Therefore, one
needs to take into consideration the broader discursive (and non-discur-
sive) setting from which the securitising actor(s) gains its power (Balzacq,
2011: 11–15; Wilkinson, 2011: 96). In this sense, one can only grasp the
full meaning of a process of securitisation by looking at the ‘immediate
features of interaction’ (i.e. the internal structure of the event, including
the stage on which it is made, the audience to which it is addressed and
its respective acceptance of that process) and the ‘macro-environment
of the securitisation’ (i.e. the broader context in which it is embedded)
(Wilkinson, 2011: 98). The inclusion of contextual factors in this anal-
ysis serves the purpose of improving the understanding of exogenous
and endogenous elements to EU securitisation processes, which support
or constrain agency, thus calling for deeper and more detailed analysis
of security.
The role of audiences is central to these dynamics due to its mutual
constitution with securitising actors, resulting in the need to maintain
a social relationship, whereby audiences provide securitising actors with
the support they need to legitimise their securitising moves (Balzacq,
2011: 9; Williams, 2011: 213). What follows is that securitisation can
be better understood as an argumentative/intersubjective process, based
on strategies of reasoning and persuasion, rather than as a speech act
as defined by the Copenhagen School (Balzacq, 2005). This process
depends on the existence of ‘dramatic events or crisis’ likely to reunite
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 101

audiences’ acceptance and consensus on the need to transform a given

issue into a security problem.
In the case of the EU’s processes of securitisation of its neighbour-
hood, the relevant audiences are mainly constituted by elites, such as
policy and decision-makers working in EU institutions, for they are the
ones capable of offering the ‘formal support necessary for the adoption
of the extraordinary measures aiming to tackle a security issue’ (Léonard
and Kaunert, 2011: 62). As such, agency and audience become blurred
since both of them include decision-makers involved in the policy-
making process. As Hintermeier (2008: 661–662) argues, throughout the
process of European integration, the EU has underlined the security of
individuals, as well as of its own institutions, alongside the security of
the member states, in order to convince its audience that a specific issue
is a security problem and needs to be dealt with as such. We argue here
that, in the case of relations with the Eastern neighbourhood, EU actors
have conceptualised two referent objects, namely the EU and its integra-
tion process, as well as the neighbouring societies. This comes as striking
because we are left without knowing what the origin of the threat to
these two referent objects is.
As the EU identifies the lack of democracy, poverty and armed conflicts
as threats both to itself and to neighbouring societies (European Council,
2003), the conceptualisation of the neighbours is contradictory, and
the implementation of adequate security policies by the EU is equally
affected by this unbalanced view. The neighbours are simultaneously in
need of protection and posing a threat, as if these perceived challenges
to the wider European security were external to these societies rather
than an integral part of their identities. This raises tensions between the
EU’s normative and pragmatic security agendas – which also conflict
with Russian views of and approaches towards its neighbourhood – and
the coherence between discursive and non-discursive practices in the
process of the EU’s securitisation of the Eastern neighbourhood.
This sociological approach to securitisation carries important meth-
odological implications, for one has to acknowledge the discursive
act, as well as the ‘social field’ within which processes of securitisa-
tion take place, linking the discursive analysis to the empirical world
of power politics, contention and other dynamics. In order to tackle
the discursive and non-discursive fields in the process of securitisation,
this chapter uses critical discourse analysis as its main methodological
tool. This implies looking at discourses as social constructions reflecting
perceptions, identities and social relations, without disregarding the
fact that they play an important role in the creation and change of
102 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

the social field itself (Jørgensen and Phillips, 2002: 1; Fairclough and
Wodak, 1997: 258).
In this assumption, discourse is part of agency as well as of power. It
constitutes a sphere of action, where social relations are (re)shaped and
imprinted with content (Balzacq, 2011: 23–25). By focusing on discursive
struggles nested in power relations, critical discourse analysis provides
an overview of social practices related to the construction of threats and
respective security responses (Balzacq, 2011: 41). In that regard, it allows
us to move beyond the strict assessment of texts and language in order
to delve into their practical consequences and the structures of power
and security practices they (re)produce and transform (Jørgensen and
Phillips, 2002: 2).
A further methodological choice made regards the level of analysis,
focusing on the agent level as identified by Balzacq (2011: 35–36) in
order to provide a basis for interpretation of competing securitisation
dynamics. This level concentrates mainly on the actors and power rela-
tions that structure the situation under analysis and sheds light on:
(1) those who contribute to or resist the design of security issues (i.e.
securitising actors and audiences); (2) power relations; (3) social identities
defined by contextual underpinnings that either enable or constraint the
behaviour of securitising actors and audience; and (4) the referent object
(i.e. what is threatened). By looking at the impact of agency, context and
power on this level of analysis, this chapter aims at showing how the
social field within which the EU’s presence in the Eastern neighbour-
hood has been developed is fundamentally a contested one, with an
important role played by Russia.

Contextualising the processes of securitisation in the

shared neighbourhood between the EU and Russia

During the 1990s, the EU’s political and economic relations with
former-Soviet countries were essentially kept at a technical level and
security issues seldom figured on the agenda. It was only in the context
of post-9/11 global security shifts and the ensuing preparations for EU
and NATO enlargements that relations with the Eastern vicinity became
gradually more prominent, thus triggering processes of securitisation of
the neighbourhood.
This prioritisation becomes visible in the debates that preceded the
actual announcement of the ENP. One of the most important docu-
ments in this regard was the letter sent to the Danish Presidency by
then-Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, and then-High
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 103

Representative of the EU, Javier Solana (Patten and Solana, 2002).

This letter highlights the central idea that the upcoming enlargement
presents the EU with challenges and opportunities that need to be dealt
with preventively. Its authors argue that ‘these decisions bring the dual
challenge of avoiding new dividing lines in Europe while responding
to needs arising from the newly created border of the Union’ (Patten
and Solana, 2002: 1). They also underline something which we will find
replicated in the ENP official documents: the idea that ‘stability, pros-
perity, shared values and rule of law along our borders are fundamental
for our own security’ and that ‘[f]ailure in any of these areas will lead to
increased risks of negative spillover on the Union’ (Patten and Solana,
2002: 1–2).
Gradually, a new trend emphasising the relevance of a new
Neighbourhood Policy for the EU’s security and to its role in the fight
against terrorism, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)
and organised crime (Cimoszewicz, 2003) also became noticeable. This
link between the ENP and security was made clearer in the European
Security Strategy (ESS), in December 2003; this document presents the
neighbours as being ‘engaged in violent conflict, weak states where
organised crime flourishes, dysfunctional societies or [having] exploding
population growth’ (European Council, 2003). This comes at odds with
previous statements made by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
noting that ‘it would be a mistake to perceive the common EU borders
with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova as a factor posing a threat
to the Union’s internal stability’ (Cimoszewicz, 2003), indicating diver-
gence of perspectives within the EU itself.
Reflecting the ENP’s disputed nature and objectives the proposed
instruments varied considerably. On the one hand, it was clear that there
was an inbuilt tendency to rely on enlargement tools to stabilise the
neighbourhood. The Commission’s proposals were very much in line
with this view. On the other hand, addressing security risks in a post-
9/11 and post-enlargement context had become essential and required
intergovernmental consensus and new capabilities of the EU’s Security
and Defence Policy. At the initial stage a soft policy response to the secu-
rity challenges of the region was preferred. As a result, the bilateral ENP
Actions Plans being negotiated with the neighbours focused mainly on
domestic reforms – a hallmark of EU security approaches – to promote
regional stability.
The definition of a new framework for relations with the neigh-
bourhood coincided with a more assertive policy pursued by the new
Russian leadership under President Putin (Trenin, 2008: 106). Overall,
104 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

Russia remains a status quo power, perceiving geopolitical changes in

its near abroad as weakening its own regional position (Glebov, 2009:
356; Celikpala, 2010: 295). Therefore, the EU’s increasing engagement
eastwards, though initially viewed in Moscow as part of the EU’s own
process of development, was increasingly regarded with distrust and
interpreted as a challenge to Russian influence in the region (Averre,
2009: 1691; Kulhanek, 2010: 56). Through a combination of hard and
soft power strategies and policies, Russia has been eager to promote its
own norms and principles of political organisation in the region2 as an
alternative to the EU’s political and economic values. In that regard,
Russia rejects the politicisation of the EU’s normative agenda because
it believes that it is at least as much about power and security-oriented
interests as about values (Flenley, 2008: 200).
The colour revolutions in Georgia (2003) and in Ukraine (2004)
signalled a significant shift in terms of the EU support and impact of
its democracy promotion policies. EU support for these movements was
perceived in Moscow as a revival of the Cold War geopolitical thinking
in Europe. Moreover, EU perceptions of Russia as a corrupt and semi-
authoritarian regime aiming at controlling the events in the post-So-
viet space (Barysch and Grant, 2004) acted as a strategy of reasoning to
convince EU audiences about the need to increase the Union’s security
role in the region. The construction of a perceived threat associated with
political instability in the neighbourhood and the role of Moscow as a
catalyst of this scenario was the basis of a wider consensus in the EU
regarding the response to give to these events. These events also allowed
the EU to use the Rose and Orange Revolutions, in Georgia and Ukraine
respectively, as the representation of the need to export fundamental
European values – democracy, rule of law and freedom – beyond its
borders (Gromadzki et al., 2005: 15). In this sense, by appealing to the
EU’s audiences, the colour revolutions and the construction of Russian
foreign policies as a security threat ended up justifying and legitimising
EU neighbouring policies. This European response triggered the Russian
perception of its neighbourhood influenced by demands for a certain
model of governance that suited EU security interests, but posed chal-
lenges to Russia’s.
There was fierce disagreement on this issue during the OSCE ministe-
rial summit in Sofia, in December 2004 (Sushko, 2005: 5; OSCE, 2004),
and the conflict only increased during the 2005 Russia–Ukraine negotia-
tions over energy prices. The surge in gas prices and Kyiv’s refusal of to
pay led to an eventual supply cut from Moscow, indirectly affecting EU
member states and countries participating in the ENP (BBC, 2006). As
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 105

a consequence, the EU also denounced the use of energy by Russia as a

means to deepen asymmetric relations with countries in the joint neigh-
bourhood, thus increasing the political, security and economic depend-
encies of these countries vis-à-vis Moscow (Baev, 2007: 454). Russian
leaders have also been very clear in expressing their views that a greater
NATO and EU presence in the region – consolidating their own spheres
of influence, which do not take into consideration Russian interests –
would be a source of regional instability, rather than of increased secu-
rity (Putin, 2007; Lavrov, 2009; 2010).
Following these developments, energy security became a driver in the
definition of the EU’s policy priorities towards the shared neighbour-
hood. The ENP Strategy of 2004 clearly states the EU dependency on
energy imports from its neighbouring countries and that a reinforcement
of energy connections and regulatory convergence are fundamental to
ensure the EU’s energy security (European Commission, 2004: 17). As
confirmed by the former-Commissioner for External Relations ‘energy
has been an important component of the ENP since its inception [yet]
the events at the beginning of the year between Russia, Moldova and
Ukraine were a wake-up call, reminding us that energy security needs
to be even higher on our political agenda’ (Ferrero-Waldner, 2006). To
achieve these goals in a highly competitive regional context (Barroso,
2011; European Commission, 2010), the EU promoted greater energy
integration among its member and partner states. Even reluctant EU
member states, which have extensive energy relations with Russia, as
is the case of Germany, have been forced to acknowledge the need for
diversification of supplies, following the gas crises of 2006 and 2009.
Besides deepening integration in energy issues, EU member states
both bilaterally and within the framework of the European Council
promoted the conclusion of Memorandums of Understanding on
energy with Ukraine (2005) and Azerbaijan (2006). Under the German
Presidency of the EU, in 2007,, energy security was extended to Central
Asia, reaching further into the areas where Russia has historically domi-
nated energy development (Council of the EU, 2007a). The Presidency
also contributed with other important insights on the conceptualisation
of security and the necessary policy instruments to implement it. In the
Progress Report submitted to the General Affairs and External Relations
Council on 18/19 June 2007, Germany underlined for instance that the
ENP rested on a ‘clear geopolitical imperative to foster stability, the rule
of law and human rights, better governance and economic modernisa-
tion in our neighbourhood’ (Council of the EU, 2007b: 2). Moreover,
‘the strengthened ENP is ... a security and prosperity policy for Europe’s
106 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

citizens’ and its development is a ‘core priority within the EU’s external
action’ (Council of the EU, 2007b: 3).
Another area that slowly became more noticeable in the EU’s secu-
rity agenda was conflict resolution, working as a further stimulus to
the gradual securitisation of the neighbourhood. Conflict resolution
has traditionally been a surprisingly under-securitised issue by the EU.
Although it is frequently referred to in official documents as a source
of instability and an obstacle to regional development (cf. European
Parliament, 2010; European Commission, 2007), EU foreign and security
policies have failed to address conflict resolution as a priority through
concrete policy decisions. The EU has indeed been mainly reactive to
conflict-related developments in the Eastern neighbourhood. References
to conflict resolution in the framework of the ENP mainly focus on
‘addressing the threats to stability created by conflict and insecurity’,
developing capabilities to engage in ‘post-conflict internal security
arrangements’ (European Commission, 2003: 12) and ‘achieve conflict
resolution’ (European Commission, 2004: 3). In practice, however, the
EU adopted a low-profile approach to conflict resolution in the neigh-
bourhood aimed at preventing the spillover of negative outcomes of
conflict into the Union’s territory, including the potential negative
impact on its energy security and on political stability at its borders. This
conservative position from the EU is largely shaped by the post-Soviet
context and the understanding that Russia should have a leading role in
managing security in post-Soviet Eurasia. Linkages between policy areas
in EU–Russia relations, namely between conflict resolution and energy –
the latter ranked higher on the EU’s priorities – also help explain the
weak-securitisation of the protracted conflicts of the Eastern neighbour-
hood by the EU.
However, changes can be witnessed since 2005, including the
appointment of an EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Moldova, the
EU participation in the official ‘5+2’ negotiations, and the deployment
of a Border Assistance Mission to Ukraine and Moldova (EUBAM). In
the case of the South Caucasus, the EU was either working around the
conflicts (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) or not engaged at all (Nagorno-
Karabakh). The Georgian conflicts, as argued by Popescu (2011: 74),
figured more prominently on the EU’s security agenda partly because
Russia was much more actively engaged than in Moldova. This seems to
suggest that Russia’s actions in the shared neighbourhood do play a role
in the EU securitising process of its neighbourhood.
This, nevertheless, falls short of the expectations raised by the official
speech of the EU’s institutions noting that:
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 107

The EU has a direct interest in working with partners to promote [the

resolution of the frozen conflicts in the neighbourhood], because
they undermine EU efforts to promote political reform and economic
development in the neighbourhood and because they could affect
the EU’s own security. (European Commission, 2007: 6)

The Progress Report of the German EU presidency in the first half of 2007
underlines that the strengthened ENP ‘shall make a clearer contribu-
tion to conflict resolution in our neighbourhood, by creating a climate
conducive to dialogue and by playing a more active role in regional and
multilateral conflict-resolution efforts’, though carefully adding ‘to be
decided on a case-by-case basis’ (Council of the EU, 2007b: 9). Therefore,
it was only after war broke out in Georgia in 2008 that the EU secured a
consensus to deploy a Monitoring Mission to Georgia (EUMM).
The war between Georgia and Russia in 2008 marked a turning point
in EU perceptions of its role in regional security. By reinforcing the image
of Russia as a threat to the norms of international and regional security,
it allowed for a greater prioritisation of the conflicts in the Eastern neigh-
bourhood in the EU’s agenda. Reflecting these changing perceptions, EU
member states were finally comfortable with deploying the EUMM and
taking a leading mediating role in the Geneva peace talks. Besides these
high profile moves, the Council was also more willing to support the
strategy developed and promoted by EU institutions, of ‘engagement
without recognition’ with the separatist states of Eurasia (Fisher, 2010).
This is an important step for the EU, aimed at undermining Russia’s
strategy of isolating these entities and consolidating what the former
EUSR Peter Semneby (2012) called a ‘European footprint’ in the region.
The launch of the EaP in 2008, as a response to Georgian–Russian
war (Averre, 2009: 1694), strengthened this process while suggesting a
greater security role for the EU.

The Eastern Partnership foresees a real step change in relations with

our Eastern neighbours, with a significant upgrading of political,
economic and trade relations. The goal is to strengthen the pros-
perity and stability of these countries, and thus the security of the
EU. (European Council, 2008)

This initiative further aims at reinforcing regional cooperation in priority

areas – democracy, energy and conflict resolution, among others – and
create new channels for socialisation in order to foster prosperity,
stability and security at the EU’s borders (European Commission, 2008a).
108 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

This is based on the assumption that support to the Eastern neighbours’

‘democratic and market-oriented reforms ... serves the stability, secu-
rity and prosperity of the EU’ (European Commission, 2008a: 2). Even
though this idea is not new in the ENP framework, the EaP voices the
EU’s ambitions of becoming a more ‘proactive and unequivocal’ actor
in the region for security reasons (European Commission, 2008a: 2).
Democratic reforms, energy security and conflict resolution remain at
the core of this initiative cementing the ENP’s approach and contrib-
uting to the ongoing processes of securitisation of the EU’s Eastern

A sociological securitisation reading of security

dynamics in the Eastern neighbourhood

The contextualisation made in the previous section revealed that the

EU’s approach to regional stability in Europe rested on the export of
its normative and regulatory frameworks. Such views fail, however,
to present any meaningful securitisation processes, as defined by the
Copenhagen School. It is through a broader understanding of non-dis-
cursive practices of securitisation, including the process of institutional
development and political prioritisation, that we understand how an
evolving process of securitisation of the neighbourhood has taken place.
This section uses the sociological securitisation emphasis on agency,
context and power to provide a more detailed analysis of the interaction
of EU views and political tools with Russian perceptions and approaches
towards the shared neighbourhood.
The analysis of EU discourses and documents establishing its poli-
cies towards the Eastern neighbours allows us to identify three major
nodal points of securitisation related to specific fields for action and
engagement in the region. From its inception, the ENP reveals a secu-
rity commitment to the management of the EU’s external border and
the political and socioeconomic stability of its neighbours. However,
the colour revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, which we identify as the
first nodal point, provided the justification necessary to make political
reforms in the region a priority, thus stimulating the gradual process of
securitisation of the neighbourhood.
The second identified nodal point is the energy crises between Russia
and Ukraine (and other Eastern neighbours) through 2006 and 2009.
Although EU political discourses stress that energy has always been an
important component of the ENP, it was only after those crises that
energy needs were taken into higher consideration on the EU’s security
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 109

agenda. As a consequence, not only did the EU bring energy issues

increasingly under communitarian competences, but it also fostered
cooperation with the Eastern neighbourhood on energy security. To
a regional context of competition for energy resources, the EU has
responded through the reinforcement of integration processes (in line
with our claim that the EU itself is the referent object of security) and
the expansion of its governance structures (a form of structural power).
Finally, the third nodal point identified in our analysis is conflict resolu-
tion related to the Georgia–Russia war, leading the EU to deploy a more
robust approach towards conflict resolution in the region.
Together, these three nodal points contributed to the increasing secu-
ritisation of the EU’s neighbourhood. Furthermore, they reveal that EU
security perspectives on the region encompass issues of identity, norms
and values, as well as so-called hard security issues, including conflict
resolution and energy security. This view seems to suggest that energy
security and conflict resolution – what can be considered hard security
issues – are closely related to the political and economic stabilisation
of the region – which we can perceive as informed by shared norms
and values –, demanding integrated action by the EU. Overall, we can
argue that external events in the neighbourhood have created ‘security
continuums’ that provided the EU with windows of opportunity for
political change in its approach eastwards.
In this regard, the Eastern enlargement was the first event propelling
the Union to increase its footprint in the post-Soviet Space. However, at
the ENP’s initial stage, it proved difficult to gather a European consensus
on the need to deepen the security dimension of this new framework
for relations with the neighbourhood. It was the gradual occurrence of
external events related to the above-identified nodal points and meas-
ures taken by an external actor – Russia – that allowed EU agents to
introduce political change and advocate for a particular approach to
(perceived) security threats at the EU’s borders. Once provided, this
window of opportunity for political change spread to related security
issues leading to the deepening and enlargement of processes of secu-
ritisation in the EU’s neighbourhood. As a result, EU official discourses
place energy security and conflict resolution higher in the EU’s security
agenda for they are crucial to guarantee political and economic stability
in the neighbourhood and, thus, protect the Union against common
threats and instability.
Simultaneously, the role of Russia in the colour revolutions, energy
crises in the neighbourhood and the protracted conflicts in the post-
Soviet space provided the opportunity to construct the image of Russia
110 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

as an unreliable partner and a threat to European security. The construc-

tion of such narratives, strengthened by a more assertive Russian foreign
policy and harshening discourses on the EU’s approach to their common
neighbourhood, created the conditions for a dramatisation of bilateral
relations and a need to securitise issues of common interest, actively
presented to varying European audiences. This is particularly visible
regarding France and Germany, which have traditionally opposed the
deepening of relations with countries from the shared neighbourhood
in fear of jeopardising relations with Moscow. However, as the discursive
design and broader setting of events in the neighbourhood changed,
those very countries became more comfortable with promoting and
supporting an active European security and foreign policy towards the
post-Soviet space.
Furthermore, a critical analysis of EU discourses and policies reveals
that EU security policy towards the Eastern neighbours has been designed
more systematically at the European level rather than by individual
member states, limiting the ability of external actors, such as Russia, to
influence EU policies. We can therefore infer that the multilevel nature
of EU agency allows for considerable ways to promote securitising
moves, either by shaping the agenda or the implementation of certain
policies. It is also quite visible that this capacity of agency also varies
considerably depending on the policy areas concerned, influencing the
securitisation process and overall contributing to a context of competing
narratives and approaches regarding these actors.
The definition and adoption of the Communication by the European
Commission (2007) ‘A Strong European Neighbourhood’ in December
2007 illuminated the importance of context in these processes of secu-
ritisation. As the social field3 where the EU’s new geopolitical approach
to the neighbours was being developed became increasingly contested,
the EU felt the need to reinforce its normative, soft power and regu-
lations-based approach with more muscular policy instruments. Even
the European Parliament – which resisted the securitisation process of
the EU’s external border as well as the adoption of strictly geograph-
ical notion of neighbourhood (see for instances European Parliament,
2003: §A and §3) – became comfortable with a more realist language.
For instance, in its resolution on the ENP, adopted in January 2006,
the European Parliament (2006) noted in §2 ‘its aim of not settling for
the status quo but of committing the European Union to support the
aspirations of the peoples of our neighbouring countries to full political
freedom ... using all diplomatic, financial and political means available’.
Finally, under the regional initiatives section, the Parliament also took
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 111

note of the first energy crisis on January 2006 and called on the EU ‘to
ensure a coordinated policy which guarantees security of energy supply
and integrity of the pipelines in the transit countries as well as a diversi-
fied source of origin for these vital natural resources’ (§42), endowing
the Commission with a parliamentary mandate to develop a broader
European energy policy (§44).
In practice, this gradual focus on security issues in the EU’s vicinity
facilitates and justifies the expansion of the European integration model
in several domains. This is a fundamental exercise of structural power by
the EU, looking to define the norms guiding regional relations.
The implementation of the EU’s security agenda in the Eastern neigh-
bourhood has, however, broader effects on Moscow’s leverage in the region
and the distribution of power among regional players. As a consequence,
the way the EU structures its relations with the Eastern neighbours is
shaped by power relations with Russia. Russian assertiveness towards the
region and its perception of the EU’s regional role represent competi-
tive narratives of securitisation. EU neighbourhood policies clash directly
with Moscow’s regional strategies combining hard and soft power mech-
anisms and its own normative discourse about the shared neighbour-
hood, aiming at delegitimising the idea of liberal democracy promoted
by the EU (Flenley, 2008: 200; Nitoiu, 2011: 466–471; Finkel and Brudny,
2012). At the same time, it pursues a strategy of divide-and-rule among
EU member states (Léonard and Popescu, 2007: 13). The outcome is a
struggle for power in the region resulting from, and intensifying, the
ongoing processes of securitisation in the shared neighbourhood.
In this context of increased tension between Russia and the EU, can
we see an increased securitisation of the EU’s relations with its eastern
neighbours? A tentative answer is yes. The process of uploading new
member states’ preferences – based on the historical memory of rela-
tions with Soviet Russia – onto the EU security agenda in the frame-
work of the ENP has been a fundamental process in the securitisation
of relations with Russia. Russia and its policies in its ‘near abroad’ have
often been portrayed as a security threat to Europe, especially after the
energy crises in 2006 and 2009, the war in Georgia in 2008 (RFE/RL,
2008; Goliday, 2009: 89–95), and certainly since the Ukrainian conflict
of 2013. The extent to which this discourse was successful in portraying
Russia as the main security threat to Europe can be explained by the
top-down nature of the Europeanisation of the new member states and
their long process of socialisation to EU and NATO norms of consen-
sus-building (Edwards, 2006: 144). Moreover, among the new member
states, especially in countries with large Russian minorities, there is also
112 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

a genuine commitment to improved regional relations, despite resent-

ments towards Russia. States like Poland or the Baltic States have also
resisted a view of the neighbours as posing direct threats to the EU, as
illustrated by the statements analysed in the last section. It has been the
‘old’ member states, who have been more conservative, fearing nega-
tive spillovers to the EU and usually more accommodating to Russian
concerns and interests.
During the initial debates on the ENP, the visible role of Russia as a
factor reinforcing securitisation is rather limited. References to Russia
regarding relations with the neighbours are most visible in the Patten-
Solana (2002) letter, where they refer to the need ‘to consider how Russia
might be linked to ... a new neighbourhood policy’ and further add that
‘[p]olitically, we have little interest in adding to the pressure for every
new component or inflection in our relations with Russia to be repli-
cated immediately with other eastern neighbours’. Nevertheless, they
do recognise that ‘[t]he EU’s dialogue and co-operation with Russia on
specific challenges emanating from, or relating to, the other countries of
the region are crucial to the chances of solving them’.
Moscow’s strategies in the region and its discourses about European
regional policies are increasingly seen by EU countries as a threat and
constraint to the security of bordering countries, especially by the Baltic
states and some of the former-Warsaw Pact countries (Trenin, 2009: 3–4).
In the energy field there have been acute concerns for Europe (European
Council, 2003: 3; European Commission, 2011: 4), viewing Russian lead-
ership in a number of competing energy projects (Mangott and Westphal,
2008: 159) as a threat against the security of supplies. This constructed
perception of Russia led to the adoption of a harsher EU discourse,
supporting the foundations for a more assertive approach to conflict reso-
lution and regional security. This broke with the EU’s traditional approach
to conflict resolution in the shared neighbourhood and reinforced
the European footprint in security issues in the region. The ‘Review of
EU–Russia relations’ after the Georgian–Russian war provides interesting
insights on how the EU perceives power relations in the region.

The EU can approach its relationship with Russia with a certain confi-
dence. Economically, Russia needs the EU. The EU is an important
market for its exports of raw materials, notably energy ... The recent
financial crisis has underlined how acutely Russia needs to modernize
and diversify its economy. The EU is a natural partner for this
process, and the main source of its foreign investments. (European
Commission, 2008b: 2)
The Securitisation of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood 113

The document clearly states that the EU should actively pursue its own
interests in this relationship, including in the fields of energy secu-
rity and regional stability. A blatant condemnation of the ‘dispropor-
tionate Russian reaction’ in Georgia is also noteworthy, acknowledging
a contested field in the shared neighbourhood. Whereas the EU builds
on the self-assessed success of the EUMM in Georgia to claim more polit-
ical will and operational capability to perform a leading role in conflict
resolution and the transformation of the political and economic envi-
ronment at its borders (European Commission, 2008b: 2); Russia claims
special interests in the region. This reinforces the ongoing processes of
securitisation of the neighbourhood.
Therefore, the macro-context of relations with the neighbourhood
provided the EU with an opportunity to introduce change in the ENP
and replicate its security approach to new domains, such as energy
security and conflict resolution. In this sense, by affecting instances of
agency, power and context, Russia has played a meaningful role in the
processes of securitisation of the EU’s neighbourhood. Russia’s role has
also been used to construct a strategy of reasoning to EU audiences that
made them comfortable with reinforcing the EU’s footprint in the region
seen as essential to guarantee European peace, stability and prosperity.


Even though EU relations with Russia have come across as more impor-
tant than relations with other Eastern neighbours at specific times (i.e.
the Transnistrian conflict), and raised concerns among some EU member
states regarding the consequences that a more robust and coherent
approach eastwards could have on their relationships with Russia, this
analysis revealed interesting security dynamics in the region. It is notice-
able that the more assertive Russia is in the neighbourhood, the more
the EU intensifies its security policies and actions towards the region as
proven in the above-identified nodal points. The tension in relations
between Russia and the EU (and NATO), following the colour revolu-
tions in Ukraine and Georgia, allowed Brussels to denounce Russia’s
strategy of preserving asymmetrical relations in the neighbourhood.
By doing so it provided the EU with grounds to reinforce its policies
towards the East, focusing on political and economic reforms – through
European integration – as a means to guarantee stability and security in
the region.
Securitisation of the Eastern neighbourhood has been a disputed
process within the EU from the very beginning and does not rely on
114 Licínia Simão and Vanda Amaro Dias

the utterance of security (i.e. the speech act). Rather it has been the
adoption of a set of policies aimed at countering the flows of insecu-
rity emanating from the Eastern neighbourhood and especially from
its interactions with Moscow that illustrate the securitisation process.
By actively contributing to the polarisation of regional security, Russia
has shaped the context within which EU security relations within the
ENP are defined. On the other hand, Russia has also been an important
factor shaping some of the EU agents views of regional security, namely
after the EU enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe. Thus, power
asymmetries in the context of the EU’s relations with its eastern neigh-
bours reflect these dynamics shaping EU-Russia relations and Russia’s
relations with the former-Soviet countries covered by the ENP. In all
these dimensions Russia stands out as a significant factor explaining EU
security policies towards its eastern neighbourhood, as this analysis has
sought to illustrate.

1. ‘The field is a heuristic device that ... allows us to analyze the principles on
which are based distinctions between practices within a space of social posi-
tions, which then becomes a space where positions are assumed and discur-
sive practices occur. Structural homology between the two spaces is possible
through the mediation of the space of dispositions of agents or habitus. This
habitus is then a system of durable dispositions which governs the behaviour
and discourses of agents inside the field. ... By acting in many fields [agents]
transfer practices from one field to another’. (Balzacq et al., 2010: 3)
2. These include respect for state sovereignty, territorial integrity, inadmissibility
of the use of force, equal security and no exclusive rights for any state or
organisation in security issues (Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian
Federation, 2013).
3. For a definition of ‘field’ see note 1.

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Out of Will or Out of Necessity?
Turkey and the Middle East
André Barrinha and Laura Bastos


The political turmoil that affected the Middle East and North Africa
since late 2010 caught many by surprise, including Turkey’s political
leadership. It came at a time when Ankara was investing in the region,
both economically and politically, in line with the new foreign policy
principles progressively set in place by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice
and Development Party (AKP).1 These principles were based on Ahmet
Davutoğlu’s concept of Strategic Depth, and they posit Turkey as a leading
regional and international actor, responsible for promoting peace and
development, in particular, within its immediate neighbourhood.
Ankara’s foreign policy activism had, until the eruption of popular
unrest across the region, been focused on the importance of political
stability, presupposing that even authoritarian regimes such as those in
Syria or Libya were solid and stable (Öniş, 2012) and could, therefore,
be seen as perfectly legitimate partners for Turkey on the international
stage. The sudden change in the regional context forced Turkey to revisit
its strategy, with significant consequences, both internally and interna-
tionally: the Kurdish issue has jumped to the top of the political agenda,
the millions of refugees in the country are generating social and political
instability in Turkey and, internationally, Turkey is seen as having an
erratic policy for the region, particularly in how it deals with the Islamic
State (IS) threat.
Until recently, Turkey was seen as a second order emerging power,
usually placed among a list of countries that is topped by China and
India, and that also includes Brazil, Russia, South Africa, South Korea,
and Indonesia, among others (cf. Schweller, 2011). Ankara enjoys being
considered a member of this emerging group of countries as reflected

120 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

by its foreign policy priorities.2 In this regard, we argue that Turkey’s

involvement in the Arab revolts has not necessarily been the conse-
quence of a will from Ankara to affirm itself as a regional power, but
rather an attempt to attract international recognition for its role as a
global power. Turkey seeks to increase its influence on the international
stage by demonstrating its effectiveness when dealing with issues in its
own neighbourhood, tackling complex conflicts, and contributing to
the economic development and integration of the region, a very compli-
cated task, particularly in a region as unstable and diverse as the Middle
East. Such a stance during the initial stages of the uprisings was positively
recognised by the European Union that was pleased to see a candidate
member state able to be influential in the region. Russia is more ambig-
uous in that regard: although it appreciates the privileged economic ties
Turkey has with the Middle East, and indirectly benefits from them,
the strategic interests of Russia and Turkey have often clashed, particu-
larly regarding the Syrian conflict. That said, both Ankara and Moscow
understand that those interests should not overtake the crucial strategic
relations between both countries.
This chapter starts by exploring the main ideas behind Turkey’s
contemporary foreign policy, underlining how the AKP’s ascent to
power led to changes in Turkey’s positioning in international affairs.
It will then focus on Turkey’s action in the Middle East following the
2010 events, including its articulation with Russian and EU initiatives
towards the region. Finally, the chapter concludes with an analysis on
how such actions can be understood as an attempt by Turkey to position
itself as a relevant international actor, and how that potentially affects
its relations with other key actors in its vicinity, in particular Russia and
the European Union.

Turkey’s foreign policy: from Atatürk to Erdoğan

Since the birth of the Republic in 1923, Turkish foreign policy has
focused on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s principle of ‘peace at home, peace
abroad’ (cited in Karaosmanoğlu, 2000: 208). This principle meant that
Turkey would mostly focus on insuring its survival and security as a
nation state with a Turkish identity (idem) and that the young republic
would not pursue any territorial expansion, signalling a clear break
from the Ottoman Empire’s expansionist nature (Aydın, 1999). In prac-
tice, this foreign policy approach led to Turkey’s detachment from the
regional politics of the Arab world (Karaosmanoğlu, 2000), engaging,
after World War I, in a nation-building project that left little room for
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 121

the intensification of relations with other countries, as shown by its

neutral position adopted during World War II (Kösebalaban, 2011). The
post-war international environment and the ensuing Cold War saw
Turkey abandon its neutral status and align with the West, thus fulfilling
Atatürk’s ideal of establishing Turkey as a legitimate member of the
Western world. This relationship was to be consolidated with Turkey’s
NATO membership in 1952. As an example of the commitment to its
Western allies, Turkey accepted to participate in the promotion of what
was then known as the Baghdad Pact, a defensive alliance including Iraq,
the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Iran in addition of Turkey. Founded
in 1955, its main purpose was to reduce the communist influence in the
Middle East. Although initially sceptical as to the efficiency of the Pact,
Turkey eventually became significantly involved in its development and
actively tried to persuade Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to join the project,
adopting what has been considered by some as an excessively aggres-
sive, and ultimately ‘counterproductive’ stance towards these countries
(Hale, 2013: 103). This alliance and posture contributed to a regional
perception that Turkey was a tool of the Western world (Aydın, 2000).
As the Cold War centre moved away from the Middle East towards
Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia in the 1960s, Ankara realised
that it had more room to act without compromising its commitment to
the Alliance (Hale, 2013). Relations with Washington actually became
much tenser, particularly after the infamous Johnson letter, in which
the US president warned Turkey not to invade Cyprus in order to avoid
potential retaliation from Moscow, to which Washington would not be
willing to answer. In fact, the Cyprus crisis was the ultimate incentive
for Ankara to revise the foundation of its foreign policy as it realised that
an exclusive commitment to its Western allies would leave Turkey with
very limited foreign-policy options in a changing international system
(Aydın, 2000).
Hence, despite maintaining a predominant security-oriented approach
as the general focus of its foreign policy all throughout the Cold War
(Sözen, 2010), Turkey attempted to re-balance its bilateral ties with the
Arab world, rebuilding relations in order to overcome the failure of the
Baghdad process (Hale, 2013). A secondary objective was to negotiate
more favourable oil imports from the Middle East in a time of growing
energy dependence on the region after the 1970s oil crisis. As oil prices
increased and Turkey’s commercial balance deficit grew, it became neces-
sary for the country to rely on more than one supplier. Hence, in addi-
tion to Iraq, Turkey’s traditional supplier, Ankara also needed to develop
closer ties with Libya and Iran (Liel, 2001). With the same goal of having
122 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

a more flexible foreign policy, Turkey also tried a rapprochement with

the Soviet Union, especially in the economic field. In 1967, Turkey
received from the USSR a $200 million credit for industrial projects. Two
more loans, of $288 million and $700 million, were to be concluded
during the following decade (Hale, 2013).
By the 1980s, Turkey was temporarily pushed out of its ‘cosy arrange-
ment’ (Yanık, 2011: 83) with the West (particularly with Europe) when,
in 1980, the Turkish Armed Forces removed the government from
power and established a de facto military dictatorship. In response, the
European Community (EC) froze its relations with Ankara, which led
to the reinforcement of Turkey’s diplomatic relations with the Muslim
world. This evolution was symbolised by the Turkish participation in the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference at the presidential level.
Turgut Özal, the first civilian prime minister to be elected after the
coup, also made a clear attempt to diversify the country’s foreign policy.
With the end of the Cold War, Turkey intensified its relations with coun-
tries that had been under Moscow’s influence and with whom Turkey
had close cultural ties, such as the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central
Asia (Aras and Gorener, 2010). These early initiatives reinforced a sense
of suspicion in Moscow regarding Turkey’s regional ambitions in the
post-Soviet space, since its investment in this region was based on
historical ties and had Western support (Öniş, 2001). Furthermore, talks
of extending Turkish-Israeli cooperation to Central Asia were perceived
as potentially harmful to relations between the two countries and Russia
(Arutiunov cited in Aras, 1998). The 1980s and early 1990s also saw
Ankara engulfed in the Iraq-Iran war and, later on, in the Gulf War,
where it sided with the United States-led coalition despite the signifi-
cant negative impact on the Turkish economy.
In spite of its activities and interactions with other Middle Eastern
countries, Turkey did not assume an important regional role and was
far from being perceived as a regional power. The most visible conse-
quence of Turkey’s involvement in the Middle East was the development
of strong military and economic ties with Israel (Inbar, 2002), which led
to further scepticism from Arab states regarding Turkey’s real intentions
in the region.
Throughout the 1990s, there were two main exceptions to Turkey’s
weak involvement in the Middle East. First, from 1996 to 1997, during
the coalition government between the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi)
and the True Path Party (Doğru Yol Partisi) led by Necmettin Erbakan,
Turkey sought to develop closer ties with its Muslim neighbourhood,
with Erbakan marking rare (for a Turkish prime minister) visits to states
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 123

such as Iran and Libya (Fuller, 2008). However, their impact on Turkey’s
foreign policy was eventually limited by the strong presence of Turkish
armed forces in the country’s external affairs, and their successful ‘post-
modern’ coup aimed at Erbakan’s government in February 1997. This
process did not involve an actual military intervention but the mili-
tary managed to put pressure on the government through the National
Security Council (NSC). In a meeting on 28 February 1997, the NSC
demanded that the government adopt measures against the threat of
‘political Islam’. These measures included banning the headscarf and
closing religious schools (Akyol, 2012) and was aimed at restricting
Erbakan’s government strong religious stand. This was perceived by the
government as an ultimatum and eventually the crisis was solved by
Erbakan’s decision to resign (Güney and Karatekelioğlu, 2005).
Indeed, Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy has historically been
controlled by the bureaucratic and military elites (Aras and Polat, 2008).
The autonomy of the military in Turkish politics and its interference
in the country’s politics has been justified on the basis of its role as
the guardian of national interest and national unity (Cizre-Sakallioğlu,
1997), a defender of the Kemalist principles of modernisation of Turkey
and the preservation of the secular state. Such interference has been a
constant problem in Turkish-EU relations.
Despite the demise of Erbakan’s government, Turkey’s diplomacy
remained active in the Middle East region. Ismael Cem, foreign minister
between 1997 and 2002, attempted to revitalise relations with the Arab
region, for instance with Syria (in 2001), whose relations had often
been tense due to both the Kurdish issue and land and water disputes
between the two countries.3 Cem was particularly aggressive in defence
of Palestinian rights although the opposite view was common among
the military establishment (Inbar, 2002). However, these were limited
efforts in a decade defined by a pragmatic, security-centred relations
with the region (Tschirgi, 2003), in which Turkey was mostly interested
in (a) avoiding any externalities from the regions’ political instability,
(b) ‘managing’ its conflict against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK in
its Kurdish acronym) rebels, and (c) developing relations with the most
sophisticated military force in the region (i.e. Israel). Such a pragmatic
and underdeveloped approach by Turkey to the Middle East, during
most of the 1990s, largely resembled Russia’s, while the EU was taking
its first steps towards the development of the rather unsuccessful Euro-
Mediterranean Partnership (cf. Barrinha, 2013). In that regard, the AKP’s
rise to power in November 2002 signalled – at least discursively – a shift
towards a more effective Turkish presence in the region and a more
124 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

active international stance. The AKP was able to put forward both a
domestic and a foreign policy agenda supported by strong parliamentary
majorities during consecutive terms, an exception in Turkey since 1961.
As a consequence, since 2003, Turkey has become progressively more
active in the international stage. This diplomatic activity was moreover
strengthened by an impressive economic growth: the country’s GDP has
tripled in the last decade (Gül, 2012).

The AKP years

The AKP’s foreign policy has been driven by domestic social and
economic transformations that opened way for a new class of intel-
lectuals supported by Anatolia’s conservative entrepreneurship (Dağı,
2004; Seufert, 2012). Although not so visible at first (the EU accession
remained the top foreign policy priority even after the general elec-
tions), the government led, first by Abdullah Gül and, from March 2003
until August 2014, by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, started to progressively
frame the country’s foreign policy according to more assertive, but also
more diversified lines.
Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Strategic Depth concept introduced the guidelines
of Turkey’s contemporary foreign policy, such as the ‘zero problems
with the neighbourhood’ notion, the ‘rhythmic diplomacy’4 or a geo-
economic focus (Aras, 2009). Davutoğlu, a former political scientist with
a long academic career, joined the AKP government as Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan’s foreign policy adviser before becoming his Foreign Minister
in 2009. For Davutoğlu, Turkey had to rediscover its cultural ties with
its neighbours and engage with them while avoiding confrontation.
In his own words, Turkey should be ‘defined as a central country with
multiple regional identities’ (Davutoğlu, 2008: 78), which included the
Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Caspian,
Mediterranean, Gulf and Black Sea regions.
Overall, this Strategic Depth could be summarised in five main
points. First, a balance between security and freedom had to be estab-
lished in order to ensure a stable, visible presence in its surroundings,
while preventing a prioritisation of security concerns at the expense
of people’s freedoms and rights. Second, Turkey should promote a
‘zero problems’ policy with neighbouring countries, thus dramatically
inverting the security priorities that conditioned its regional policy
in the 1990s, especially considering that by the end of the decade
Turkey’s main external security threats were still considered by the
military to be Greece and Syria (Aydın, 2003). Third, Turkey should
not only establish and develop good relations with its immediate
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 125

neighbours but also with the surrounding regions, meaning the

Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East in general. This would
allow Ankara to have greater influence in regional politics and legiti-
mately appear as an impartial mediator in eventual future conflicts.
Fourth, Turkey should follow a multi-dimensional foreign policy,
meaning that Turkey’s relations with global western actors, such as
the United States and the EU, would be complementary to, rather
than in competition with policies developed towards actors such
as Russia and other Eurasian countries. A multi-dimensional policy
would offer the possibility for Turkey to establish good relations with
each power and yet remain independent. Finally, as a fifth principle,
Ankara should focus on the consistent development of diplomatic
relations, a form of ‘rhythmic diplomacy’. In order to achieve this
last objective, Turkey has hosted several international meetings and
has significantly increased its involvement in the activities of several
international organisations, even those it is not a member of, such as
the African Union or the Arab League (Davutoğlu, 2008). Its (failed)
attempt to host the 2020 Olympics also falls in this category.5
Ultimately, this vision aimed at making Turkey not only a regional
actor but also an important player in the international sphere. In prac-
tice, Turkey adopted, in the early years of the AKP government, a more
active and positive engagement with a number of different countries
and regions, starting with its vicinity. For instance, in the Caucasus
region, Ankara attempted to improve its relations with Armenia
despite not recognising the existence of an Armenian genocide in
1915 and their disagreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with
Azerbaijan (Görgülü, 2009). Similarly, during the Georgian crisis in
2008, Turkey tried to mediate the conflict, bringing together all stake-
holders involved including Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
under the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform6 (Devrim and
Schulz, 2009). However, this crisis ultimately put Turkey in a difficult
position, since both Russia and Georgia represented important part-
ners in the region for Ankara, albeit for different reasons7 (Aras and
Fidan, 2009).
Indeed, relations between Turkey and Russia have changed dramati-
cally, especially considering that during the Cold War and in the early
post-Cold War years, Turkey was considered by Moscow as an untrust-
worthy US ally and competitor in Eurasia (NATO’s Eastern enlargement
reinforced that perception). A decade later, relations between the two
countries are radically different, essentially driven by shared economic
goals (Hill and Taspinar, 2006): Turkey is a key customer of Russia’s
126 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

energy products and the expansion of both countries’ domestic markets

is an opportunity for the development of trade relations in non-energy
sectors (such as construction) (Ediger and Bagdadi, 2010). Additionally,
Turkey sees Russia as its main Eurasian strategic partner, while at the
same time, balancing the EU’s influence in Turkey (Walker, 2007).
Nevertheless, more recently, Turkey has been at odds with Russia over
both the Syrian and Ukrainian crises, and it is still unclear how this
will affect the strategic partnership between the two countries although
common interests still seem to outweigh diplomatic divergences, as
discussed in the following section.
Turkey’s relations with its traditional Western partners during this
period have also been somewhat unstable, filled with tension and mutual
resentment. After a few years of enthusiasm, Turkey’s accession process
to the EU has virtually halted, leading to growing suspicion in Ankara
that the EU does not intend to ever allow Turkey to join. Consequently,
if during the first years of the AKP government, Erdoğan seemed willing
to pursue this goal and thus successfully opened accession negotiations,
this priority seemed to have changed by his second term. Although the
perspective of EU membership is not completely abandoned, it does not
seem to be the priority anymore. The slowing of the reforming proc-
esses in Turkey, the dispute over Cyprus, and the opposition of some
EU countries, especially France during Sarkozy’s tenure (Yeşilada, 2013),
have eventually led to a stalemate in negotiations. More recently, the
EU has also raised significant concerns regarding the tense political situ-
ation in Turkey since the summer of 2013, and the general view that
the current government is adopting an excessively assertive stance in
domestic politics, portrayed for instance in the lack of independence of
the judiciary system or restrictions on freedom of expression, as made
clear by the European Commission (2014).
As regards the relations with the US and its Middle East policies in
particular, the early years of AKP government coincided with the US-led
Iraqi invasion in 2003. Turkey’s parliamentary rejection of the American
request to allow its troops to enter Iraq from Turkey’s south-eastern
border was a hard blow in the two countries’ relations, which remained
at a particularly low point until 2007 and only really improved with
the election of Barack Obama in late 2008 (Öniş and Yılmaz, 2009).
Incidentally, Obama seems to find Erdoğan a reliable interlocutor in the
region and, despite occasional hiccups in the relationship, ties between
both countries have been more or less stable. Israel and, more recently,
Turkey’s response to IS threat have until recently been the major excep-
tions to the rule.
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 127

Global ambitions and regional problems

Turkey’s setbacks with Brussels and Washington came, coincidentally

(or not), at a period of significant economic growth and diplomatic
activism in Ankara. Turkey’s political leadership realised that it was
possible for the country to develop a more assertive role on the world
stage. The fact that Turkey is part of the G20 is but the institutional
materialisation of such an ambition.Ankara also understood that in
order to consolidate its position, it needs to have a stable vicinity so
that it can confidently reach out to countries and regions beyond its
As mentioned above, Turkey has tried to contribute to the reso-
lution of conflicts in the region, such as those involving Iran, Israel,
Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Ankara was, despite the ensuing difficult relations between Turkey with
Israel, involved in the cease-fire agreed to in 2009 (Today’s Zaman,
2009), alongside with the EU that recognised the importance of Turkey’s
assistance in this process (Council of the European Union, 2009).
Similarly, in line with its attempt to influence the region and act as a
global player, Turkey joined forces with Brazil to render an agreement
regarding the nuclear question in Iran, proposing a nuclear fuel-swap
deal: the transfer of uranium to Turkey in exchange for the needed fuel
for a research reactor (BBC News, 2010). The deal was to halt the impo-
sition of new sanctions on Iran by the United Nations (UN) (Borger,
2010) but was met with some scepticism by the international commu-
nity. Russia welcomed the deal and declared that it would support it
(Sundays Zaman, 2010) but President Medvedev underlined that if
Iran was to continue its uranium enrichment programme that would
still be of great concern for the international community (BBC News,
2010). As for the EU, it welcomed the two countries’ efforts (Council of
the European Union, 2010), although some individual member states,
such as France, remained sceptical (Aljazeera, 2010). Probably as a sign
of Turkey’s limited weight in international affairs, the UN approved
instead new sanctions on Iran shortly after the agreement involving
Brazil and Turkey was signed, triggering criticisms from both countries
(MacFarquhar, 2010). Nevertheless, Turkey has continued to push for a
solution and attempted to convince Iran to commit to further negotia-
tions, at times successfully. In 2012, for instance, Iran agreed to start
talks following a request from Ankara (BBC News, 2012).
To be sure, a harsh stand on Iran on the nuclear question would
also not serve Turkey’s purpose of not only developing good relations
128 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

with its neighbours but also developing economic relations, especially

the natural gas cooperation, with Iran. In fact, Ankara has avoided a
clear position concerning Iran’s nuclear program (Kinnander, 2010).
Moreover, the lifting of sanctions would mean that Iran would be able
to export more energy, namely to Turkey, which in turn would benefit
Ankara’s goal to be less dependent on Russia in this sector. Indeed, 60
per cent of Turkey’s natural gas imports comes from Russia, whereas
only 18 per cent is provided by Iran (Natural Gas Europe, 2013). Russia
has naturally viewed these developments with caution, keeping a well-
established policy of balancing between Teheran and Ankara in the
Middle East (Gafarli, 2012). The successful deal recently struck between
Iran and the major Western powers could have important implications
for the Turkey-Iran-Russia strategic triangle. The progressive lift of sanc-
tions against Iran might in that regard, offer Turkey important financial
and commercial opportunities, including in the energy sector, therefore
affecting the current balance of power between Ankara and Moscow.
If relations with Iran improved in the last decade, the same cannot be
said of Ankara’s interactions with Israel, its most reliable Middle Eastern
partner during the 1990s. Even if Turkey had historically supported
attempts to reach an agreement based on a two-state solution, and
provided development and humanitarian aid to Palestine (Altunışık,
2010), it was only after the AKP’s electoral victory in 2002 that it progres-
sively adopted a more aggressive stance towards Israel. A first symbol
of the deterioration in the relationship between both countries came
after Hamas’ electoral victory in 2004, when its leader Khalid Mishal
was invited to visit Turkey, which happened in 2006, a visit strongly
condemned by both the US and the EU (Hürriyet Daily News, 2006).
Relations were to significantly deteriorate in 2009, after Erdoğan
stormed out of a World Economic Forum panel in reaction to Shimon
Peres’ comments on Gaza (Meral and Paris, 2010), during the aftermath
of Israel’s offensive in Gaza in 2008 (Altunışık, 2010). Media images of
destruction and death further reinforced the Turkish public opinion’s
resentment against Israel. To add insult to injury, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s
prime minister at the time, failed to mention the imminence of the
attack to Erdoğan, despite being in Ankara for a state visit just a few days
before the beginning of the military operations in Gaza. In fact, during
the visit Olmert told Erdoğan that no humanitarian tragedy would
happen in Gaza (Bölme, 2009).
Relations were to worsen even further with the Gaza flotilla inci-
dent in 2010. Israeli navy attacked an aid flotilla, in which one of the
vessels was piloted by a Turkish crew under a Turkish flag. A total of 19
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 129

people were killed, among them nine Turks, and dozens were wounded
(Hürriyet Daily News, 2010). In both Israel and Turkey, popular reac-
tion was strong as were reactions from governments (Meral and Paris,
2010) at a time when diplomatic relations between the two countries
had been interrupted (BBC News, 2011).
Similarly, the flotilla incident generated negative reactions against
Israel from the international community. Representing the EU,
Catherine Ashton condemned Israel’s behaviour and demanded a full
inquiry on the events (EU, 2010). Spain, who held the presidency of
the European Council at the time, represented the events as unac-
ceptable (Hürriyet Daily News, 2010). Russia also condemned the use
of violence by the Israeli forces (ABCNews, 2010). The incident also
contributed to improve Turkey’s image among the Arab countries,
since it seemed to confirm Turkey’s full support for the Palestinian
cause (Samaan, 2013).
Three years later, under US pressure, the current prime minister of
Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, apologised to Turkey over the loss of the
nine lives in the Mavi Marmara incident (The Guardian, 2013). However,
Ankara’s reaction was not so enthusiastic. President Gül declared that
Israel’s apology came ‘too late’ (Today’s Zaman, 2013) and Erdoğan
ensured that normalising relations with Israel would also depend on
other steps such as compensation for the victims’ families and easing
of the blockade to Gaza (Reuters, 2013). Talks on compensation opened
the gate for the restoration of diplomatic relations labelled as tighter
than ever by Davutoğlu (Hürriyet Daily News, 2014). However, the
2014 Gaza incursion by Israel has resurfaced Ankara’s anger against
Israel. Erdoğan called Israel a ‘terrorist state’, going so far as to criticise
the Obama administration for supporting Israel’s right to self-defence
(Morin, 2014).
Although it is clear that Turkey has significantly invested in the
Middle East, while, simultaneously spreading its ties to other parts of
the globe, the goal of becoming an influential actor in the international
stage within a problematic regional context has proved challenging,
particularly since the so-called Arab Spring.

Turkey and the Arab Spring

As argued before, the Arab revolts caught Ankara by surprise, forcing

Turkey to show the exact extent to which it was able to influence the
political outcomes in the region. Since Turkey’s foreign policy under the
AKP government focused on its ability to mediate conflicts emerging in
130 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

its neighbourhood, Turkey should thus be able to influence the turn of

events. Moreover, in upholding its support for the spread of democratic
change, by default against the interests of some of the regimes with
which it had been able to keep a good relationship until not long ago,
Turkey was faced with another problem: economic relations with those
same repressive regimes, which had been built up for several years, were
now at risk. This meant that the Erdoğan government was faced with a
foreign policy dilemma between ethics and economic interests (Öniş,
Turkey’s bilateral trade volume with the Arab world reached $25
billion in 2010, four times more than in 2002–2003 (Ghanem, 2010:
65). The share of the Middle East in Turkish trade increased from almost
nine per cent in 1996 to 19 per cent in 2008 and kept growing until
reaching $65 billion by the end of 2012, an increase from $9.5 billion
in 2003 (Ministry of Economy Republic of Turkey, 2013). At the same
time, Middle Eastern countries were also interested in attracting Turkish
investments (Altunışık, 2010) and those growing economic ties were
crucial to Turkey’s attitude in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring. By
2011, Turkey had 20 thousand workers and investments of around $15
billion in Libya. Turkish exports to Syria also tripled from $609 million
to $1.85 billion in only four years (2006–2010) (Phillips, 2012). Similarly,
the flow of Syrian visitors to Turkey increased sevenfold between 2002
and 2011 (idem).
As the revolutionary impetus spread across the Middle East, Turkey
found it more and more difficult to address the changes in the region. It
can be argued that in the first phase of the uprisings Turkey acted with
‘cautious unilateralism’ (Öniş, 2012: 51), meaning that it welcomed
the political liberalisation but not in an explicit way in order to secure
important interests at stake.
The situation in Tunisia did not represent a great challenge to Turkey’s
foreign policy since there were no strong ties with Ben Ali’s regime. The
same can be said for Egypt. The tense relationship between Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan’s government and Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak
explains the assertive tone and posture adopted by Turkey and its
support to the pro-democratisation movement. Erdoğan was the first
international leader to call for Mubarak’s resignation (Hurriyet Daily
News, 2011) and one of the first to endorse Mohamed Morsi’s presi-
dential election before criticising the Armed Forces when he was later
In regards to Libya, however, Turkey faced the need to deal with the
increasingly visible political unrest while not jeopardising the significant
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 131

economic interests it had in the country. As a result, Turkey was highly

critical of the UN Security Council resolution 1973 (Today’s Zaman,
2011) that created the legal basis for an intervention in Libya, while
Erdoğan was trying to mediate between Qaddafi and the rebel opposi-
tion. However, as it became clear that NATO-supported rebels would
eventually defeat Qaddafi forces, and that the costs of opposing the
Western coalition could be too high, Turkey’s position shifted, assuming
the position of the reluctant ally within NATO (Öniş, 2012). Its contri-
bution remained limited to humanitarian aid and the supervision of the
implementation of the economic and military embargo on Qaddafi’s
regime (Oğuzlu, 2012). Moreover, an example of this change in Turkey’s
stance towards Libya was rather visible in Ahmet Davutoğlu’s sudden
visit to Benghazi, and Turkey’s donation of $200 million to the National
Transitional Council (Kardaş, 2011).
In the case of Bahrain, in the beginning of the popular revolts,
Erdoğan’s comments seemed to insinuate that Turkey was supporting
the people of Bahrain. However, the Prime Minister stopped mentioning
either Bahrain or Yemen in his statements, presumably because both
cases were perceived by Saudi Arabia as a threat to its own internal polit-
ical order (Robins, 2013).
Finally, in the on-going Syrian conflict, Turkey was dragged into a
position that destroyed years of efforts in improving its relations with
Al-Assad’s regime. Turkey had invested economically and diplomatically
more in Syria than in any other country as Syria was Turkey’s foreign
policy ‘crown jewel’ (Walker, 2012: 2). When thousands of people
started marching in the streets of Syria, demanding political reforms,
Turkey tried to use its proximity with the Syrian regime to convince
Assad to undertake structural reforms (Oğuzlu, 2012: 6). While hopes
were that Syria would follow the advice, Bashar Al-Assad disregarded
this suggestion exposing the reduced leverage Turkey really had vis-à-vis
the Damascus regime. The turning point came when Turkish foreign
minister Ahmet Davutoğlu received promises in Damascus that were
left later unfulfilled by President Assad on the cessation of violence and
the adoption of democratic reforms. After this visit, Turkey announced
several sanctions on Syria, becoming one of the last NATO countries
to impose such restrictions. Interestingly, these sanctions were harsher
than any previously imposed by the Turkish government on a neigh-
bouring country (Walker, 2012). Soon after, tensions between the two
countries escalated and reached a peak when Syria shot down a Turkish
reconnaissance jet and Ankara responded by setting artillery batteries at
the common border (ICG, 2013). Turkey would later request from NATO
132 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

the deployment of Patriot missiles along its border, and, more recently,
coordinated attacks with the US against IS targets in Syria symbolising to
its Middle Eastern neighbours that, ultimately, it was still a full member
of the Atlantic Alliance.
As expressed in an International Crisis Group (ICG) report, ‘regionally,
the Syrian conflict symbolises how Turkey’s “zero problem” policy has
become a “multiple problems” strategy’ (2013: i). Indeed, the evolution
of the conflict in Syria turned into the worst possible scenario for Turkey
both internationally and at the domestic level. The conflict blocked the
trade routes to the Arab countries with significant economic impact.
It also forced Turkey to develop renewed links with countries such as
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, contributing to the idea that Turkey might be
a small part of a unified Sunni block with hegemonic claims over the
Middle East (ICG, 2013). With Qatar, for instance, Turkey seems to have
developed very close ties, based on a number of common strategic inter-
ests: the support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the strong stance
regarding Israel’s policy vis-à-vis Gaza and the will to topple Bashar
Al-Assad’s regime in Syria (Daily Sabah, 2014). The fact that Erdoğan
chose Qatar as his third state visit after being elected President (the
previous two were to North Cyprus and Azerbaijan) attests to the impor-
tance of this relationship.
In fact, the Syrian conflict has dragged Turkey into a domestic turmoil.
The IS advance in Syria has eventually affected Turkey. The most striking
example was the attack, officially blamed on IS, of a suicide bomber
in Suruç in the summer of 2015 that killed 31 people. After the rise of
violence in the country, the Turkish government decided to carry out
airstrikes against the PKK and IS in both Iraq and Syria. The government
has justified this action by stating that the fight against terrorism was
to be carried against all terrorist groups (Letsch, 2015). As mentioned
above the attacks against the IS in Syria are being coordinated with the
US who was authorised to use the Incirlik Air-base (Erkuş, 2015).
As a retaliation for what the PKK called a violation of the ceasefire,
in place since 2013, and the bombardment of the camps in Iraq, the
PKK has carried out several attacks on Turkish security forces (Pamuk,
2015). These events have lead Erdoğan to declare that the peace talks
initiated in 2012 were no longer possible (Aljazeera, 2015). There are
speculations that Erdoğan’s purpose of wakening the conflict with the
PKK is to discredit the People’s Democratic Party (HDP)8, a pro-Kurdish
political party, that by gaining 80 seats in the Parliament in the elections
in June 2015, has prevented the AKP from getting the overall majority
(Karadeniz, 2015).
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 133

Turkey’s activities in Syria and Iraq brought to light the unresolved

Kurdish issue in the Southeast of the country especially now that
Turkey has to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees in its
own territory. Turkey has so far received close to two million refu-
gees and spent about $5billion. The Hatay border province has been
particularly affected, as the gathering of refugees coming from Syria is
feeding increasing ethnic tensions, as most of the refugees are Sunni
Muslims in a province in which more than one third of the popu-
lation is Arab Alevi, a community that is related to Syria’s Alawites
(ICG, 2013).
Concerning the refugees in Turkey, the EU has assisted Turkey with
financial help, a total of €187.5 million up to December 2014 (European
Commission, 2014). However, Turkey has criticised the EU for its limited
assistance. The EU responded that Turkey was late in requesting assist-
ance and, as highlighted in a 2013 International Crisis Group report,
Turkey has been hesitant in allowing international organisations and
NGOs to work in its territory. Such behaviour from both Ankara and
Brussels follows a pattern that has been rather common since the Arab
Spring sparked. Turkey and the EU have been acting in separate ways
instead of seizing the opportunity to cooperate (Aras, 2013, Oğuzlu,
2012). The stalemate in the EU accession negotiations process makes
Turkey reluctant to deepen its foreign policy cooperation with Brussels
(Soler i Lecha, 2011).
However, even if Turkey and the EU were not acting together, they
shared a common view on a number of issues, such as the support to
the realisation of free and fair elections in most of these countries. These
views diverged significantly from Russia’s, which was rather sceptical of
the negative impact the whole political instability in the region could
cause to its strategic interests (Baev, 2011). Moscow’s conservative stance
regarding the uprisings was exemplified in its support for Assad in Syria,
a subject discussed in further detail in the next section.

Resetting Turkey’s Middle Eastern policy?

From a domestic perspective, it is not clear how involved Turkey
wants to be in the region. In a poll conducted in September 2012 by
Araştırma Danışmanlık Eğitim (GENAR), when asked ‘How do you see
Turkey’s place in the region and in the world?’, 41 per cent responded
‘Independent within its borders’, 21.1 per cent ‘Unity with Turkic coun-
tries’, and 20.5 per cent ‘Unity with Muslim countries’. Interestingly
enough, only 13.3 per cent responded ‘Unity with Western countries’.
Following the pattern traced since the establishment of the Republic, the
134 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

Turkish population is mostly in favour of pursuing the country’s inter-

ests unrestrained from specific regional ties (Çaha, 2013) and Turkey has
tried to diversify its interests, namely through the opening of embas-
sies in countries and continents, in which it has feeble political and
economic links, as in South America (five new embassies) and Africa (30
new embassies). In a more radical move, Erdoğan has asked Vladimir
Putin to allow Turkey into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The
request has so far been unsuccessful, but it shows that Turkey is serious
about diversifying its international relations.
Despite these efforts, it is undeniable that Turkey’s international
success is intimately related to its Middle East policies. It is there that it
faces the most relevant geopolitical problems; it is its privileged access
to the region that other international partners seek when dealing with
Turkey. Even for the EU and the US, this is seen as the major contribution
Turkey provides internationally. The Arab world shares this view, even
if with decreasing levels of enthusiasm. In a 2009 poll, 77 per cent of
respondents in the Middle East favoured a larger regional role for Turkey.
Four years later, only 60 per cent thought the same way, although very
negative results in Syria and Egypt contributed to the decrease in the
overall support (Mufti, 2014: 21).
Overall, the Middle East has helped Turkey raise its normative profile
while becoming a significant regional and even global trading partner.
This thin balance has been tested nevertheless, namely with Russia.
Despite Turkey’s outspoken reactions against the Damascus regime, criti-
cism against Moscow’s policies has never gone beyond certain limits and
it is expected that the divergent political stand will not affect economic
ties between the two countries. As stated by Erdoğan, ‘[u]nfortunately,
we disagree with Russia over the Syria issue. We have talked about this
many times, but we have wasted time despite our meetings. Russia
continues to support [the Syrian regime]. Apart from this issue, our
economic relations [with Russia] are very good’ (Beki, 2014). It is clear
that Erdoğan does not intend to alienate Russia because of their disa-
greement over Syria, or even Ukraine.
It is difficult to deny that Turkey’s foreign policy in the region is going
through a ‘problematic’ period, without ambassadors in Egypt, Israel
and Syria, and almost ‘non-existent’ relations with Baghdad (Stein,
2014). More worryingly, Erdoğan has been resorting to the same type
of speculative rhetoric that he often employs regarding domestic issues.
He has been quoted as stating ‘[there] is a game being played on Turkish
borders’ (Beki, 2014), as well as ‘there are new voluntary Lawrences,
disguised as journalists, religious men, writers and terrorists’ (AFP, 2014),
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 135

in reference to the famous British officer T. E. Lawrence that became

known as Lawrence of Arabia, due to his involvement in supporting the
Arabs in their wars of independence against the Ottoman empire during
the First World War.
This type of inflammatory rhetoric, combined with the less than
impressive role played by Turkey in stopping the progress of IS forces in
Kobani have led many commentators to question Turkey’s commitment
to the West, in particular to the Atlantic Alliance. The French philosopher
Bernard-Henri Lévy (2014) wrote an article questioning whether Turkey
should remain in NATO once Kobani fell, while Jonathan Schanzer
(2014) argued that Turkey was no longer a ‘reliable ally’. The Wall Street
Journal (2014) went as far as writing an editorial about ‘Our Non-Ally in
Ankara’ in which it was argued that the US should focus its attention on
the Kurds because: ‘America may no longer have friends in Ankara, but
that doesn’t mean we don’t have options in the Middle East’.
While Turkey was praised by its western allies, including the EU, for its
Middle Eastern policy during the Arab revolts, its recent policies towards
the region have not only met widespread scepticism across Europe as,
together with AKP’s authoritarian turn in domestic politics, have put
into question Turkey’s overall commitment to the European project
(Today’s Zaman, 2014). That said, Turkey is still seen, in the words of
the former European Commissioner Stefan Fülle as a ‘strategic partner
for the European Union’ and ‘[t]he very serious developments in the
region, in particular in Syria and Iraq, render cooperation on foreign
policy issues even more crucial’ (Middle East Online, 2014).


Over the last decade, the AKP’s foreign policy strategy has tried to
promote Turkey as a vibrant globalised economy able to contribute
to conflict resolution in its neighbourhood. However, the unexpected
and sudden events that constituted the Arab Spring revealed the diffi-
cult position in which Turkey stands regarding its southern vicinity.
Although, Turkey’s international ambitions go beyond the Middle East
(by 2023 – the centenary of the Republic – Turkey wants to be among
the ten largest economies in the world and have consolidated its pres-
ence worldwide, both bilaterally and multilaterally), the influence in
that region is fundamental for Ankara’s larger power projection project.
It is also an important element in its relations with both Russia and the
EU, its two main trading partners. Despite having opposite interests to
those of Russia in the region, and being constantly criticised by the EU
136 André Barrinha and Laura Bastos

regarding its domestic politics, Turkey is still seen as a crucial strategic

partner for both Moscow and Brussels, in good part due to its privileged
ties to the Middle East.
As seen in this chapter, it is unclear at this stage, how long Turkey will
be able to sustain that privileged position. Turkey knows that it needs to
invert what seems to be its progressive ‘deleveraging’ in the region, which
will be particularly difficult given the multiple conflicts, rivalries and
tensions that cut across it. In addition to an extremely complex regional
context, Turkey is now faced with an increasingly unstable domestic situ-
ation, with Erdoğan facing growing accusations of authoritarianism and
the latest general election dictating the AKP is not in a situation to form a
majoritarian government for the first time in 12 years. The conflict with
the Kurdish minority is escalating and the country’s economy is not in a
particularly robust state (Russia’s economic crisis is certainly contributing
to that). It is undeniable Turkey’s prospects were much more promising a
few years ago. But so was the overall regional context. Unfortunately for
Turkey, the former is rather depedent on the latter.

1. Acronym for Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi
2. Priorities such as the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the region, the promo-
tion of dialogue in international affairs and the positioning of Turkey in key
multilateral organisations and fora that contribute to the consolidation of its
position as an important international actor (Davutoğlu, 2009). Hence, Turkey
has tried to have a greater role in international organizations and intervene
in matters such as the Georgia crisis in 2008 or the nuclear negotiations with
3. In this period, Ankara sent a senior diplomat to Syria to express the will to
restart the dialogue between the two countries. Later on, Ismail Cem met
his Syrian counterpart in an Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s meeting
emphasizing the need to improve economic relations between the neigh-
boring countries. However, relations between Turkey and Syria continued to
deteriorate and the two countries almost came to the brink of war in 1998
(Altunışık, 2009). Only later did Turkey and Syria relations enter a period of
improvement with the signing of the Adana agreements, which foresaw the
two countries’ cooperation against PKK. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the
Republic of Turkey, 2011).
4. A steady rhythm of hosting and participation in multilateral events and bilat-
eral diplomatic summits, designed to increase Turkey’s profile on the interna-
tional scene.
5. The authors would like to thank the editors for pointing out this aspect.
6. The Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform is a (failed) proposal from
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan aimed at creating a platform for regional dialogue that
would include countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia.
Out of Will or Out of Necessity? 137

7. Russia, for being Turkey’s main energy supplier, and Georgia for geopolitical
reasons in the Caucasus.
8. Acronym for Halkların Demokratik Partisi

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Part III
Competing Political and
Economic Models in the
Shared Neighbourhood
The Impact of the Arab Spring
on Central Asia: Regional and
Macro-regional Implications
Ekaterina Koldunova


The Arab Spring had a profound impact on international relations in

the Middle East and beyond. The rising popular unrest in this part of
the world provoked a new wave of debate about the hardships of trans-
forming autocratic states into functioning democracies (Mansfield and
Snyder, 2012; Przeworski, 2012). It has also revealed numerous chal-
lenges for countries mired in democratic transition. The incapacity of
weak political institutions to address pressing social and civil needs, the
difficulties of establishing a constructively functioning opposition, the
danger of growing social imbalances and popular unrest against a back-
ground of intensified information exchange within and between coun-
tries constitute only a few such challenges. Moreover, the case of the
Middle East particularly highlighted the perils of religious extremism
once it becomes the last resort for expressing one’s disagreement. The
enumerated challenges emanate from the conditions of tightly inter-
connected international and domestic environments and raise ques-
tions regarding optimal strategies for reforming hybrid regimes under
these conditions. There have been voiced suggestions that the Arab
Spring could have a potential spill-over effect for Central Asia, thus
transforming the security situation in this overlapping neighbourhood
between Russia, the European Union (EU) and Turkey and creating a belt
of permanently politically unstable countries from Northern Africa to
Afghanistan (Lillis, 2012; Zikibayeva, 2011).
Indeed, one can trace some similarities since non-liberal regimes
dominate the region. For several decades since the collapse of the

146 Ekaterina Koldunova

Soviet Union, the region has been enduring the ‘re-traditionalisation’

and archaisation of social relations with social security and justice in
question (Zviagelskaya, 2009a). Besides, it has already experienced its
own political turmoil of a ‘coloured revolution’ in the Kyrgyz Republic
(2005) not so long ago. However, there are also differences, which make
one think about less straightforward analogies between the two regions.
From the onset of the Soviet Union disintegration, Central Asian states
lacked strong national movements which could potentially breed a
political culture of protest. They also lacked the previous experience of
fair elections (Zikibayeva, 2011). Moreover, the painful consequences of
the USSR dissolution and the civil war in Tajikistan (1992–1997) made
populations of Central Asian states supportive of the political discourse
of stability rather than radical change.
This chapter assesses the recent political transformations in Central
Asia against the background of the Middle Eastern turbulence. It will
also address the question of how the effects of these transformations
could change the constellation of political and security relations in the
region of overlapping neighbourhood for several major powers, like
the European Union, Russia, and Turkey. Bearing in mind that Central
Asia represents a region where multiple external actors have their own
interests, this chapter considers the named three powers as specifically
interested in Central Asia’s stable development, though with divergent
visions of the paths towards it and different degrees of involvement in
regional affairs. Russia looks for ways to keep its Asian neighbourhood
stable and supportive politically, in times of growing contradictions with
the West and the fluctuating security situation in Afghanistan. In 2012–
2014, the EU started to reassess its foreign policy towards Central Asia
by emphasising security issues and joint counterterrorism efforts and
establishing in 2013 the EU-Central Asia High Level Security Dialogue.
Turkey, so far less politically involved in the region, on the one hand,
increasingly considers Central Asia as a potential foreign policy asset
for its new ambitious goals of becoming a major regional power in the
Middle East. On the other hand, it has to take into account its domestic
uprising movement, which became visible in 2013 thus provoking
anxiety at home and abroad that Turkey may become one more ‘Arab
Spring’ country.
Conceptually, this chapter uses the notions of ‘patronal presiden-
tialism’ and dominant-power politics to define the institutional frame-
work that emerged in post-Soviet Central Asian states during the
previous decade (Hale, 2005; Carothers, 2002). This institutional frame-
work combined with the informal aspects of political process resulted in
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 147

consolidating autocratic ‘strong-weak’ states in Central Asia. Regarding

terminology of regime types, this chapter considers all Central Asian
states as hybrid political regimes combining both democratic and auto-
cratic features. The degree of prevalence of these features defines the
autocratic or anocratic character of a particular regime.
The difference between the two hybrid regime types, autocracy and
anocracy, is specifically important because it indicates the level of intra-
elite pluralism. This pluralism per se, combined with a bad socio-eco-
nomic situation, separately cannot lead to a ‘coloured’ revolution, but
the union of a certain segment of the elite and mobilised masses may
well do so (Solovei, 2011: 36). Monty Marshall and Benjamin Cole char-
acterise autocracy as a political regime with very limited citizen participa-
tion and no checks for executive power from the legislative and judicial
branches or civil society (Marshall and Cole, 2011: 9). In contrast, anoc-
racy represents a type of regime in which ‘institutions and political elites
are far less capable of performing fundamental tasks and ensuring their
own continuity’ (Marshall and Cole, 2011: 9). In anocracy the level of
intra-elite division is higher and there is no full power domination of
one group. The Polity IV database categorises Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
as anocracies while Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan belong to
the group of autocratic states.
Central Asian political regimes can be also considered neo-patrimo-
nial, with personal networks centred on political leaders serving as
the key element of political process. The prefix neo- implies that the
mentioned networks can be formed not only on the basis of traditional
relationships (clan, kinship, family, region) but also on a rational basis
as well (business, resource redistribution, etc.) (Franke et al., 2009).
Empirically, this chapter looks at the common and specific features of
political regimes in five Central Asian states to define the possibilities
and risks of Arab Spring-type regime change. Methodologically, this
chapter compares socio-economic and political indicators distinctive for
the countries affected by the Arab Spring and Central Asia to identify
societal and institutional weaknesses which make the states in question
vulnerable in the face of rapid political changes. In the further analysis,
the conceptual discussion of the regime types in Central Asia serves as a
factor in defining the distinctions in the foreign policy making of Russia,
the EU, and to a minor extent – of Turkey – towards Central Asia.
The chapter starts by examining the common trends of political devel-
opment in Central Asia to identify the underlining conditions, which
resulted in the formation of post-Soviet political regimes in the region.
The analysis then delves into a comparison of the socio-economic
148 Ekaterina Koldunova

and political indicators of Central Asian and selected Arab states1 to

show political and social trends similar for both groups of countries.
Further on the chapter looks at the current political transformations
of the five Central Asian states to show the specific features of these
political regimes and the distinctions from those that went through the
Arab Spring upheaval. The final section of the chapter considers the
political transformation-security nexus and draws preliminary conclu-
sions concerning regional and macro-regional implications of political
transformations in Central Asia for Russia, the EU, and Turkey and their
respective agendas in relations with Central Asian states.
The main assumption is that the region is currently entering a shaky
phase of political development with no mechanism of institutionalised
political succession in place after more than two decades of independ-
ence. The Arab Spring scenario, not very realistic for Central Asia so
far, nevertheless should remind the political elites of these countries
that strong personalised political leadership cannot be a substitute for
political institutions even in the situation of relative political stability.
Russia, the EU and Turkey, though being unanimously interested in
Central Asian states as stable economic and political partners, have
divergent perceptions of the region. These differences, as well as the lack
of positive experience of coordinated actions between Russia and the EU
in another shared neighbourhood – Ukraine – so far prevent the named
three actors from more cooperative actions in Central Asia.

Central Asia: common trends of political development

Geographically Central Asia comprises the territories of Kazakhstan,

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region of People’s Republic of China and
Afghanistan. Such a definition of region derives from the common
geographical features, historical logic of co-development of these terri-
tories as well as ethnic, religious, and demographic links between the
peoples inhabiting this area today (Zviagelskaya, 2009a).
Politically, however, the current studies of Central Asia tend to
include in this region only five ex-Soviet republics, namely Kazakhstan,
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. In debating
historical terminology which defines the region from the viewpoint of
political analysis, the majority of researchers generally tend to agree on
common political and security dynamics typical for all Central Asian
states today (Zviagelskaya, 2009b; Cummings, 2012). Among them
are features which can be collectively identified as Soviet legacies, and
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 149

formal and informal aspects of political processes currently framing the

consolidation of neo-patrimonial political regimes.
The Soviet legacies manifest themselves in several aspects. During the
Soviet period, all Central Asian states experienced accelerated authori-
tarian modernisation, primarily in the socio-economic sphere. This type
of modernisation transformed the predominantly agrarian societies into
agrarian-industrial states with a strong system of social security, including
universal schooling and pension system. However, the socio-economic
modernisation did not go hand in hand with political modernisation, at
least not in the sense of democratisation of the political process or the
emergence of a strong civil society.
In the political sphere, during the Soviet period Central Asian states
were framed as nation-states, though the process of national consoli-
dation remained incomplete, whether in the early or in the late 20th
Century (Bergne, 2007; Abashin, 2011). Since the 1960s, the Soviet
political elite tried to introduce a notion of a new, above-nation, social
entity: ‘Soviet people’. This experiment distorted and slowed down
the process of national consolidation in Central Asian republics even
further. As a result, all five republics managed to keep elements of tradi-
tional self-regulation rooted in clannish, regionalist and tribal intercon-
nections (Bogaturov, 2011). Politically, the Soviet imitative federalism
did not disrupt these types of relations, but rather added a formal level
of governance linked to the Communist party system thus creating ‘a
politicised strong-weak state’ (Cummings, 2012: 4; McMann, 2004).
After the collapse of the Soviet Union all five republics proclaimed the
aims of democratic development. The advocates of democratic transition
theory immediately included post-Soviet states, Central Asian republics
among them, in the group of countries which were to constitute the
third democratisation wave of the 1990s (Huntington, 1991). However
after several years of independence all Central Asian states, with the
temporary exception of Kyrgyzstan, have witnessed the consolidation
not of democratic, but of autocratic political regimes with only minor
variations. The ‘Tulip revolution’ of 2005 in Kyrgyzstan brought to the
forefront some hopes for democratisation in this country but actually
proved to be a struggle for power among regional clans (Cheterian,
2010). The core assumptions of the democratic transition paradigm
proved non-functional in the case of Central Asia. These countries
have not moved directly towards democracy, but have rather become
mired in some intermediate stages on this path. Indeed, Central Asian
states, though not being among the most active proponents of Soviet
Union dissolution, nevertheless managed to establish façade democratic
150 Ekaterina Koldunova

institutional frameworks within just several years after it. Elections

took place more or less regularly in all Central Asian states. However
these political processes still demonstrated ‘non-Western’ features (Pye,
1958) corresponding neither to democratic standards, nor to the transi-
tion paradigm. In contrast to this paradigm, which actually denies the
importance of suggested preconditions for democratic transition, in
Central Asia, both endogenous factors (the lack of democratic historical
experience, economic and social crisis, the challenges of state-building)
and exogenous ones (the absence of external drivers for democratisa-
tion) proved to be not very conducive of democratic reforms (Carothers,
2002: 6–9).
The durability of political elites became the main feature of the
political process in the region. After the collapse of the Soviet Union,
the incumbent First Secretaries of local Communist Parties retained
power thus becoming the first presidents of independent Central Asian
states. Some of them, like Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan or Nursultan
Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan have remained in power since 1990 and actu-
ally became ‘presidents for life’ retaining control over the political and
economic spheres in their states.
In contrast to ex-Soviet Caucasus republics and Baltic countries, in
Central Asia there were no strong national movements, which could
have put new pro-democratic leaders or at least new representatives of
the political elite in the forefront. The elite struggle was evolving rather
along clannish and regionalist lines, as in the case of the civil war in
Tajikistan or the ‘Tulip revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan. As a result, regional
cleavages preconditioned a necessity for centralising efforts as a mech-
anism of maintaining power and preserving stability in Central Asia
(Cummings, 2012). The dangerous precedent of civil war in Tajikistan
and the turbulences of post-Soviet political and economic transforma-
tion made the notion of ‘stability’ a distinctive feature of domestic
discourse as well as the way of maintaining power in other Central Asian
states, especially in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The former was trying
to formulate its own model of modernisation based on the principle
of doing economic reform first and political reform second and, thus,
explaining the necessity to perceive democracy ‘not as a starting point,
but a result’ of a long way (Nazarbayev, 2010: 26). The latter faced a
formidable challenge of Islamist threat, which endangered the fate of
Islam Karimov’s secular regime. In addition, in contrast to other post-
Soviet states, throughout the 1990s Central Asia was an arena for more
proactive actions of such players as China, Turkey, Iran, or Saudi Arabia,
rather than an object of durable external incentives for democratisation
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 151

from the EU or the US. The international players were looking for oppor-
tunities to enhance their stance in the region and acquire economic
benefits while Russia, the previously dominant power in the region, was
mired in its own political and economic problems.
The Islamic factor played an ambivalent role in post-Soviet Central
Asia. Historically, Central Asia had its own tradition of Islam with Khiva
and Bukhara being the most prominent Islamic centres in the region.
However, in the Soviet period, Islam was not practiced openly and
revealed itself only in selective daily activities. In the 1990s, political
elites of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan tried to incorporate Islam into
nation-building narratives (Hann and Pelkmans, 2009). However, the
religious component in this narrative remained secondary as compared
to ethnic or nationalistic discourses. In Uzbekistan, radical Islamic
groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb-at-Tahrir al-Islami,
formed a radical opposition and became a direct threat to the ruling
regime (Naumkin, 2006).
In the 1990s, Central Asian states witnessed the trends of bringing
back the patterns of traditional relationships to the social sphere. These
relationships actually replaced social security systems disrupted after the
collapse of the Soviet Union. Up to the present not the citizen, but a
traditional group, family or mahalia (neighbourhood), remains the basic
element of Central Asian societies (Zviagelskaya, 2009b). The society
acts like an arena of competing groups of interest though one cannot
consider them as analogues of civil society elements. Traditional social
stratification and regional divisions preserved the traditional type of
patronal relationships both in social and political spheres.
All Central Asian states retained strong paternalistic traditions of
governance based on hierarchical type of social relationship, clientelism
and traditional type of political loyalty (Zviagelskya, 2009b). Moreover,
political elites actively resorted to traditional means of legitimising their
power. One can find such examples in Central Asian authorities’ efforts
to construct national history around legendary or real strong person-
alities. In Uzbekistan, the function of such a historical leader is attrib-
uted to Timur (Tamerlan), in Kyrgyzstan, to epic hero Manas (Borisov,
2010). In Turkmenistan, the first president Saparmurat Niyazov based
his personality cult on the Ruhnama treatise (The Book of Soul), which
mixed history and national narrative with his own outstanding role in
Turkmenistan’s independent development (Denison, 2009). In 2010,
the upper chamber of Kazakhstan’s parliament made amendments to
national legislation in order to confer the special status of ‘national
leader’ on the incumbent president (Kommersant, 2010).
152 Ekaterina Koldunova

This combination of formal and informal political practices of

political leadership and the strong authority of presidential power
in Central Asia made possible the institutionalisation of a special
framework coined by Henry Hale as ‘patronal presidentialism’. Hale
identified two components of this framework. The first component
is a directly elected president with extensive authority secured by the
political system and reaffirmed through regular, formally competi-
tive elections. The second component is strong informal political and
economic power and control over patron-client networks (Hale, 2005:
137–138). Artyom Prokofiev adds to this definition one more compo-
nent: the ability to control and redistribute national resources and
other economic goods (Prokofiev, 2010).
From the viewpoint of the elite structure, strengthening patronal
presidentialism actually resulted in a move from ‘cartel-like deal’ type
of relationship within the elite with at least some kind of pluralism,
though quite weak, to a ‘winner takes all’ (meaning stronger presidential
power) scenario in Central Asia (Gel’man, 2008). For a short period of
independent history (discussed in detail in the next section) all Central
Asian states with the exception of Turkmenistan witnessed either a latent
or a relatively open struggle between several groups within the elite.
In the cases of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, by the middle of the first
decade of the new century incumbent presidents had fully suppressed
this intra-elite struggle. In the case of Kyrgyzstan, this struggle resulted
in the ‘Tulip revolution’. In general, four out of five states2 demonstrated
a clear trend towards enhancing presidential power and formation of
monolithic elites, which are not contesting the dominant position of
the president within the political system.

Central Asia and the Arab Spring countries:

similarities and differences

In terms of general political trends of consolidating autocratic rule and

durability of political regimes, one can compare Central Asian states with
the countries engulfed by the Arab Spring upheavals. The Arab Spring
can be roughly defined as the change of enduring political regimes by
forces of mass opposition, mainly of young age, protesting against the
radical social imbalances in the Arab societies. The triggers of popular
unrest were poverty and social inequality, corruption and high unem-
ployment rates, especially among educated young people (Bhadrakumar,
2013), these features are present in Central Asia as well.
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 153

Tables 7.1 and 7.2 (see Annex) indicate the similarities in socio-economic
and political developments of Central Asian states and those affected by
the Arab Spring. The level of economic development is measured by GDP
and GDP per capita (both in current US $). According to this indicator, only
Kazakhstan has more or less a satisfactory position with all other countries
lagging behind. The Human Development Index and income GINI coef-
ficient show that the level of human development is not matched with
social justice, both in the Arab and in the majority of Central Asian states
with the exception of Kazakhstan, which in this respect is closer to some
European states. According to the Corruption Perception Index calculated
by Transparency International, countries from both groups occupy the
lowest positions among 176 countries surveyed in 2012.
The political indicators (Table 7.2) used in this chapter to compare the
two groups of states include stateness index, index of institution basis of
democracy and Polity IV scores. Both stateness index and index of insti-
tution basis of democracy are calculated under the project Contemporary
Atlas of the Modern World carried out by MGIMO-University in 2005–
2009. The column titled the ‘results of the last presidential elections’
summarises dates and outcomes of these types of elections as most
important for countries with the institutional framework of patronal
presidentialism. It demonstrates the formal mass support to the incum-
bent presidents in Central Asia in the last elections ranging from 63 per
cent in Kyrgyzstan to 97 per cent in Turkmenistan.
The comparative analysis of countries according to the stateness index
shows that the Arab Spring upheavals took place in countries with rela-
tively high state capacities (in 2009 Egypt had a score of seven, Yemen –
6.77 and Libya – 6.71) but very low performance in institutional
foundations of democracy (scores of about 1–2). In this regard, Central
Asian states fall in the even riskier category as states with low stateness
index (5.31 in Turkmenistan, 5.05 in Uzbekistan, 4.45 in Kazakhstan,
2.01 in Tajikistan, 0.08 in Kyrgyzstan) and weak institutional capaci-
ties (2.10 in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, 1.87 in Uzbekistan, 1.05 in
Tajikistan, and 0.03 in Turkmenistan). To understand thoroughly the
differences between the two groups of states and indicate the possible
results of these different trajectories of autocratic regime developments,
one needs to examine in more detail the trends of regime consolida-
tion in each of the Central Asian states. Based on the features of the
intra-elite interaction in the five countries and previous analyses, it will
be possible to make a conclusion concerning the prospects of and chal-
lenges to democratisation in Central Asia.
154 Ekaterina Koldunova

Political transformations of newly independent Central

Asian states

Kazakhstan. Throughout the period of its independent development,

Kazakhstan has witnessed several political transformations which resulted
in the consolidation of power in the hands of the first and current presi-
dent Nursultan Nazarbayev. Konstantin Syroyezhkin defined two major
trends framing the political process in Kazakhstan since independence.
The first, pro-democratic trend was towards working out a new insti-
tutional design for independent development. The Constitution of
1993 provided the legal basis for parliamentary democracy. However,
the increasing socio-economic problems of the early 1990s stimulated
authoritarian backlash and expansion of presidential powers legally
secured by the new Constitution of 1995 (Syroezhkin, 2011).
The President became a separate branch of power checked by the legis-
lative, executive or judiciary to the minimum extent. Nazarbayev was
re-elected for the presidential post in 1999, in 2005, in 2011 and in
2015 (before the actual expiry of his term). These re-elections became
possible due to the special status provided by the Constitutional law
on the first president of Kazakhstan (2000, with amendments made in
2010) (Kommersant, 2010). This growing concentration of power by the
president enabled him to eliminate influence groups, which controlled
some segments of Kazakhstan’s economy in the beginning of this century
and which were actively engaged in intra-elite conflicts in 2001–2004.
In addition, it helped him to undermine any possibilities of political
competition within the elite and, consequently, the appearance of coun-
ter-elite, which could have mobilised massive protest movements.
According to Dosym Satpayev, in 2001–2004, Kazakhstan’s elite
consisted of several circles around the president (Satpayev, 2007). The
inner circle included the presidential family (wife, daughters, and
sons-in-law). Companions and protégés (professionals and adminis-
trators) personally appointed by the president formed the next circle.
The ‘distant circle’ included business and regional elites. In 2011,
Konstantin Syroezhkin divided Kazakhstan’s elite into two large group-
ings – the ‘southern clan’ and the elite grouping currently in control of
the country’s economy and holding some administrative positions. The
former included, for example, one of the most influential business and
administrative persons in Kazakhstan’s elite and the mastermind of the
privatisation processes in Kazakhstan, Sarybai Kalmurzayev,3 the head of
‘Samruk-Kyzyna’ in charge of state assets Umirzak Shukeyev, and others.
The latter consisted of the Prime Minister Karim Masimov, the president’s
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 155

second son-in-law, and the former Vice-President of the national oil and
gas company KazMunayGas, Timur Kulibayev (Syroezhkin, 2011). This
classification actually reflected the shift towards less politically oriented
and more economy oriented elite. In fact, for the past decade the presi-
dent suppressed any attempt for growing political role by any repre-
sentative of various elite groupings.
However in the case of Kazakhstan, the consolidation of the political
regime and the more or less favourable economic situation still have
not become a remedy for social unrest. Though so far quite limited,
paradoxically, it was the economically stable Kazakhstan where riots of
oil industry workers in Zhanaozen took place in 2011. While the experts
disagree on the reasons behind the riots, this case demonstrates that
the mass movements in this country can originate not in the political
sphere but in the socio-economic one and potentially have important
political implications (Bigo and Hale, 2013).
Political realities of Kazakhstan have now become unfavourable for
effective competition not only between elites, but also between parties.
In 2011, only one party, the pro-presidential Nur Otan, got all seats
in the lower chamber of Parliament (Mazhilis). In 2012, the president
had to initiate out-of-time elections which resulted in redistribution of
seats between Nur Otan and two other parties (Ak Zhol and Communist
People’s Party), labelled by some experts as ‘imitative’ oppositional
parties or quasi-opposition parties (Malashenko, 2012: 25; Franke et al.,
2009). Ak Zhol and Communist People’s Party got eight and seven seats
respectively out of a total of 98 seats (Parline, 2013). In doing this parlia-
mentary reorganisation, Kazakhstan has actually reproduced Russia’s
experience of creating ‘systemic opposition’. The limited representa-
tion in the parliament can help this opposition articulate its interests
through the parliamentary debate, which does not endanger the posi-
tions of the president but demonstrates the formal democratic features
of the political process in Kazakhstan to its European partners. This
becomes particularly important for Kazakhstan’s multivector foreign
policy, which primarily aims at keeping business contacts, especially in
the energy sphere, with both Russia and the EU.

Uzbekistan. Among the five Central Asian states, Uzbekistan represents

a case where the opposition to radical Islam determined the political
regime’s evolution. Chaos in neighbouring Tajikistan during the civil
war and military turmoil in Afghanistan reinforced this trend, empow-
ering the ‘stability first’ discourse of the ruling elites and ensured public
support to a gradual approach to political reforms. The latter in practice
156 Ekaterina Koldunova

resulted in growing presidential control over the political and economic

situation in the country and over competing clans.
In the 1991 presidential elections in Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov
received the majority of votes. In 1995, 2002 and 2007 his presiden-
tial authority was extended. After the terrorist attacks carried out by
the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan between 1996 and 2001 and the
Andijon events of 2005, when Islamists actually backed a presumably
peaceful demonstration against the regime (Naumkin, 2006), the Uzbek
authorities eliminated all possibilities for legal opposition. These actions
ensured the regime’s stability but at the same time were not conducive
to the development of functioning institutions in Uzbekistan except for
patronal presidential power. Considering that President Karimov’s health
has been deteriorating, some experts note that the absence of a successor
to the president may have dramatic consequences for Uzbekistan
(Dolgov, 2013). The Turkmen scenario of succession (discussed further
in this section) based on elite consensus over the nominee for the presi-
dential post cannot be a strategic option for a country in which the mili-
tant Islamist groups represent the only real opposition to the current
In 2005, following the US suit, the EU imposed sanction on Uzbekistan
after the Andijon uprising. However considering Uzbekistan’s strategic
position relative to the situation in Afghanistan, sanctions did not last
long. The EU lifted them in 2009 without examining in much detail
the human rights progress in Uzbekistan, thus still facing the dilemma
between European normative standards implementation and security
cooperation with the country neighbouring Afghanistan. Apparently,
the security and socio-economic concerns prevailed in the EU approach
to Uzbekistan including in the designing of a new EU-Uzbekistan devel-
opment programme for 2014–2020 (European Union, 2014). For Russia,
Uzbekistan’s regime poses its own dilemma. Uzbekistan remains the most
troublesome partner for Russia in the region. Islam Karimov’s efforts to
receive security guarantees from a variety of external partners, including
the US, the EU and Russia have not once impeded Russian multilat-
eral initiatives in the region. However, the security concerns make
Russia maintain neutrality towards the political regime in Uzbekistan in
order to not aggravate the situation there in times preceding the power

Kyrgyzstan. In the 1990s, Kyrgyzstan formally represented a showcase

of democratic and market reforms in Central Asia. In practice the first
president of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev tried to follow the same path of
building patronal presidentialism, remaining above all other political
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 157

forces and controlling intra-elite divisions. However, there were several

factors which led to the failure of this system in Kyrgyzstan and provoked
the ‘Tulip revolution’ of 2005–2007.
As compared to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan lacks signifi-
cant natural resources, primarily energy resources, which play an impor-
tant role in the process of redistribution of national wealth. Without its
ability to redistribute economic resources among the political elite, it
became more and more problematic for Akayev to keep the elite consoli-
dated (Prokofiev, 2010). Without a strong basis for elite consolidation,
the regionalist divisions and southern clans’ underrepresentation in the
political system became more pressing and triggered a ‘coloured revolu-
tion’ against the incumbent president, a representative of the North.
However, this revolution ended up reproducing the authoritarian regime,
although now centred on different clannish structures with Kurmanbek
Bakiyev, a representative of the South, at the helm (Zviagel’skaya, 2011).
Initially, the Western reaction to the ‘Tulip revolution’ was quite posi-
tive while Russia perceived this revolution as yet another one in the
line of mass uprisings developing in the post-Soviet space, including
the ‘Rose revolution’ in Georgia in 2003 and the ‘Orange revolution’ in
Ukraine in 2004 (Solovei, 2011).
In 2010, a coup d’etát ousted Bakiyev from power. A new constitu-
tion was adapted, redesigning the political system and including more
checks and balances between the president and the parliament. Up to
now, Kyrgyzstan represents the only case of really competitive presi-
dential elections (2011) though held after several non-constitutional
and undemocratic regime changes. The EU’s and Russia’s reactions to
the 2010 events in Kyrgyzstan were more unanimous, but did not lead
to any visible coordinated actions. The EU High Representative for
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton issued a statement
condemning the violent actions in the South of Kyrgyzstan that accom-
panied Bakiyev’s overthrow (European Union, 2010). Russia, in its turn,
tried to influence the situation in Kyrgyzstan via the Collective Security
Treaty Organization (CSTO), an international body comprising Armenia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, and facilitated
consultations with Kazakhstan and the US (Troitskiy, 2010).

Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, the consolidation of a patrimonial authori-

tarian regime was a result of the civil war of 1992–1997 between
several regional groupings. Peace agreements concluded in 1997–2000
by President Emomali Rahmon and the United Tajik Opposition
formally provided conditions for power distribution between the parties
of conflict and reserved 30 per cent of posts in the government and
158 Ekaterina Koldunova

regional administration for the representatives of opposition. In practice,

as Ibragim Usmonov notes, the existence of this quota made Rahmon
highly suspicious of any intra-elite groupings, which potentially could
have bid for power (Usmonov, 2011). To maintain control over his polit-
ical sphere, Rahmon introduced a special system of permanent rotation
for those included in the system of state governance to prevent the
emergence of any political leaders within administrative elite.
All external actors, Russia, the EU, and Turkey included, consider Tajikistan
as a central element for the regional stability after NATO withdrawal from
Afghanistan. Each of them consequently undertook some efforts to increase
Tajikistan’s social and economic sustainability. Russia so far remains the key
provider of Tajikistan-Afghanistan border security with Russian forces of the
201st military base located there. Since 2010, the EU has also paid partic-
ular attention to Tajikistan having set up the EU-Tajikistan Cooperation
Council. As in the case of Uzbekistan, the EU also embarked upon working
out a special cooperation programme with Tajikistan for the period until
2020. In 2011, Turkey initiated the Istanbul Process on Regional Security
and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan, inviting Afghanistan,
India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates,
China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to take part. This
process aimed at discussing border control mechanisms and infrastructure
projects in the region (MFA of Turkey, 2011).

Turkmenistan. Among the five Central Asian states, Turkmenistan

represents the most extreme case of consolidated authoritarian regime
with a highly personalised system of power. After the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991, then-First Secretary of Turkmenistan’s Communist
Party Saparmurat Niyazov became the first president of Turkmenistan,
three years after he proclaimed himself Turkmenbashi, the father of
all Turkmens. Since then, the political process and political culture in
Turkmenistan have rotated around his personality. Political parties were
banned. During presidential elections Niyazov got stable support of
about 99 per cent of votes.
Niyazov’s demise in 2007 provoked analytical discussion concerning
scenarios of political succession in Central Asia. So far Turkmenistan
remains the only Central Asian state which survived non-violent regime
change, made possible by the ‘close, homogeneous nature of the elite’
(Horák, 2010: 38). This elite managed to come to a consensus about the
candidacy of the new president, Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, within
a very short time period and thus prevented any internal or external
debate about Turkmenistan’s political future. Despite its authoritarian
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 159

regime and constant criticism from the European Parliament for its
human rights record, Turkmenistan remains an important partner for
the EU in terms of energy cooperation. The same considerations drive
Turkey’s desire to build stronger ties with Turkmenistan (Shlykov, 2014).
In this regard the EU, Turkey, and Russia, which also has its own interests
in the energy sphere of Turkmenistan buying their natural gas, become
competitors for this country’s benevolence thus overlooking the draw-
backs of local political processes.
Despite certain differences, all the examined cases indicate one
common trend. For the past decade the majority of Central Asia states
either moved away from anocracy (with competing elite groups and no
absolute domination of one elite group) towards autocracy, or witnessed
stronger consolidation of previously autocratic regimes. Polity IV
project scores support this trend for all countries except Kyrgyzstan (see
Table 7.2). In some Central Asian states (for example, in Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan), as in the secular Arab states before the Arab Spring, autocratic
regimes apart from keeping the political control, also fulfil an impor-
tant function of containing radical Islamist groups and extremists from
getting to power. While preserving temporary stability, these regimes
eliminate any possibilities for the opposition’s systemic presence in poli-
tics, as they can maintain themselves in a ‘winner takes all’ or dominant
power situation. In addition, a strong rhetoric on the radical Islamic
threat results in the marginalisation of those actively professing Islam
thus creating additional social cleavages in Central Asian states.
Some may argue that these regimes suit the purpose of controlling
competing clans and keeping intra-elite struggle at bay within coun-
tries with social and security problems (Naumkin, 2006). However, the
preceding analysis shows that these regimes have institutional problems
as well. The combination of weak institutional capacities, the distorted
mechanism of intra-elite interaction and the lack of mechanisms of succes-
sion for the aging presidents make Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and to some
extent Tajikistan increasingly vulnerable to any political transformation
and power succession. Moreover, in Uzbekistan Islam can act as a mobi-
lising factor for mass movements in the event of any political turbulence.
The most serious threats here emanate from the immediate proximity to
Afghanistan as well as close relations between the ethnic insurgent groups
in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Among all other Central Asian
states, Turkmenistan enjoys relatively stable prospects because, in compar-
ison to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, it lacks both internal and external
challenges and impulses for regime transformation. However, this stability
will make any future reforms for this country even more complicated.
160 Ekaterina Koldunova

Central Asia and external players: the changing

constellation of security relations

As the previous section showed, there is interdependence between the

possible political transformations in Central Asia and regional secu-
rity. So far all regional political regimes managed to preserve their
secular nature and maintain the status quo in their respective socie-
ties. This made them stable and more or less predictable political and
economic partners for Russia, Turkey, and also for the EU. However,
this stability and status quo became possible at the expense of feasible
democratic reforms and keeping at bay potentially explosive reactions
to rapid political changes of the 1990s within these non-consolidated
Though Central Asian leaders regard the domestic political situation
as their sovereign internal affairs, Central Asian socio-economic devel-
opment still depends on the region’s relationship with extra-regional
players. Among them Russia and the EU can have a profound influ-
ence on the region, despite Chinese growing economic presence. In
contrast to other actors like China or Turkey, Russia and the EU can
propose viable support to Central Asia not only in economic terms, but
also in social and institutional modernisation thus also contributing to
regional security. During the past decade China’s interests in Central
Asia were mostly visible in the infrastructural sphere while Turkey was
only starting to implement its regional-power-strategy. Moreover, for
some segments of Central Asian societies, especially in Kazakhstan and
Kyrgyzstan, the EU still remains a more appealing model of institutional
modernisation, despite its low engagement in Central Asia (Peyrouse,
2014). Objectively, both Russia and the EU are interested in steady
regional development. However the exact features of Russia’s and the
EU’s agendas in the region vary significantly.
Russia has been trying to institutionalise its multilateral cooperation
with Central Asia through several mechanisms. The Commonwealth
of Independent States and Eurasian economic cooperation framework
represent the main efforts of this kind in the political and economic
sphere, while the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
(SCO) involved the majority of Central Asian states in security coopera-
tion. However, Central Asian states were not relying completely on ties
with Russia and were willing to diversify their external relations, mainly
in terms of closer cooperation with China, Turkey and the European
countries. The new US presence in the region after 9/11 also questioned
Russia’s dominant position in the region. Moreover, a decade ago Russia
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 161

itself seemed not to have a clear vision on how to deal with Central Asia
(Malashenko, 2012).
However, in the beginning of this decade the looming large non-
traditional threats like drug trafficking and direct military threats to
Central Asian states emanating from ethnic extremist groups based in
the neighbouring Afghanistan made the Russian political and economic
elite reassess its Central Asian policy. The launch of the Custom’s
Union in 2011 identified Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as Russia’s key
economic partners in the region while the US partial withdrawal from
Afghanistan in 2014 stirred up Russia’s activities within the CSTO and
the SCO (Koldunova and Kundu, 2014). Thus, within the past several
years Russia set a strategic goal of restoring its geopolitical and economic
presence in Central Asia and the implementation of this goal depends
on smooth relations with the regional political elites. Given this, Russia
will hardly discuss with its Central Asian partners any aspects of polit-
ical reforms in these states, stressing mainly socio-economic and secu-
rity issues. Moreover, Russia is actively seeking support in Central Asia
for its official position that ‘coloured revolutions’ are becoming a new
security threat. The Arab Spring scenario for Central Asia and a possible
connection between extremists groups in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq
remains a concern, which some regional states, namely Uzbekistan,
may well use instrumentally in gaining economic preferences from
Russia (Kazantsev, 2014).
That being said, Russian socio-economic help and efforts under-
taken within the CSTO and the SCO alone are not enough to promptly
improve the regional situation. In this case the EU seems to be a natural
partner for Russia and Central Asian states. Indeed the EU ‘Strategy for
a New Partnership’ with Central Asia adopted in 2007 addressed key
regional problems like security challenges, economic underdevelop-
ment, environmental and water issues (European Union, 2009). One
of this strategy’s goals was to ensure security and stability in the region
through an intensified cooperation with the EU and bilateral assistance
programmes in the enumerated spheres. At the same time, opposite to
Russia’s approach, the EU strategy also set several value-based priori-
ties like supporting human rights, good governance and democratisa-
tion in the region. However, some researchers voice concern that the
EU’s interests in the energy cooperation with Central Asia and anxiety
about possible regional destabilisation after 2014 actually overshadows
this normative vision of the EU’s Central Asian policy (Bigo and Hale,
2013). The security issues made the EU intensify its contacts with
Central Asia in this sphere launching the EU-Central Asia High Level
162 Ekaterina Koldunova

Security Dialogue in 2013. The aims of this dialogue were to deepen

counter-terrorism efforts, counter-drug trafficking and drug addic-
tion measures, and to ensure the border security through joint efforts
(European Union, 2013).
Indeed the security concerns shared by Central Asian states, Russia,
and the EU may speak for preserving the political status quo rather
than political transformation, especially given the outcomes of the
Arab Spring. Meanwhile the majority of security threats in Central Asia
arise not only from the region’s proximity to Afghanistan but also from
the lack of implementable strategic visions of political and economic
modernisation. In this regard, despite the divergence in the tactical
aims of cooperation with Central Asia, Russia and the EU common
long-term interests would be served by the peaceful transformation
and evolutionary development of Central Asian regimes through socio-
economic development and gradual reforms. Such reforms may be a
result of socio-economic development, search for new ways of intra-
elite interaction and stronger political institutions. The EU and Russia
can contribute to these reforms by supporting social development and
comprehensive security in Central Asia, while Turkey may support the
EU and Russia’s actions with its own economic projects in the region.
However, such a joint contribution requires coordinated actions, which
are unlikely to take place after the 2013–2015 crisis in EU-Russia rela-
tions over Ukraine, another country of the EU-Russia overlapping


The previous sections have shown that practically all Central Asian
states are currently facing the same challenge. This challenge arises
from a necessity to find the optimal balance within the political elite or
between various elite groups to enable a non-violent process of power
succession. The ‘strong-weak state’ phenomena and the combination
of strong personalised leadership embodied in patronal presidentialism
and weak political institutions remain distinctive features of all Central
Asian republics.
Despite the differences between Central Asian autocratic regimes and
those regimes which witnessed the Arab Spring turbulence, the violent
regime change scenario should remind Central Asian elites of the neces-
sity to proceed with political modernisation. In the Arab world even
the most enduring political regimes which had managed to survive for
The Impact of the Arab Spring on Central Asia 163

several decades, proved to be prone to rapid and violent regime change.

In the case of Central Asia, this kind of scenario would lead to the most
negative consequences paving the way for radical extremist groups or
long-term political destabilisation.
Such developments would not only mean a new wave of violence in
the region but also the downfall of secular regimes, which still have the
potential for evolutionary democratic transformation. In this respect,
Russia’s, the EU’s and Turkey’s tasks in the region of this shared neigh-
bourhood consist in contributing to regional socio-economic develop-
ment and in building a system of comprehensive security, which will
enable gradual political modernisation in Central Asia. The ability of
these actors to act in concert in the area of their shared neighbourhood,
however, so far remains under question.


Table 7.1 Socio-Economic indicators in the countries of ‘Arab Spring’ uprising and
Central Asia

GDP per Income Corruption

GDP capita GINI Perception Unemployment
(current (current HDI, Coefficient, Index (rank**), rate (%),
Country US $, 2011) US $, 2011) 2011 2000–2010 2012 2010

Countries of ‘Arab Spring’

Tunisia 46,434,616,144 4,350 0.710 41.4 75 13
Egypt 229,530,568,260 2,781 0.661 30.8 118 9.0
Libya n.a. n.a. 0.725 n.a. 160 n.a.
Yemen 33,757,503,322 1,361 0.459 37.7 156 n.a.
Syria* n.a. n.a. 0.646 35.8 144 8.4
Bahrain n.a. n.a. 0.795 n.a. n.a. n.a.

Central Asia
Kazakhstan 188,049,986,359 11,357 0.750 29.0 133 5.8
Uzbekistan 45,359,432,355 1,546 0.649 36.7 170 n.a.
Kyrgyzstan 6,197,765,942 1,124 0.621 36.2 154 n.a.
Tajikistan 6,522,200,291 935 0.618 30.8 157 n.a.
Turkmenistan 28,061,754,386 5,497 0.693 n.a. 170 n.a.

*Syria cannot be considered as a country of the Arab Spring in terms of the social upheaval dynamics, but
it is included in this table as an autocratic country which has witnessed an unsuccessful attempt of political
transformation initiated by the political regime itself under the international pressure.

**Position among 176 countries.

Source: GDP, GDP per capita, unemployment rate (World Bank Development Indicators, 2013a, b, c), Human
Development Index (HDI), Income GINI Coefficient (UN Human Development Report, 2013), Corruption
Perception Index (Transparency International, 2011). Table compiled by the author.
Table 7.2 Political indicators in the countries of ‘Arab Spring’ uprising and Central Asia

Stateness Index, Institutional basis of Results of the last Polity IV scores,

Country 2009 democracy index, 2009 presidential elections 2010

Countries of ‘Arab Spring’

Tunisia 5.54 2.10 2011, Moncef Marzouki, elected –4
by Parliament with 153 out of
156 votes
Egypt 7.00 2.21 2014, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, 96.6% –3
Libya 6.71 0.65 2012, President Muhammad –7
Yusuf al-Maqaryaf, elected by
National Congress, results n.a.
Yemen 6.77 1.14 2012, President Abd Rabuh –2
Mansur Hadi, about 50% (no
other candidates)
Syria 5.08 1.91 2007, Bashar al-Asad, approved –7
by popular referendum for next
7-year term
Bahrain 5.19 1.39 Hereditary monarchy, King –8
Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa (since
Central Asia
Kazakhstan 4.45 2.10 2011, Nursultan Nazarbayev, –6
Uzbekistan 5.05 1.87 2007, Islam Karimov, 88.1% –9
Kyrgyzstan 0.08 2.10 2011, Almazbek Atambaev, 3
Tajikistan 2.01 1.05 2006, Emomali Rahmon, 79.3% –3
Turkmenistan 5.31 0.03 2012, Gurbanguly –9
Berdimuhamedow, 97.1%

Note: The stateness index evaluates a ‘state’s capacity to maintain its existence, sustain its independent development, and deal with domestic and
external problems’ (Melville, 2009: 53). The stateness index incorporates the following variables: share of foreign aid in a country’s GNI, internal
conflicts and their impact on regime stability, external debt, duration of sovereign stateness, ratio of patent applications by residents and non-residents,
foreign military presence, national currency pegging regime and share of ethnic majority in a country’s total population (Melville, 2009: 53). The
index of institution basis of democracy shows the ‘existence and development level of absolutely essential (even though insufficient) grounds and
conditions for public involvement in and control over decision-making’ (Melville, 2009: 122). This index includes such variables as competition for
the executive, factors reinforcing or weakening the institutional basis of democracy (continuity of democratic tradition after World War I, absence
of disruption of competition for the executive, etc.), duration of uninterrupted minimal electoral tradition (1945–2005), parliamentary competition,
electoral inclusiveness and share of women in the lower house of parliament (Melville, 2009: 130). Both indexes have score from ten to zero with
ten indicating the highest state or institutional capacity and zero indicating the lowest capacity. Polity IV project shows individual country regime
trends for the period from 1946 to 2011 with scores between 10 (democracy) and −10 (autocracy). In between there are several regime types indicating
intermediate conditions like open anocracy (from 5 to 1) and closed anocracy (from 0 to −5).
Source: Melville (2009), the CIA World Factbook (2013), Polity IV Database (2011). Table compiled by the author.
166 Ekaterina Koldunova

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Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria as a reference group (Haseeb
2012; Naumkin et al., 2012) to single out and compare social and political
characteristics intrinsic both to the named countries and countries of Central
Asia with hybrid autocratic and anocratic regimes.
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Dichotomy of Energy Policies in
the Caspian: Where Two Strive
Another Benefits?
Slawomir Raszewski


The chapter maps and explains practices of foreign energy policies in

the Caspian region of three regional actors, the EU, Russia and Turkey.
This is to understand the strategy each of the actors has sought to imple-
ment regionally and to assess how these practices have influenced their
respective neighbourhoods. A decade on from the key geopolitical
moment represented by the political enlargements of the EU in 2004
and 2007, a renewed EU-Russia relation has emerged coinciding with
the lack of success in accommodating Turkey into the EU project.
While traditional military security preoccupations have always been
a central concern for the three actors, a plethora of non-traditional
security preoccupations, including those linked to the energy sector,
have come to the fore. The 2000s witnessed increased policy activism
of both the EU and Russia in the Black Sea/Caspian region. Facilitation
of policy objectives of the two actors with competing political and
infrastructural projects, aimed at increasing the transit of natural gas
from the region to Europe, have added up to an increased politicisa-
tion of energy trade and attempts to securitise it. The dichotomy of the
two actors’ Caspian energy policies elevated and reinforced Ankara’s
foreign energy policy objectives complicating even further the picture
of regional policies aimed at its immediate neighbourhood. Drawing on
the three actors’ practices and policies aimed at the region, the chapter
assesses the nature of current relations in the energy sector. The chapter
argues that while competition in the energy sphere between the EU
and Russia has elevated Turkey’s regional role, Ankara’s energy policy

Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 171

influence remains in question. Despite the competition between the EU

and Russia, Ankara has been unable to fully operationalise its ambitious
policy vision within the region largely due to its own internal energy
market constraints. In general, energy relations between the three actors
have become more nuanced containing forms of both cooperation and

Defining the Caspian region: geography, function

and social aspects

Assigning arbitrary boundaries to any segment of space or area and

treating it as a unit rather than a part in the wider realm of interna-
tional politics has to be determined by at least two aspects, the geog-
raphy and the function. In addition to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia,
the Central Asian Turkic republics of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as
well as Persian Iran geographically and physically comprise the region
(Raszewski, 2012: 108). All of the above countries but one – Georgia –
are riparian countries of the Caspian Sea, the key criterion for their
inclusion in the regional perspective as far as political geography is
concerned. Nevertheless, the political geography aspect is one primarily
determined by historical interactions between political actors involved
in the broad space which, as such, may change over time. The case of
Georgia demonstrates this point. The policy of unlocking the Caspian
energy resources initiated in the early 1990s revitalised the westbound
orientation of Azeri oil (and later, gas) production, inevitably locking
Georgia into the strategy as a transit state. The geographical unit occu-
pied by the statehood of the above listed countries requires an analysis
from a functional perspective.
The proven energy potential of the region has been a recurring facet
defining the Caspian in the post-Cold War period. It comes as little
surprise that, as noted by a leading academic expert in the field, the
Caspian region is ‘defined by oil and gas’ (Aydın, 2004a: 3). In the 2000s
the two underpinning characteristics of the region – geography and
energy – were the building blocks shaping narratives and informing
policy practices of Moscow and Brussels. The logic of what the region
is in political terms and ensuring it stays there can be attributed to
the manner in which Russia has pursued its Caspian policies, or more
broadly, relations with its ‘near abroad’. The logic of what the region
should be moving towards – a new policy framework – has been, in turn,
associated with the European Community’s interests in its new ‘neigh-
bourhood’ (Christiansen et al., 2000).
172 Slawomir Raszewski

The lukewarm reception and different strategies underpinning EU and

Russian policies aimed at the Caspian region (Mangott and Westphal,
2008: 170) has pushed the geography of energy politics to the centre of
the agenda while bringing Ankara to the fore of policy processes. Owing
to the Caspian’s regional constraints, primarily its land-lockedness, the
function of regional identity constructed around oil and gas conflates
the region around the Black Sea in energy terms, with Turkey as the
conduit linking the energy-producing regions in the Caucasus and
Central Asia with consuming states in Europe (Raszewski, 2012: 108).
Owing to policy objectives of the three respective regional actors, the
EU, Russia and Turkey, in the 2000s and early 2010s, the Black Sea/
Caspian energy problematique has been effectively conflated (Raszewski,
2013; Ker-Lindsay, 2008).
Lack of agreement over the status of the Caspian Sea has effectively
frozen facilitation of a trans-Caspian pipeline which would tap natural
gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The frozen status-quo and the
heads of states’ managed process between the Caspian littoral states
effectively disrupted Uzbekistan’s westbound export orientation instead
favouring exports to China.
The conflation and extension of the political geography of regional
politics has inevitably brought in more diverse narratives that included
EU Black Sea Member States, Bulgaria and Romania as balancers and
geopolitical ‘ins’ or ‘outs’ in energy politics. This overlapped with
Turkey’s proactive energy politics cutting in-between the EU and Russia,
with a clear agenda of its own. As opposed to the EU’s regional approach,
Ankara’s proactive energy politics have rested on energy diplomacy
rather than institutions elevating the energy dossier to the level of Prime
Minister. Yet, the energy policy engagement with the EU initiated in
2000s was not discontinued but, rather, adapted to the policy focus of
the Community itself. While retaining a tight grip over the future of
its gas sector viewed as strategic, Ankara has taken a ‘soft’ approach on
reorganisation of its electricity market adapting to the expectations of
the EU. Ankara also continued its policy engagement with Moscow in
the field of energy; in addition to gas, it signed an agreement on nuclear
power plant construction at Akkuyu, in Mersin Province with Russia.
The importance of the conflated region underpinned by geograph-
ical and functional aspects lies primarily in the political economy of
energy of regional actors, both in energy production and consumption.
Stretched between energy consumers and producers with their differing
energy strategies, Ankara has sought to place itself as the ‘centre of
gravity’ for the policies of the EU and the regional energy producers,
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 173

including Russia. With Western sanctions against Iran increasingly in

the political domain, Ankara’s role as transit state for future gas supplies
from the Caspian region (including from Iran should circumstances
allow) has dramatically increased.

Perceptions and policy practices vis-à-vis the Caspian

European foreign policy perceptions and practices in the
Caspian neighbourhood

The history of European policies aimed at the Caspian region date back
to the early 1990s. Regional support from European institutions was
offered in the form of institutional frameworks which were to provide
‘technical assistance’ and were, in essence, aimed at capacity building for
the new market economies which were about to unfold. Owing to their
importance and in order to prevent them from dysfunction following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, the oil and gas infrastructure became
the key area in which the EU initiated its early assistance. With economic
reform in mind, the then Newly Independent States (NIS) of the South
Caucasus and Central Asia had been offered technical assistance and oil
and gas infrastructure support through EU-funded programmes (Adams,
2002: 7). The Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) of
1993 and the Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe (INOGATE)
initiated in 1998 opened up new foreign policy opportunities rein-
forcing the EU vision of what the region should be: a region of ‘contacts
with the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions, as well as the Caucasus and
Central Asia via the east-west transport corridor’ (Nassibli, 2004: 170).
Those merely technical assistance programmes paved the way towards
policies of political engagement with the Caspian region and were
followed by a reshuffling of the security policy in Europe (Hanson, 1998:
14). NATO and EU expansion had marked a breakthrough in the balance
of power in Europe, leading to Russia’s negative reaction, seen as an
aggression of the Cold War era collective defence alliance towards the
former Eastern Bloc countries (Tsygankov, 2013: 186). The expansion of
the Euro-Atlantic structures coincided with Russia’s increasing reasser-
tion and consolidation of its role and its control over energy security
and transit of hydrocarbons to Europe (Baev, 2012). ‘Freeing’ the Caspian
region from Russian influence, a policy initiated by the US government
in the 1990s, was aimed at ensuring non-Russian and non-Iranian transit
of Caspian energy resources (Nanay and Smith Stegen, 2012: 347). The
Russian transit avoidance and development of alternative supply routes
from the Caspian via Georgia and Turkey coincided with the expansion
174 Slawomir Raszewski

of the Euro-Atlantic structures, increasing perceptions of insecurity in

Moscow. Tensions in the geopolitical relations between Russia and the
EU have increased due to the melting Eastern Bloc and the shrinking
territorial distance between the two actors (Belyi, 2003: 351). The
perceived tensions between Russia and the West and the importance
Moscow ascribed to its regional role reached a peak in mid-2000s. In
2006 during Russia’s G8 chairmanship, Moscow elevated energy secu-
rity to the top of its policy agenda making the case for Russian energy
resources and Moscow’s role in ensuring Europe’s security of supply as
well as Russia’s security of demand (Yenikeyeff, 2006: 2; Baev, 2012:
178). For the EU, increasing pressure to tap affordable resources in order
to enhance its competitiveness became its key ‘energy security’ objec-
tive at the backdrop of European-Russian energy relations (Vatansever
and Koranyi, 2013: 1). Diversification of external gas supplies to include
natural gas from the Caspian became an obvious policy choice for the
EU for the years to come.
The early policy activism in the energy field preceded the collapse
of the Soviet Union as proven by the Energy Charter process proposed
in 1990. With five broad areas, the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is a
legal framework to ensure foreign energy investment protection and
promotion and provide for WTO rules-based free trade in hydro-
carbon energy. It also enables free transit of energy through pipelines
and grids, sets state-to-state and investor-to-state dispute settlement
mechanisms as well as addresses environmental concerns through effi-
ciency improvements (Baghat, 2006: 968–969). Seeking to fill the gap
in the field of foreign energy investment protection and promotion,
the Energy Charter process opened a saga in energy relations between
Brussels and Moscow. Perceived as an unbalanced agreement in the
eyes of President Putin, and as an example of the unfair treatment
of Russian interests during the weak Yeltsin-era governments, Russia
refused to implement it.1
Although, Russia’s non-ratification of the ECT had been viewed as
a bone of contention between the two actors, it was the question of
energy transit that eventually brought Russia’s partial engagement with
the Energy Charter process to a standstill. A draft of the so-called Transit
Protocol which was proposed to Moscow carried a mix of perceptions.
Accepting liberalisation of rules governing energy transit inside Russia’s
own territory would have diametrically changed the rules of the game
in the Eurasian energy chess game, introducing competition between
the gas produced in Central Asia with that produced in Russia. From the
perspective of the state hydrocarbon companies such a shift was viewed
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 175

as endangering their monopolist position, which motivated Russia’s

eventual rejection of the ECT. The annex to the Treaty – the Transit
Protocol – has been quoted as the main issue at stake which prevented
Moscow from ratifying the Agreement. Yet, the Yukos affair, in which
Russia has been criticised internationally, was seen as a stumbling block
for full internalisation of the ECT in Moscow (Westphal, 2011: 3).
Azerbaijan has been cautious in its responses to external policy initia-
tives offered by the EU. Baku has nominally placed integration with
European and Euro-Atlantic structures as its foreign policy priority.
Considering its geopolitical reality, with Russia and Iran as its neigh-
bours, Azerbaijan has opted for a ‘balanced foreign policy’ defined as
less proactive in political outreach to the Euro-Atlantic structures to
avoid antagonising Russia (Huseynov, 2009: 61).
As a part of EU’s effort to reach out to Central Asian states, the
EU-Central Asia strategy was conceived covering, among others, cooper-
ation on energy and transport (European Union, 2009). The EU-Central
Asia Strategy framework builds on the EU’s foreign and security policy
with a clear geo-political inclination. By virtue of the scale of economic
transactions with the EU, Kazakhstan is the key actor in the strategy
framework out of the five Central Asian states.2 Kazakhstan is the third-
largest non-OPEC supplier of energy to the EU after Russia and Norway
and the EU is its biggest trade partner (Nazarbayev, 2014).
EU-led policy frameworks aimed at the post-Soviet Caspian region
received overly negative reception in Russia. Moscow has viewed them
as undermining the sphere of Russia’s traditional economic and political
interests. To offset the perceived threat of EU’s activism in the Caspian
region, Moscow sought to operationalise its Eurasian Union project with
Kazakhstan as a key member state. While there has been wide percep-
tion in the Kremlin that the EU’s policy practices may have a detri-
mental effect on Russia’s interests in the region, analysis of the situation
suggests a more nuanced picture. The crisis in Ukraine and the economic
sanctions on Russia which followed have been collaterally damaging
to Kazakhstan owing to the scale of its economic exchange with the
EU bloc. Yet, due to a number of political and socio-economic reasons
Kazakhstan’s as well as Azerbaijan’s approaches to the EU-orchestrated
policy frameworks have been largely pragmatic. Both countries sought
to ensure balanced relations with Russia and the EU that would reflect
the existing realities of trade exchange and investments. Kazakhstan’s
political choice of siding with Russia and Belarus within the Eurasian
Union suggests Astana’s pragmatic decision-making while, at the same
time, through the EU-Central Asia Strategy, has maintained commitment
176 Slawomir Raszewski

to economic agreements and investments made by European energy

industry in Kazakhstan and, vice versa, Kazakhstan’s energy company’s
investments within the EU.

Russia’s perceptions and practices of foreign policy regarding

the Caspian neighbourhood
It is a common perception in Europe that Putin’s ascent to power in
2000 concluded the Yeltsin-era relative openness and pro-western
orientation of Russia (Oldberg, 2007: 15). Since Putin began serving as
President of the Russian Federation, Russian energy policies have been
increasingly becoming a tool of foreign policy (Goldman, 2008). The
2003 Yukos affair has been viewed in Europe as the representation of
the overwhelming control of the state in energy matters (Åslund, 2008).
Following Russia’s refusal to ratify the ECT, the European Union initi-
ated the Energy Dialogue with Russia as a ‘specific substitute for the
ECT’ and ‘a permanent consultative mechanism’ with the security of
energy supply in Europe as its main cornerstone (Seliverstov, 2009: 10).
Brussels was interested in securing its supply by mitigating risks through
a diversification of partners and promoting energy market liberalisation.
From the Russian perspective, the framework was an invitation to foster
energy trade with the EU in a very narrow, energy producing area of
the world. Yet, the Russian understanding of the Energy Dialogue did
not match European expectations (Romanova, 2008: 91) and, rather
than through market, was to be delivered through the vertically inte-
grated business model of Gazprom, where control is exercised across
the value chain comprising the production, transportation and distri-
bution functions. The continuous cycle of policy failure on both the
EU and Russia sides, in terms of understanding the expectation of each
partner, led to a growing mistrust between the two sides, which culmi-
nated in the Russian-Ukrainian gas pricing disputes of 2009. As a result,
the EU focused its attention towards the Caspian region and alternative
The European technical and political activism was viewed in Russia
as self-projection of the Community into Russia’s traditional ‘sphere
of influence’. This projection of the EU’s policy goals towards the
region, directly impacting the Russian strategy, has ever since ‘proved
to be difficult to reconcile with an energy partnership with Russia’
(Raszewski, 2010: 137). The relations based on the bilateral Partnership
and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Brussels and, in particular, the
multilateral agreements bundling regional actors within the European
Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) have been viewed in Moscow as clashing
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 177

with Russia’s post-Soviet Eurasian regional projects (Flenley, 2008: 189).

The EU soft law has been supplemented by institutional frameworks,
creating a complex picture of foreign energy policy-making within the
Union. Inspired by the EU, a series of policy frameworks which directly
or indirectly address ‘energy security’ in the Union’s ‘near abroad’ have
proliferated and include the ENP, the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the Black
Sea Synergy (BSS) and the EU’s Strategy for Central Asia (Prange-Gstöhl,
2009: 5296). These frameworks aim to establish EU rules and guide-
lines on energy with regard to its immediate neighbourhood. Owing
to their geopolitical significance, these institutional frameworks have
also further disillusioned the future energy and non-energy relationship
with Russia, as they have been viewed in Moscow as being politically
oriented. The business strategy of Russian companies since the 1990s
has been built around downstream diversification and ensuring mainte-
nance of long-term contracts (Quast and Locatelli, 1997) underpinned
by ‘marketing subsidiaries, purchasing shares in local companies and
forming joint ventures with national partners in transport, distribu-
tion and trading’ (Locatelli and Mima, 2007: 6). This traditional way to
decrease uncertainty to its security of demand has been at the forefront
of Russia’s energy strategy, which it has pursued to offset the growing
deregulation of the European gas market which, in turn, has rested
on enhanced competitiveness to address the cost of energy to the end
consumers (Haase and Bressers, 2008: 17).

Turkey’s perceptions and practices of foreign policy regarding

the Caspian neighbourhood
In the 2000s, the motivations of Turkey’s foreign energy policy remained
blurred: was Ankara seeking to become the transit route for Caspian
natural gas (Roberts, 2004), or a gas trade hub (Winrow, 2009) that would
lead to more market competition regionally? Or, perhaps, besides the
notion of a gas hub, that refers to a point – physical or virtual – where
several interconnecting pipelines meet and are supplemented by nearby
gas storage facilities (Energy Charter Secretariat, 2007: 231), was the goal
of Turkey to advance a rather vague notion of becoming an energy bridge
between the EU and the Caspian (Terterov and Niculescu, 2012)?
The gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine of 2008/2009 gave the
Turkish government a unique, though largely missed, opportunity to
enhance its stance towards the EU’s energy institutionalism (Raszewski,
2012: 195). During Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s trip to Brussels in
January 2009, which coincided with the 2009 gas crisis, the blurred energy
diplomacy was unveiled as the meetings with EU officials were focused
178 Slawomir Raszewski

on Ankara’s enlargement bid and energy security (EurActiv, 2009). While

meeting with the heads of the EU, including Enlargement Commissioner
Rehn, European Commission President Barroso and Secretary General/
High Representative Solana, the Turkish Prime Minister tailored his
tone to the audience, at the time of the most problematic and ‘game
changing’ gas pricing dispute that had broken out between Russia and
Ukraine, the EU’s main gas supplier and transit country, respectively.
The new energetic Minister for European Integration, Egemen Bağış,
tried to convince the international community of the pertinence of his
country’s EU membership aspirations (Kardaş, 2009).
Yet in the heat of the gas dispute, the reality was that the EU enlarge-
ment bid story-line proved to be less of a priority than initially intended,
whereas maintaining the ‘status quo’ could serve both sides’ interests
and prevent retaliation measures from Russia (Raszewski, 2012: 196).
At the time of the Russia–Ukraine gas transit crisis, the Turkish Prime
Minister focused on geopolitical considerations instead of domestic
energy sector reforms as a solution to ensure the EU’s energy security.
Mr Erdoğan’s offer was to use Turkey’s location as an alternative to the
Russian/Ukrainian corridor for the Caspian energy transit. The EU,
though, only asserted its position, fretting that the Turkish offer if real-
ised could only repeat the already well-known Russia–Ukraine scenario
(Kardaş, 2009). As a result, in the aftermath of the 2009 gas dispute the
EU has moved towards integrating its internal energy market as a way of
influencing events beyond its borders. Examples of practical steps taken
to ensure integration of internal energy market include the repeal of
the 2003 Directive and the 2009/73/EC Directive concerning common
rules in natural gas market (European Parliament, 2009). Through its
institutional setting, Directive 2009/73/EC essentially sought to ensure
energy supply security and as low energy prices as possible by garnering
the energy market power of its consumers. Being within its competency
reach, the internal energy market offered a promise that, once inte-
grated, could effectively shield the EU against growth of state-owned
energy supplying companies, EU or non-EU based. Hinged heavily
on diplomacy, operationalising an external energy policy was a diffi-
cult task for the EU. What the EU truly needed was not another fragile
energy diplomacy arrangement but a stable and accountable basis for
energy relations, a framework closer to what a comprehensive energy
community could resemble (Raszewski, 2012: 196). Practical applica-
tion of such a framework could only be possible with full participation
of Ankara by its subscription to the EU-produced energy law. Should
Ankara subscribe to such a framework, it would, effectively, have to play
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 179

according to the rules of the EU energy market game: playing the role of
a market and transit country for the Caspian natural gas. Yet, Turkey’s
aspiration to become a gas hub – with trans-shipment, storage and resale
of gas attached to the hub model in absence of legal and functional
powers of energy market – would go against the logic of the energy
community. An energy relation between the EU and Turkey based on a
gas hub model would effectively shift balance and comparative advan-
tage towards Turkey should it fulfil all the required elements of a gas
hub. Finally, such a relation would be viewed by the EU as going against
its goal of reducing dependence on supplies and routes.

Promotion of each actor’s vision and impact on

respective bilateral relations

European Union
Throughout the 2000s, the EU political focus has been on advancing its
strategy towards the establishment of a Southern Energy Corridor (SEC)
with the Nabucco gas pipeline project as its centrepiece. Also known
as the ‘fourth corridor’ where the other three are gas arteries linking
the EU with Algeria, Russia and Norway, the SEC refers to the idea of
building new gas infrastructures that would interconnect the Caspian
energy producers with energy markets in the EU (Raszewski, 2012:
xii). Overseen by the European Commission’s President and Energy
Commissioner, the Nabucco inter-governmental agreement, signed on
13 July 2009 and ratified by all five partner countries – Turkey, Bulgaria,
Romania, Hungary and Austria – fits with the objectives of a consumers’
energy security strategy perspective on the security gas supplies by
building a dedicated interconnecting pipeline and, thus, linking the EU
energy markets with energy producing countries of the Caspian region.
The Nabucco Intergovernmental Agreement granted ‘transit rights to all
signatories, even in the event that one of the partners would withdraw
from the project’ (Socor, 2012). The trouble was that the agreement did
not create a legal benchmark for future alternative pipeline options that
may be conceived in the future. Nor did it guarantee that the actual
Nabucco pipeline would be built (Raszewski, 2012: 240). Finally, the
EU was said to have supported primarily the Nabucco project without
necessary support to other projects (Roberts, 2011) such as the Trans-
Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). While the large-scale Nabucco project received
enormous political support within the EU, the choice of which pipeline
was to deliver gas to Europe was made by the industry. The consortium
180 Slawomir Raszewski

comprised of the key stakeholders of the Shah Deniz II field develop-

ment eventually opted for TAP which was seen as a more cost-effective
and scalable project as compared with Nabucco.
Demise of the Nabucco project changed the dynamics of the
EU-backed SEC strategy bringing transit and producing states into the
focus. Deliberation on the future of the SEC brought Ankara and Baku
closer, resulting in a potential alternative option – the Trans Anatolian
Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP). As opposed to the EU-backed Nabucco
project, TANAP was to be owned in its entirety by Turkey and Azerbaijan,
the energy transit and the energy producing countries, respectively
(Socor, 2012). Although Nabucco was staunchly supported by Ankara,
the project was ultimately compromised by Turkey’s gas hub ambitions.
In order to become a gas trade centre, Ankara moved on to strengthen
its energy sector relations with Moscow undercutting the SEC concept
(Konończuk et al., 2012). The EU vision of bringing the Caspian region
closer to the energy norms and values of the Community therefore hit
the wall of Turkey’s ambition to win Russia’s support for several other
energy hub-related projects such as the Samsun–Ceyhan oil bypass,
promoted by Ankara as an alternative for the Turkish straits passage of
Russian and Kazakh crude or the Blue Stream 2 (İşeri and Dilek, 2011:
42). The most recently discussed Turk Stream project to interconnect the
Russian and Turkish gas systems can be viewed as yet another attempt to
undermine the SEC strategy.

The central objective of the Kremlin over the last decade has been to
ensure and to maintain intact a regional status quo of Russian leadership
in security and geopolitical dynamics in the Caspian region. The Russian
ambition had been backed by the favourable economic environment
with high hydrocarbons prices in the early 2000s (Drobyshevsky, 2014:
149). The strong economic growth largely fuelled by oil and gas sales
to regional and international markets, in particular the EU, strength-
ened Russia’s role in the Eurasian energy matrix. From the weakness of
the 1990s to the glory of the 2000s, Russia became an actor to be reck-
oned with. However, the two consecutive EU enlargements into Central
and Eastern Europe have made Moscow realise the EU’s neo-hegemonic
status on the continent. Russia’s central role in the post-Soviet space in
economic and socio-political terms came to be challenged by the reori-
entation of some of the former Soviet countries’ foreign policies. With
the Baltic trio already in the EU, Georgia and Ukraine sought to engage
with the EU institutions, inevitably changing political and geopolit-
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 181

ical perceptions in Kremlin as to the future of regional and European

Similar to the Turkish aims of gaining a stake in the changing geopo-
litical environment (as this chapter addresses below), Russia has started to
challenge the neo-hegemonic status of the European Union in Europe by
initiating projects of its own, particularly the ‘idea of a “greater Europe”
[that is] ‘explicitly developed by Russia’ (Sakwa, 2011: 315). As in the
Turkish case, the idea of Greater Europe ‘does not deny the EU’ and,
instead, is aimed at providing alternative international regimes to that
of the EU-led institutionalised integration on the European geopolitical
space. In particular, the Russian vision of a Greater Europe seeks to create
a ‘new vision of interdependence [that] would not take the form of the
ever-growing capacities of the EU within a classic supra-national neo-
functionalist framework [and would rather] allow a more organic pan-
European intergovernmental integrative process to mature’ (Sakwa, 2011:
316). From the economic perspective, energy and transport of energy
resources (in particular, energy transit) is the backbone of institutional-
ised integration offered by the EU. As a non-traditional, trade bloc-type
of actor within the energy sector, the EU institutions are primarily aimed
at ensuring transparency and multilateralism in energy trade and invest-
ment. Institutions of soft law pertaining to internal energy market and
external integration frameworks aimed at the region (such as the European
Neighbourhood Policy, Energy Community Treaty or the non-EU process
of ECT) are effectively irreconcilable with Russia’s policies on energy.
Russia’s focus on non-institutionalised and bilaterally-binding energy
trade relations places the centre of power on states rather than markets,
providing for alternative international regimes to govern energy transit
and trade, in particular through energy diplomacy. While at odds with
that of the EU, Russia’s vision of energy relations is seemingly coinciding
with the Turkish state-driven energy policies. Both using the vehicle of
national ‘energy champions’ (Gazprom and BOTAŞ, respectively), Moscow
and Ankara seek to advance their energy interests by state means, rather
than purely market-driven policies, additionally aided by the strong and
charismatic leadership of their heads of state. Yet, as is the case with
diplomacy, full convergence of Russian and Turkish regional energy poli-
cies is subject to tit-for-tat. Russia is unwilling to assign Turkey a greater
gas transit role in the SEC project as it would challenge its own interests
in Turkey and, more broadly, in the Caspian region. Russia’s emerging
policy to bypass Ukraine for Gazprom’s EU-oriented gas supplies by
adding new export pipeline capacity, including the newly-proposed
Turkish Stream project, politicises energy relations in the wider Region
while challanging Turkey’s energy policy. By inducing more energy
182 Slawomir Raszewski

dependence on Russia-supplied natural gas, Russia effectively inhibits

Ankara’s ambitions of creating more variety and liquidity in what Turkey
wants to develop as a hub-based trading point. More Russian gas in the
Turkish market and Moscow’s diplomatic supremacy over the future of
trans-Caspian pipeline effectively postpone socio-economic and political
development in Georgia, while making Baku wary of geopolitical choices
it makes in the unstable and fragmented Southern Caucasus.

Turkey has gradually reinvented its vision of the role it plays in the region
alongside Russia and the EU. To understand Turkey’s relation with the
EU in the 2000s it is necessary to underline key forces and evolutions
in Turkish domestic politics. EU-Turkey relations have progressively
moved away from the EU accession narrative. While a full membership
of Turkey in the EU is unlikely in the foreseeable future, close ties in
economic matters are expected to persist (Ferguson, 2013: 362). Yet,
with regard to its energy sector, the slow-down of Ankara’s acquisition
of institutionalised norms and values of the EU, required to successfully
transform its state-dominated energy markets, has been representative
of the increasing lack of momentum and interest from Ankara.
The fatigue of Ankara’s EU bid and dwindling popular support for
the idea of joining the ‘Christian Club’ led to the victory of the Justice
and Development Party (JDP), also known by its Turkish acronym AKP.3
Drawing on Turgut Özal’s policies of the late 1980s, the JDP foreign
policy making has been influenced by what Bilgin and Bilgiç call a ‘new
geographical imagination’ that is ‘based on a new conceptual foundation
that views Turkey not as part of a Western civilisation but as the emerging
leader of its own “civilisational basin”’ (Bilgin and Bilgiç, 2011: 173).
In energy security, because of Turkey’s unique locus stretched between
energy producers and exporters to the East and energy consumers and
importers to the West (Correljé and van der Linde, 2006: 533), the
structure of its energy sector is ambivalent. On the one hand, Turkey
maintains non-liberalised energy trade relations with its neighbouring
regions to the East who are mainly autocratic regimes with a state capi-
talist organisation prevailing as a form of governance. On the other
hand, market-based patterns of energy trade thrive with partners in the
liberalised West where the ‘predominant socio-economic organisation
includes pluralistic democracies and institutionalising or already insti-
tutionalised organisation’ (Özdemir and Raszewski, 2012).
The limits of the Turkish ‘civilisational basin’ are in Central Asia where
Russia holds geopolitical primacy, and advocates a broader framing
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 183

of Turkey’s geopolitical orientation as reflecting location, economics,

oil, water, and natural interests (Cohen, 2011). This conceptualisation
suggests that rather than a regional power balancer and bridge between
Europe and Eurasia, the role of Turkey has been ‘a bridge between the EU
and Russia’ (Cohen, 2011: 217). Indeed, due to its non-energy producer
status, the use of the ‘energy weapon’ as a tool of foreign policy to influ-
ence one or another issue has been beyond Ankara’s reach. Yet, owing to
its size, economic and cultural regional prominence, Ankara has sought
to seize a slice of the energy security pie.
Transforming Turkey into a gas trading hub has been favoured since
the JDP’s arrival to power, becoming a key objective both politically
and economically with politicians and entrepreneurs pushing for this
strategy (Winrow, 2014: 2). The bottom line is that the market-led
requirements for establishing a gas-trading hub were, in fact, compro-
mised by Ankara’s insistence that the hub be created through state-led
policies. Instead of reforming and prioritising the energy liberalisation
policy, so prominent in the 1990s and well ahead of the EU at the time,
the Turkish government increased its grip over energy policy as the new
currency of power (Raszewski, 2012: 195).

Diverging foreign policy and regional visions and their

impact on regional instabilities

Over the last decade, the Caspian region has witnessed new geopolitical
realities resulting from the increasingly prominent activity from two
actors – Russia and Turkey – at the expense of the EU’s institutionalised
and market-oriented approach. The EU’s ‘norms and values’ approach
towards the region has proved to be a difficult one when dealing with
Central Asian states, in particular Turkmenistan. Attempts on the side of
the EU at a more geo-political approach when dealing with Ashgabat’s
gas policy – selling on its border while avoiding participating in interna-
tional pipeline projects – can be seen as an attempt by the EU to make its
energy policies more flexible. The flexibility of the EU’s policy approach
towards this Caspian country is a function of the troubled relations
with Russia and, to an extent, Turkey’s inability to influence change in
Turkmenistan’s policy. The changing rapport de force between actors and
the resulting impact of both Russian and Turkish integrationist policies
towards the Caspian, and broadly on the Eurasian space, has had and
continues to have an impact on the patchwork of regional instabilities.
Russia’s disengagement from the so-called Minsk Group overseeing
the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may be seen as a
184 Slawomir Raszewski

representative example of the increasingly conflictive environment in

this much contested space. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been
‘instrumental’ in the process of accelerating the alignment of states
in the Caucasus while playing a central role in the new geopolitics of
Eurasia (Cornell, 1999: 1). Being a highly politicised issue, alignment of
states over the conflict is, thus, relevant for energy development in the
Caspian as exemplified by the exclusion of Armenia from major inter-
national energy projects.
The August 2013 official visit of President Vladimir Putin to his
Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, reinforced the already important
link between the two capitals (Muradova, 2013). Azerbaijan’s impres-
sive economic, political and diplomatic development and activities over
the last decade, fuelled by its petroleum and gas industry and foreign
investment in the energy sector, places it in stark contrast with Russia’s
own economic development, plagued as it is by the steady decrease of
its industrial output over the last two decades. Yet, while energy rela-
tions with European and US partners have flourished over the last two
decades, Baku is fully aware of its geopolitical locus between Russia and
Iran and the foreign policy options it has at hand with the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict as the hostage of regional stability (Yan, 2014).
Hoping to foster economic development and encourage regional trade,
Moscow has attempted to bring Armenia into the Moscow-led institu-
tional project of the Eurasian Union, a competitive construction aiming
to balance the EU offer and influence.4 With a strong economic presence
in the energy sector of Armenia and influence on the security-linked
decisions in the country, Russia remains the key actor in the regional
balance of power, hampering the success of the EU’s external energy
policies aimed at the region. The energy-security nexus is particularly
clear in case of Georgia, the main transit country linking the Caspian to
Turkey. With Russia’s real or perceived omnipresence in regional affairs,
Tbilisi has found it particularly hard to re-establish itself as a part of
EU-led regional policies. The dichotomy of the approaches between
Moscow and Brussels with regards to the visions the two actors have
pursued regionally remain as valid as ever. As much as the Russian and
the Turkish visions have contributed to the current state of play in the
contested space, the role of the EU cannot be understated. Yet the sole
focus on energy security might be detrimental to the overall European
The rising Turkish economy has also sought to strengthen its place in
the region and Ankara has mobilised resources to this end. Rather than
witnessing the confrontation between Russia and the EU in the shared
Dichotomy of Energy Policies in the Caspian 185

neighbourhood from the side-lines, Ankara has sought to build an energy

policy of its own which has suffered from a lack of independence of
major energy companies from the Turkish government. Moreover, while
the ‘Zero Problems with the Neighbours’ slogan seemed to be attractive
in the eyes of other regional actors (Aydın, 2012), its credibility has been
badly damaged in the aftermath of the Syrian conflict placing Turkey
in a very difficult situation (see Barrinha and Bastos in this volume for
more details). Nevertheless, the Turkish ‘civilisational basin’ approach
continues to be central to Ankara’s regional policies, despite the risk of
antagonising ‘moderate’ neighbours and strategic partners.


We may be witnessing a quiet but persistent ‘civilisational spring’ in

the Caspian region with the re-emergence of two historical powers:
Russia and Turkey. The Russian take on the future of ‘Greater Europe’ is
functional and seeks to retain ‘distinctive spheres of interest’ and ‘tran-
scend the competitive logic of a divided Europe’ (Sakwa, 2011: 323). The
‘spheres of interests’ approach has an important impact on the energy
sector in the contested space of the Caspian region as it directly chal-
lenges the EU energy path dependence and may push the trade bloc
to go beyond its market-oriented approach. The harmonisation of the
European energy policies and practices with that of Russia and Turkey
has been a central objective for the EU and has motivated the issuing of
a number of dedicated frameworks, such as the Energy Charter and the
Energy Community Treaty to name a few. From an energy consumer/
producer perspective, the EU and Russia addressed their shared neigh-
bourhood with the objective of securing transit routes and preventing
the other from extending its sphere of influence (Raszewski, 2012: 7).
Turkey, in turn, is in a unique position between the EU and Russia. As
opposed to Russia’s focus on maintaining a status quo and the European
objective of liberalising the Caspian region, Turkey’s new foreign policy
activism in the core of its ‘civilisational basin’ has been ‘social’ in
essence. The shift in the Turkish foreign policy under the JDP govern-
ment has aimed at exercising soft power policies and has been oriented
towards normalisation of its relations with regional actors ‘by improving
societal and economic interdependence relations’ (Ehteshami and Elik,
2011: 643). Although Turkey has minimal hydrocarbon energy produc-
tion, the strategic objective of the country has been built around energy
transit. Indeed, Turkey is and wants to remain a central actor in the
Caspian region to guarantee security of supply westwards and centralise
186 Slawomir Raszewski

the transit activity. In parallel, Turkey has been reluctant to embrace

energy market reforms towards a harmonisation with European prac-
tices, thus hampering its integration process. Ankara has instead decided
to play the role of an alternative to direct transit from Russia to Europe,
ensuring a role in mediation of conflicts and managing constructive
partnerships with both confronting players – Russia and the European
Union – over a shared neighbourhood. Turkey’s balance of trade in
energy with Russia and the structure of its internal energy market – with
high import dependence, low diversification of supplies, inadequate
storage and, above all, ever increasing demand for energy that would
have to be imported – all have a negative effect on its ability to benefit
from the EU-Russia regional competition.

1. Yet despite its non-ratification by Russia until the official decision of Moscow
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(European Union, 2009).
3. Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, known among its political supporters as
AK Parti (ak is Turkish for ‘white, clean’) or AKP among its critics.
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Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage:
Liminality, Centering and the
Temptation of Strategic Autonomy
Bradford R. McGuinn

At the center of the Caspian Sea energy complex is a land of the periphery.
A place on the margins, a place between places: Azerbaijan’s identity has
forever been a contested proposition. It is a ‘liminal realm’, a place of the
threshold, existentially ‘neither here nor there’.1 By assuming an iden-
tity defined in terms of energy, Azerbaijan has ‘centered’ its development
on ‘Euro-Atlantic’ geopolitical preferences. But in neither a domestic
order that is aggressively secular at a time of global Islamist mobilisa-
tion, nor a foreign policy that ostentatiously associates a Muslim polity
with the state of Israel, nor a strategic decision to associate a country
of the southern Caucasus with the Euro-Atlantic community, can this
centering be considered a natural development. And, now, amidst crisis
in Eurasia and uncertainty within the Euro-Atlantic system, Azerbaijan
may be tempted, on the strength of its wealth and its attractions, to
convert this centering into a strategic autonomy.
Shaped by the insecurities of a vulnerable actor with a good deal to
lose, Azerbaijan’s ‘unnatural act’ has been purchased both exogenously
with the currency of Euro-Atlantic energy and geopolitical priorities as
well as indigenously through the fashioning of a ‘petro-polity’, in order
to ease the burdens of liminality. Integral to the functioning of this
dialectic is the play of socially constructed threats, weaponized through
the use of what Mary Douglas called a ‘forensic model of danger’, the
process by which the defining of danger, or risk, becomes a political act
(Douglas, 1990; 2002: xix).
Azerbaijan exists within an ensemble of contradictions and dangers: at
the heart of the Caspian energy complex, yet burdened by the contested
identity claims inherent in a frontier space; consigned to a violent

Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 191

and unforgiving neighbourhood, but able still to escape its parochial

constraints; an emblem of late-Soviet decay, but now a glittering prize
of energy wealth. Some of these dangers may be traced to its political
structure, its family-dominated ‘command-state’ or its unending ‘frozen
conflict’ with Armenia. Others, of a geopolitical nature, can be located
within the tensions within Euro-Atlanticism and Russia’s Eurasianism at
one level; and the stresses within the non-Arab Middle Eastern triangle,
comprised of Israel, Turkey and Iran, at another. Still a third domain
of danger has emerged through North America’s ‘energy revolution’,
carrying with it the prospect that the United States might develop into
a rival to Azerbaijan for Europe’s affections (Scott, 2012; International
Energy Agency, 2012).
Azerbaijan is an energy actor in a hurry to institutionalise its centering.
This chapter seeks to examine the Azeri rites of passage, as a story of
development and statecraft, conjugated by the fluctuations in energy
markets and geopolitics. The question considered here is whether the
suppleness of Azeri statecraft, necessary for it to pursue a policy of equilib-
rium between the Euro-Atlantic powers and Russia; between Turkey, Iran
and Israel; and shaped by the vicissitudes of energy markets and geopo-
litical change; is compatible with the rigidity of Azerbaijan’s domestic
arrangements. It is suggested here that the intensity of this contrast will
impose limits on the Azeri quest to convert its centering into strategic
The chapter begins with a consideration of the ways in which changes
in the international energy markets, occasioned by the North American
‘energy revolution’ have influenced western discourse about Azerbaijan
and its region. It then examines the question of Azeri liminality and
the ways in which ‘forensic blaming’, the manipulation of threat by
Azeri leaders, has contributed to the system’s historic centering. From
there, contemporary Azerbaijan is thrice considered: first in terms of the
nature of its ‘petro-polity’, then in the context of its energy complex
and, finally, in light of the geopolitical and geo-economic implications
of Baku’s struggle for centering, and even autonomy, amidst Eurasia’s


About the nature and scope of the energy revolution in North America,
nothing of a consensus exists.2 What has emerged, however, is a
different discourse, a different medley of risk-and-reward calculation
(Yergin, 2012). The vision of the United States as ‘the world’s largest
192 Bradford R. McGuinn

energy producer’ is emblematic of a shift in the perception of the global

energy economy (Gold, 2014). ‘This is where everything is being turned
on its head’, argued Fiona Hill (cited in Begos, 2012; see also Lefebvre,
2012). The potential for American natural gas sales to Europe suggests,
in her view, that Russia’s ‘days of dominating the European gas markets
are gone’ (Begos, 2012). To that end, and the related American desire
to contain the influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, former Senator
Richard Lugar introduced legislation in 2012 designed to encourage the
export of liquefied natural gas from the United States to its ‘NATO allies’
(US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2012). More forcefully still,
the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, suggested that energy be weap-
onized, to protect Europe from ‘Russian aggression’, suggesting that
‘[t]he arsenal of American energy will not ... be used to bully other
nations, but to set them free’ (quoted in Sakelaris, 2014).
There is, perhaps, a bit of vanity associated with the emerging
American narrative, informed as it is by longings for self-sufficiency. An
isolationist temptation is reinforced by suggestions of a technological
and market-driven possibility of escape from an energy dependency
that has harnessed it to the old world and its thankless burdens (Luft
and Korin, 2012). An unresolved political debate within the United
States regarding energy development and its regulation reinforces the
difficulties inherent in this undertaking. It remains uncertain whether
North America’s harvest will benefit the European Union and ease its
Russian dependencies. Amidst even conditions of warfare, the acuity
of Ukrainian and European dependency compelled both to negotiate
terms for the supply of Russian gas as the winter of 2014 approached
(Troianovski, 2014).
It is, perhaps, the irony of the Azeri condition that an optimistic
reading of this energy story (Palti-Guzman, 2012) finds the United States,
Azerbaijan’s protector, converted into a potential competitor. Similarly,
on a geopolitical level, the optimistic rendition regarding an easing of
tensions between America and Iran, as both turn their attention to the
predations of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), threatens
to attenuate the version of ‘Islamic threat’ – with all its forensic utility
and apposite patterns of blaming – that has joined until now Azerbaijan
to the Euro-Atlantic order. And, now, amidst anxieties over the ‘Russian
threat’, the ironies implicit in the Azeri condition deepen. Played with
moderation, the threat of ‘Russian aggression’ reinforces Azerbaijan’s
importance to the Euro-Atlantic project. Overplayed, it risks a collapse of
the policy of equilibrium the Aliyev government has fashioned. At still
another level, if tension between the Euro-Atlantic system and Russia
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 193

become too acute, Azerbaijan risks losing its freedom of maneuver, as it

will be compelled to choose between the two.
If the Euro-Atlantic powers are unsteady in the face of Russia’s actions
in Ukraine, can Euro-Atlanticism be a place of safety for Azerbaijan?
Might the country be tempted to go it alone, focusing its forensic
blaming on Armenia and its domestic critics while taking a risk on stra-
tegic autonomy? There are limitations to a purely materialist reading
of Azerbaijan’s search for the safety of centering. Indeed, a view that
privileges the ‘objective conditions’ associated with an ‘energy identity’
runs the risk of taking at face value the dialectic of dangers and blame,
when they might better be seen as contrivance and social construction
(Douglas, 1992: 11).

Safety last

Azerbaijan has used its post-Soviet ‘energy identity’ to escape its liminal
status while associating itself with the Euro-Atlantic order. Our concern
here is with the mechanisms by which this centering has been effected.
Perhaps it is to the role of culture and language that we should look for
the best insight into the workings of a discursive politics of Azeri securi-
ty-seeking. At a foundational level, we might ask, with Aaron Wildavsky
(1987: 4), what it is that forms ‘interests’, that ‘mainstay of political
science’, that starting point for most international theory? In this view,
preferences (interests) are ‘endogenous’, they are ‘internal to organisa-
tions’ and ‘emerge from social interaction in defending or opposing
different ways of life’ (Wildavsky, 1987: 5). More specifically still, within
the domain of cultural theory can be located what Mary Douglas called
the ‘forensic model of danger’, with its patterns of politically defined
risk and strategic blaming (Douglas, 1990: 3).3
Security can be viewed, then, not as a concrete proposition, but as an
unstable confection of ideations and interests, shaped by actors through
processes of ‘framing’ and ‘securitisation’ (McDonald, 2008: 566).4 Such
a view requires accord with J. G. A. Pocock’s (1973) insistence that ‘poli-
tics itself is a language system and language itself is a political system,’
the contention that language is performative. Among these perform-
ances is incitement (see the discussion in Kurzon, 1998: 590), language
with the ability to ‘produce certain consequential effects’ upon the audi-
ence (Vandervenken and Kubo, 2001: 3).5
As Mary Douglas argued, objective danger does exist. But her interest
was in the ways in which risks are framed and marketed as political
propositions (Ungar, 2000). She was in accord with social constructivists
194 Bradford R. McGuinn

in rejecting the ‘anarchy assumption’ and other foundational claims in

social life (on the modern constructivist cannon see Onuf, 1989; Wendt,
1999; Adler, 1997). In Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concept
of Pollution and Taboo, she addressed the cultural definitions of the
‘clean’ and the ‘unclean,’ the social practices of separations, bounda-
ries and cleansing operations (Bergesen, 1978: 1013). Dirt, ‘matter out
of place’ in her telling, becomes anarchy (or disorder) only in the eyes
of the beholder. So too is Douglas’ treatment of risk culturally derived
(Draper, 1993: 644). It can be seen as an elective proposition, as societies
define danger in ways that reflect their ‘underlying assumptions and
values about order, hierarchy, and the just society’ (Draper, 1993: 642;
Wildavsky and Drake, 1990: 43). This view informed her work with Aaron
Wildavsky, which examined the rise of the environmental movement in
America during the 1970s (Douglas and Wildavsky, 1982) and located
the source of risk awareness in cultural explanations and social forms
of organisation ‘biased toward finding danger’ in socially constructed
ways (Douglas and Wildavsky, 1982: 8). The forensic dimension of this
is what Douglas called a ‘vocabulary of risk,’ designed ‘to hold persons
accountable’. Patterns of ‘blaming’ are essential as they serve to main-
tain the social order and protect ‘individuals against the encroachment
of others’ (Douglas, 1992: 28). It is a boundary-making process of the sort
that allows a liminal actor to associate itself within the domains of social
organisation (such as is the case with Azerbaijan and the Euro-Atlantic
community) on the basis of shared ‘accusations’ (Grimes, 1985).


Modern Azerbaijan’s liminality was implicit in its beginning.6 In his

account of Azerbaijan’s historical development, Tadeusz Swietochowski
places particular emphasis on the ‘frontier thesis,’ describing the land of
the Azeris as a ‘quintessential borderland’ (Swietochowski, 1995: Preface;
Mostashari, 2006; Shaffer, 2002). If this construct is accepted, Azerbaijan
may be joined with Ukraine and Iraq, as a realm of the margins. The
borderland, then, speaks of agency compromised and immutable
constraints. It was in this context that Vladimir Putin’s comment to
George W. Bush was given its historical and political texture. ‘You don’t
understand, George,’ Putin was famously quoted as saying in April 2008,
‘Ukraine is not even a state’ (quoted in Marson, 2009). After all, ‘what
is Ukraine?’ Putin asked. ‘Part of its territories is Eastern Europe,’ he
continued, ‘but the greater part is a gift from us.’ Six years later, the gift
would be reclaimed.
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 195

We might think of Ukraine as a ‘nonhistorical’ nation (Rudnytsky,

1963: 200). Might such apply to Azerbaijan? The Azeri lands possess a
complex pedigree (Swietochowski, 1985). It is a place of thresholds, a
‘liminal space’ between Persian, Turkish and Russian identity claims and
material interests (Motika, 2001: 113; Altstadt, 1986; Balci, 2004). The
‘center’ of Azerbaijan’s modern identity was negotiated in terms of an
energy economy. The exploitation of Baku’s oil deposits by Russian firms
began in 1813 (McKay, 1984, p. 606; on the Khanates, see Mostashari,
2006). There followed years of meager returns. Yet, by 1900, the Baku
fields ‘accounted for fully one-half of the world’s production of crude
oil’ (McKay, 1984: 606). It had, by 1902, ‘surpassed the United States’ as
‘the world’s largest oil producer’ (Suny, 1975: 320). Patterns of self-con-
scious, ideological mobilisation and new statements of identity emerged
also in the early 20th Century. To the power of Turanist doctrines were
added the development of modern nationalist movements and those of
a socialist orientation.7
The ‘Sovietisation’ of Baku’s energy complex offered a ‘socialist road’
from liminality to centrality. Lenin assigned to the East’s ‘toilers’ a ‘most
important revolutionary role’ and invested into the traditional politics
of these southern lands, ideological vocabularies of forensic risks and
dangers (White, 1974: 496).8 Of great importance were the ‘dangers’
associated with various forms of primordial attachment, the bonds of
religion and ethnicity that were meant to be dissolved into the enter-
prise of socialist construction (“Reds in Ukraine Scored by Pravda”, 1951).
Visiting Baku in the mid-1980s, observers would describe celebration of
‘monumental secularism’ in the form of ‘a statue of a woman tearing off
her chadra, or veil, in commemoration of campaigns of the 1920s and
1930s to emancipate women’ (Halliday and Maxine Molyneux, 1986:
32). Sovietisation represented a brutal centering and a mechanism by
which Azeris could associate themselves with Soviet regional and inter-
national identity.
Azerbaijan’s ‘energised space’ offered yet another mechanism by
which the trials of liminality could be eased. This was the Euro-Atlantic
bargain. Upon the weakening of Russia’s grip on its ‘near abroad,’ a ‘glit-
tering prize,’ of ‘American Eurasianism’ once thought too distant for
western powers, came within reach. James A. Baker, the Secretary of State
in the administration of George H. W. Bush, spoke of a Eurasia ‘trans-
formed ... from the north-south character of the former Soviet Union
into the east-west orientation of the new independent states’ (Baker,
1997: A19). The ‘liminal dilemma’ of a realm located on an uncertain
border between the geopolitical and geocultural spaces of ‘north and
196 Bradford R. McGuinn

south’ could, in this telling, be remedied by decanting Euro-Atlantic

power (and identity) into a ‘west and east’ arrangement. In this view,
the Caspian energy system is to be ‘claimed’ by the Euro-Atlantic system
with this ‘horizontal’ assertion, thereby denying its reclamation within
a ‘vertical’ Russian-Iranian framework.
This theme was amplified during the Clinton era, with its emphasis on
a stimulated and globalised neoliberalism (Gill, 1995: 412). ‘Integration,’
insisted Strobe Talbott (1997: 1, 3), the Deputy Secretary of State, was
to be ‘the key to U.S. policy in the former Soviet republics’. It was to
be a ‘disciplinary neoliberalism’, one characterised by an American
‘horizontal’ push throughout the space of Eurasia, the establishment of
financial and security arrangements with the newly independent actors
and the enlistment of regional ‘enforcers’, such as Turkey, to consolidate
the Euro-Atlantic enterprise (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, 1997:
1, 3). The ‘dual containment’ of Iran to the south and Russia to the
north, the ‘essentialisation’ of the ‘Islamic threat’ and the establishment
of a post-Soviet ‘transitionist’ secularism as a ‘security referent,’ were to
be among central features of this ‘American Eurasianism’ (Bilgin, 2008:
593). Informing these exertions was a view, within the Euro-Atlantic
bloc, that the Caspian energy reserves offered an alternative to reli-
ance upon the states and upheavals associated with the Organisation of
Petroleum Exporting Countries.
These trends were reconfigured during the Bush administration
around an offensive posture toward Islamist ‘revisionist’ actors in places
adjacent to the former Soviet space, reanimating the earlier convergence
between the United States and Russia regarding the ‘Islamist threat’.
Yet, the Bush administration sought to invest in its Euro-Atlantic vision
a greater normative energy, expressed tangibly in ‘democracy promo-
tion’ and the ‘colour revolutions.’ These exertions, coupled with Russia’s
actions in Georgia in 2008, would cause the relationship between the
United States and Russia to become strained. The Obama administra-
tion’s subsequent call for a ‘reset’ of the US-Russia relationship and the
‘de-securitising’ of important aspects of American foreign policy were
challenged by events in Ukraine after 2014. What the Clinton, Bush
and Obama approaches had in common however was a deepening of
Euro-Atlantic and NATO engagements in the former Soviet space, a
commitment to a ‘market civilisation’ agenda, and a privileged place
for Azerbaijan as a ‘reliable’ and ‘stable’ actor, safely at the center of the
Caspian energy complex (“US Senator Lugar Unveils Bill to Authorize
LNG Exports to NATO”, 2012).
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 197

Haidar’s way

The Euro-Atlantic bargain was one Haidar Aliyev was keen to take up,
insisting that Azerbaijan’s identity ought to be considered in Euro-
Atlantic terms. Aliyev offered an escape from the insecurity occasioned
by the deterioration of Soviet institutions, the first violent expression
of which was the war involving Azerbaijan and Armenia. The war, its
ensuing chaos and Azerbaijan’s celebrated ascent, would form a powerful
‘transitionalist’ narrative. And if, as Mary Douglas suggests, ‘[c]ommu-
nities tend to be organised on one or another dominant form of expla-
nation’, Aliyev’s ‘energised’ repositioning story has proven a powerful
mechanism for the centering of Azerbaijan (Douglas, 1994: 5).
His ascent began in crisis. It was upon the visit of Leonid Brezhnev
to Baku in September 1982, when he ‘castigated the oil industry for
its failure to meet its targets,’ (Halliday and Molyneux, 1986: 33) that
Aliyev’s moment materialised. Changes were needed, it was argued, and
‘[t]he man responsible in official eyes for this transformation is Geidar
Aliyev,’ observers noted in 1986 (Halliday and Molyneux, 1986: 33). In
the late 1980s, he was a dominant figure in Azerbaijan, a place animated
by the new nationalist mobilisation of the Azerbaijan Popular Front and
confrontation with Armenia.
The new order began with the announcement of Azerbaijan’s inde-
pendence in 1991. After a troubled period, Heidar Aliyev presented
himself as a centering force. His ‘Azerbaijanism’ contrasted favourably
with the previous regime’s ‘Turkism’ as the normative foundation for
the country, especially at the time of the signing of the ‘contract of
the century’ between Baku and a number of the world’s major energy
companies (Tokluoglu, 2012: 323).
Since then, Azerbaijan’s ‘petro-polity’ has largely conformed to the
pattern of inverse relationships that often exist amongst ‘developing’
petroleum-dominated economies on the one hand and pluralism’s
progress on the other (Ross, 2001: 356; Kendall-Taylor, 2012). In one
telling, Azerbaijan is a ‘rentier state,’ built upon the loyalty patterns
associated with old Soviet power structures (Franke, et al., 2009: 112). It
is dominated now by elites who act as ‘rentiers’, an ‘autonomous social
group’, defined by its ‘rent-seeking culture’ (Franke, et al., 2009: 111;
see also Herb, 2005). For the Aliyev order, political risk was contained
through the institutionalisation of an ‘allocation state’, thereby unbur-
dening the government of the trials of seeking to collect income (and
menace) from the society through taxes (Franke, et al., 2009: 112). In a
198 Bradford R. McGuinn

system where ‘oil rents accrue directly in the hands of the state’, loyalty
is less a contract between state and society and more between (and
amongst) ‘patron-client networks’, (Franke, et al., 2009: 112) with its
attendant risks of institutionalising corruption and widening the gap
between state and society (Robinson, 2007: 1221).
The salience of the ‘informal realm’, the networks of interconnected
familial and functional associations, tells us something of importance in
terms of the ways in which sudden energy wealth has given shape to the
power structures in the post-Soviet borderlands (Collins, 2004).9 Still, a
facade of pluralism is important for the Azeri regime. There is, in fact, ‘no
ideological alternative to it’, as Dmitry Furman insists10 (Furman, 2008:
39). An ‘overt authoritarianism’ is the risk of placing Azerbaijan out-of-
bounds for the Euro-Atlantic normative system, for which a ‘pluralist
identity’ is an essential dimension of legitimacy. Overt, however, are
trends falling short of the pluralist ideal (Coalson, 2014). At another
level, demonstrations have been observable in Baku over the question
of headscarves and the government’s jitteriness over Islam’s presence in
the ‘public square’. ‘[L]aw-enforcement agencies will’, an Azeri official
asserted, ‘take objective steps over the protest’ (“Azeri Police Identify
‘Organizers’ Behind Headscarf Protest in Baku”, 2012). These tensions
serve as reminder that the epistemic foundation of the Azeri regime
(and the petroleum and financial expert class at its heart) is aggres-
sively secular, a bearing that has allowed the House of Aliyev to be so
effortlessly integrated into Euro-Atlantic systems (“Azeri Agency Reports
Results of National Survey on Politics, Religion, Economy”, 2012).
If the ‘command state’ is largely a ‘petro-polity’ meant to give
‘centering’ to a liminal realm, how can we speak of its institutionalisa-
tion? For Azerbaijan, when the bargain of socialism collapsed, it took
with it an active sense of the political and left a cascade toward de-polit-
icisation. A pattern of de-institutionalisation ensued, in which person-
ality (and dynastic power) has defeated process as informal networks
of power have replaced old Soviet organs of control (Mydans, 2003).
The ‘Azerbaijan state’, in contrast with the historic role of the old
interventionist ‘Moscow state’, is perhaps withdrawing from society,
leaving behind only its ‘mentality of control’ (Tokluoglu, 2012: 327).
The ‘command state’ can then be seen as a ‘regime’ of powerful fami-
lies, associations such as State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic
(SOCAR) and powerful ‘clans’.
How might a cultural approach, such as that advanced by Mary
Douglas, account for the way such an actor might consider its security?
In her framework of ‘grid and group’, she identified ‘cultural biases’ in
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 199

terms of both a ‘grid-dimension’ (preference for rules that differentiate

between people, regulation or control) and a ‘group-dimension’ (prefer-
ence for strong group boundaries, or social commitment) (Verweij, 1995:
92). A hierarchist bias (high rules, high group); a fatalist (high rules, low
group); an individualist (low rules, low group) and the egalitarian (low
rules, high group), represent four basic cultural response-patterns. These
are meant to signify distinct epistemic spaces, an ensemble of differing
‘rationalities’, informed by the view that actions are ‘culturally rational’
if they ‘support one’s way of life’ (Wildavsky, 1987: 6).
Azerbaijan can be seen as a medley of these motifs: from the egali-
tarian aspiration of Soviet culture to its hierarchist realisation to the post-
Soviet individualist bias and the fatalist effect of a depoliticised society.
But the authoritative centre of the system, the Aliyev ‘command state’,
does function within a hierarchic frame, with its ‘medias of control’ in
speech and ritual, its privileging of an international expert-class, the
power of which is meant to confer upon the regime an energy-based
narrative of unbounded potential. How a culture rattling between the
hierarchist and fatalist frames is joined to an individualist-egalitarian
one organic to the Euro-Atlantic system is the substance of post-Soviet
‘transitionology’. The rites of passage from one cultural frame to the
other is important for Azerbaijan as fluency in both languages allows
for a foreign policy of supple navigation between Euro-Atlanticism and
Russia’s Eurasianism. Stuck however in the rational system of the hier-
archist or fatalist, suppleness is put at risk by rigid cultural norms. It is,
perhaps, among the moral hazards of the ‘petro-polity’ that wealth, and
the forces it attracts, can allow a state to escape from the trials of this

Happy highways

Between exuberance and despair, between the Xanadu on the Caspian

and the ‘land of lost content’: the tangible dimensions of Azeri
centering are a flux of menace and opportunity. Within this flux are
international upheavals in energy demand (Baev, 2012: 179). Thrown
into sharp relief, then, are the questions of Azerbaijan’s stores of natural
gas and pipelines meant to supply energy to Europe. Here, of course,
the ‘Russian risk’ has been of paramount influence, a ‘danger’ that
has driven the European Union’s push for a ‘Southern Gas Corridor’
(“With US LNG Exports, the EU May Not Need Nabucco”, 2012) as the
‘guarantor of European energy security’ (“Azerbaijan is Guarantor of
European Energy Security”, 2012).
200 Bradford R. McGuinn

This matter was made vivid in 2009 and 2010, when during a period
of tension between Russia and Ukraine, Gazprom cut Russian exports,
instigating an energy crisis for Europe (Pirani, Stern and Yafimava, 2009).
This episode reinforced the view that Ukraine was indeed a ‘transit space’,
making obvious its ‘liminal’ status and its attendant perils (“Ukraine
Investigates Tymoschenko over Russia Gas Deal”, 2012). It underscored
also the dependency felt by Europe upon Russian supplies and made
urgent the need for alternative sources of gas and their transit mecha-
nisms (“EU Backs Nabucco Pipeline to Get off Russian Gas”, 2009).
Russia’s concern not to have its influence obviated by the realisa-
tion of ‘Southern Corridor’ schemes such as ‘Nabucco’ (named after the
opera by Giuseppe Verdi, and meant to travel lyrically into southern
Europe), an EU-led project to provide alternative energy supplies to
Europe, prompted the advancement of its ‘South Stream’ project.
Envisaged to travel underneath the Black Sea and find its way to south-
eastern Europe, South Stream was an uncertain proposition (Marson,
2013). But the yield on the plan’s ‘forensic uses’ became tangible.
‘[T]he more that South Stream appears real,’ Christian Egenhofer
observed, ‘the more Russia can beguile Europe into thinking that
alternatives to Russian gas are unnecessary’ (Kanter, 2011). The mere
spectre of South Stream had about it the additional benefit of casting
‘doubts among Central Asian countries about the viability of Nabucco’
(Kanter, 2011). In its original form, Nabucco’s happy highway was to
reach Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan, travel the length of Turkey then on
to southeastern Europe and complete its course in Central Europe. But
by June 2013 doubts became manifest with the ultimate rejection of
the Nabucco concept. ‘The United States’, Vladimir Socor argued upon
Nabucco’s rejection, ‘formerly a vocal supporter of the Nabucco project,
seemed to lose focus on this project, and some of its earlier interest in
the wider region’ (Socor, 2013). The American focus on such schemes
became softer still as its own energy story developed into 2015, while
Russia’s economic position weakened amid the softening of energy
prices. Nabucco and South Stream both can be seen as victims of the
North American story. What then of Azerbaijan?

Arts of association

Azerbaijan has undergone a geopolitical revolution during the Aliyev

years. The energy complex invested Azerbaijan with a Euro-Atlantic
foreign policy identity, where its location and history might well have
consigned it to parochialism and marginalisation. If, as Mary Douglas
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 201

suggests, ‘[b]laming is a way of manning the gates and at the same time
of arming the guard’ (Douglas, 1994: 19), the question of Nagorno-
Karabakh, the humiliation that attended Azerbaijan’s origin, must be an
organising theme in its statecraft (Tokluoglu, 2011).
Azerbaijan has centered itself in the territorialisation of memory. The
conflict with Armenia has afforded a measure of ‘ontological security’
(Giddens, 1984: 50–62; Mitzen, 2006), investing in the government a
‘special mission’ (Tokluoglu, 2011: 1225), one that confers upon the
system a mechanism of mobilisation and the symbolism of suffering. ‘I
am sure’, Ilham Aliyev asserted ‘that we will mark a victory day in the near
future’ (“Azeri Leader Pledges Victory in Karabakh War”, 2012). As with
Turkey, against whom the Armenian community has levelled charges of
enormous gravity, Azerbaijan has been ‘protected’ by America’s execu-
tive branch. Here the ideational question of a claim to human rights is
eclipsed by the material claim of the interests of state.
The securitisation of Islamist movements represent another foun-
dational aspect of Azeri threat mosaic (Mesbahi, 2010: 166). Prior to
11 September 2001, the ‘Islamic threat’ served as a point of conver-
gence between Azeri elites and those in the United States, Russia,
Israel, and Turkey (see the discussion in McGuinn and Mesbahi, 2000).
Recent events (Russia’s reassertion, Turkey’s transformation) have since
reframed the ‘strategic consensus’. Still, ‘Islamist containment’ remains
a central feature of the American-Azeri relationship (“NATO Envoy Says
Azerbaijan One of Most Important Partners”, 2012).
To the questions of Armenia and Islamist movements, can be added
the Azeri perception of the ‘Russian threat’.11 That Azerbaijan has been
able to construct a Euro-Atlantic identity was owed, in part, to Russia’s
structural weakening in the 1990s. Since then, energy wealth permitted
Vladimir Putin’s governments to assert a ‘Eurasian’ framework through
his Eurasian Union construct (Barakhova et al., 2011). Russia’s actions
against Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, joined with its ability to
animate ‘frozen conflicts’ in the southern Caucasus, served to structure
and align the Euro-Atlantic and Azeri threat assessments (“Baku Rejects
Russian Military Base Plans”, 2012; “Russia Likely to Lose Azerbaijani
Radar Station”, 2012). The association of the Ukrainian crisis with
that of Nagorno-Karabakh, the suggestion that Russia might next
direct martial attentions toward the South Caucasus (Shaffer, 2014), is
meant to further associate Azerbaijan with Europe and NATO in facing
what, in referring to the situation in Ukraine, President Obama called
‘Russian aggression’ (“Remarks by President Obama to the People of
Estonia”, 2014).
202 Bradford R. McGuinn

But if the Euro-Atlantic frame cannot protect Azerbaijan might

it be tempted to go its own way? If we think of Azerbaijan as a force
suspended, and ever in search of equilibrium, within the triangle of
Euro-Atlanticism, Russia’s Eurasianism and the non-Arab Middle Eastern
powers, might we see in the House of Aliyev an audacious claim of stra-
tegic autonomy? It may, in this connection, draw inspiration from the
Israeli experience. Living as Israel does amidst a complex constellation
of regional and international associations, many of a mutually contra-
dictory nature, fighting wars not to win, but to suppress and season-
ally ‘cut the grass’, Israel has emerged as a system whose legitimacy is
no longer exogenously derived through the beneficence of the tolerant
outsider, but furnished indigenously through its material power and
The Israeli dimension of Azerbaijan’s security was given concrete
form in the mid-1990s, a connection also informed by the intimacy
of Israel’s relationship with Turkey. This association was strengthened
by the convergence within the American political system of groups
disposed favourably to Israel and Turkey, which provided domestic
‘cover’ for Azerbaijan, in light of anti-Azeri pressure from American
groups sympathetic to Armenia (“American Interests are Best Served
by Deepening Ties with Azerbaijan”, 2012; “Adam Schiff Seeks to
Stop Military Aid to Baku”, 2012). ‘The Armenian lobby is our biggest
enemy’, Ilham Aliyev asserted in September 2012, ‘we must fight them
constantly’ (“Alyiev Tells Azeri Ambassadors to be Active Fighters
against ‘Armenian Lobby’”, 2012).
Amidst strains in Israel’s relations with Turkey and sharp tensions
with Iran, the Azeri relationship with Israel has developed still further.
‘We live in a dangerous neighbourhood’, one of Aliyev’s aides remarked,
‘that is ... the most powerful driving force for our relationship with Israel’
(Grove, 2012). ‘Our relationship’, Avigdor Lieberman, the former Israeli
foreign minister, noted, ‘is very intense’ (Frenkel, 2012). So intense, in
fact, that Ali Ashraf Nouri, Deputy Commander for Political Affairs of
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was moved to refer to Azerbaijan
as ‘a center for terrorism and western intelligence’ (“Iranian General:
Republic of Azerbaijan Has Turned into Regional Terrorism Center”,
2012). The robustness of the Aliyev’s government’s relations with Israel
is clear (“Azerbaijan Denies its Territory to be Used to Attack Iran”, 2012).
Between Israel and Azerbaijan are arms transfers valued at $1.6 billion
(Kenes, 2012) an important part of the $3.7 billion the Azeris devote to
annual arms spending (Agayev, 2014). And for its part, Israel is said to
receive 40 per cent of its oil from Azerbaijan (Agayev, 2014).
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 203

The Turkish relationship has been more complex. Turkey’s early post-
Cold War attempt at influence seeking in post-Soviet ‘Turkic space’ gave
the secular and neo-liberal Turkish governments of the 1990s a privi-
leged place in the southern Caucasus and Central Asia (Yanik, 2004:
294). Haidar Aliyev was not Turkey’s preference, but as the Baku-Tbilisi-
Ceyhan pipeline question was fully joined by the late 1990s, expressions
of fealty were audible between the systems (quoted in Ivanov, 1997:
3). The Ceyhan route then became the tangible statement of Turkey’s
centrality within the Caspian energy complex (“Nabucco, TANAP Ink
Cooperation Accord”, 2013).
However, the electoral triumphs of the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP)
and the foreign policy concepts identified with Ahmet Davutoglu were
problematic for Azerbaijan, especially the ‘zero problems’ theme that
threatened an unwelcome reduction in danger associated with the rela-
tionship between Turkey and Armenia. Worse yet, were the prospects of
Turkey having ‘zero problems’ with the Islamic Republic of Iran (Yinanc,
2012). Yet the Azeri risk inherent in the de-risking of Turkey’s subregional
policies has been balanced by the re-risking inherent in Syria’s crisis.
Its grim evolution has restored something of the integrity of the older
threat assessments animating Turkey’s association with America, Israel
and Azerbaijan (Uslu, 2012). But the deeper sources of affinity between
Azerbaijan and Turkey remain. ‘As the Prime Minister of the Republic
of Turkey and a representative of the entire Turkish people’, Davutoglu
said lavishly, ‘I say that Turkey will continue to be near Azerbaijan in its
fight until each square meter of Azerbaijani lands is liberated’ (quoted
in “Ahmet Davutoglu: Turkey Will Be Near Azerbaijan until Each Square
Meter of Azerbaijani Lands Is Liberated”, 2014).
The forensic utility of the ‘Iranian risk’ is a subtle proposition, informed
as it is by the depth of geographical and historical interdependencies
between Azerbaijan and Iran (“Iran-Azerbaijan Unity Beneficial to
Regional Stability: Aliyev”, 2012; Mammadyarov, 2007). ‘Baku’, Ilham
Aliyev asserted, ‘is a strategic friend of Tehran’ (“Iran-Azerbaijan Unity
Beneficial to Regional Stability: Aliyev”, 2012). ‘No country’, Iran’s
President, Hassan Rouhani said referring to Israel, ‘should be allowed
to spoil Tehran’s relations with Baku’ (Agayev, 2014). Such glad tidings
are, however, often overwhelmed by contention, which has its deepest
stirrings in the historical liminality of Azeri identity and the challenge
that poses to the national projects of both Azerbaijan and Iran (Nuriyev,
2012). Aliyev’s association with American power and Israel can, there-
fore, be seen as a central feature of Iran’s threat culture (“Party Demands
Autonomy for Azeri-Populated Part of Iran”, 2012; Morozova, 2005),
204 Bradford R. McGuinn

while Azeri anxieties about Iran mirror those traditionally associated

with the United States and Israel.12 The ‘Iranian danger’ is important
to Azeri leaders as a mechanism through which Islamist critiques of the
Aliyev system can be marginalised. Framing the Iranian question in risk
terms also reinforces the system’s secular and Euro-Atlantic identity,
serving to make clear the strategic orientation of Azerbaijan’s energy
complex toward the west (Warrick, 2012).
The density of this ‘risk discourse’ has served to join Azerbaijan to the
American regional design (Perevozkina, 2012). But as the United States
reconsiders its global strategic position, amidst tension between its secu-
ritising and desecuritising impulses, Azerbaijan can be seen as an object
of contention between those seeking its ‘weaponization’ regarding
Iran and Russia (Warrick, 2012) and those favouring a larger ‘reset,’ or
desecuritisation agenda (“US, Azerbaijan Discuss Security Matters in
Connection with Iran”, 2012). The ‘de-weaponisation’ of Azerbaijan,
implicit in a potential accord between the United States and Iran, is full
of peril for the House of Aliyev, risking as it does, Azerbaijan’s special
place in the anti-Iranian security framework and its role in the contain-
ment of Russian influence within its energised borderlands. Even an
American re-securitisation in light of the renewed military operations
in Iraq and Syria, risks tempting the United States to make common
cause – even tacitly – with Syria and Iran for the purposes of containing
the menace of ISIL. Such is, of course, a menace currently of moment
for the Aliyev government. Militants have been arrested while in transit
to Syria and concern has been evinced regarding the longer-term threat
posed by the ‘returnees’ (“Azerbaijan Nabs 26 Alleged Militants”, 2014).
Such may, however, be the ‘Islamic threat’ of the least forensic value.
A place of the margins now at the centre of things: Azerbaijan’s ‘transit
costs’ have been heavy. A sense of self born of the grim ‘rituals of separa-
tion’ with Armenia, a shining city paid with the currency of a command
state autonomous from its society, a geopolitical placement upon a tight
rope, and an energy economy subject to the tricks of market and tech-
nological fate: to meditate upon the House of Aliyev is to be reminded of
the play of chance and contingency, of risks and their manipulation.
Can Azerbaijan follow the example of Israel in the fashioning of an
autonomous strategic identity? The story of Israel’s centering is a func-
tion of a unique political culture in which the link between state and a
dynamic society is an intimate one. Azerbaijan has energy wealth and
what that will purchase. Its foreign and security policies have been supple,
but the rigidity of domestic structures may inhibit the creativity neces-
sary to move from the threshold of things to a strategically autonomous
Azerbaijan’s Rites of Passage 205

centre. If Mary Douglas is right about the multiple rationalities inhering

in her cultural frames, Azerbaijan may not be able to enact a safe passage
from a motif of hierarchy and fatalism to one of egalitarianism and indi-
vidualism without experiencing the internal shocks that have been the
harvest of the Arab Spring. Perhaps, then, it is liminal still.

1. It was Victor Turner (1969: 95), who gave modern currency to this term.
‘Liminal entities’, Turner argued, ‘are neither here nor there; they are betwixt
and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention,
and ceremonial’. See the interpretation of Turner’s views in Mathieu Deflem
(1991: 7–8).
2. For general commentary, see U.S. Energy Information Administration (2012);
Ebinger, Massy and Avasarala (2012: 4); and Deutch (2012).
3. About cultural theory and risk, see Tansey and O’Riordan (1999: 73). See also
Van Gorp (2007: 62). On social construction and institutional theory, see
DiMaggio (1998: 700). And, for a treatment of risk and international rela-
tions theory, see Clapton (2011: 281).
4. See, foundationally in this connection, Buzan, Waever and de Wilde (1998);
Stritzel (2007); Watson (2011: 279).
5. See, foundationally, Austin (1962: 8). See also Seale (1969).
6. The term “Azerbaijan,” is itself, a contested proposition. See the discussion in
Saparov (2012: 283).
7. By ‘Turanist’ is meant doctrines expressive of the growing Turkish nationalism
that would find its expression in the ‘Young Turk’ revolution. See Mardin
(1962). On the evolution of these constructs, see Atabaki (2002: 220).
8. The term ‘toiler’, a fixture in Soviet vocabularies regarding ‘worker’s soli-
darity’, reminds us of the First Congress of the Peoples of the East, held in
Baku in September 1920. There, the idea was posited that the Soviet project
would make common cause with the colonized peoples of the east as a
counter to the west.
9. For theoretical perspective on the question of clientelism, see Hamzeh
10. Furman warns against the tendency to view the ‘imitation democracy’ as a
‘transitional’ proposition. They are better considered, he argues, as ‘distinct
systems, functioning and developing according to their own logic’.
11. A tangible dimension of this relationship is discussed in Sahadeo (2012:
12. On Iran’s ‘subversive’ activities, see “Four Iran-Linked Azeris Receive Lengthy
Prison Terms for Eurovision Terror Plot” (2012).

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Licínia Simão

This book grew out of two major ideas. First, that power asymmetries
in regional contexts lead to the formation of hierarchies and therefore
to the emergence of regional powers. Second, that regional powers tend
to develop policies of proximity in order to structure the environment
around them in a favourable way. In the specific context of post-Cold
War Eurasia, both processes of regional hierarchy formation and of
projection of power towards neighbouring countries and communities
have been actively contested. The debates surrounding the relevance
of a regional hegemon for peace in Europe have taken many forms and
recent developments support John Mearsheimer’s argument that Europe
would be more prone to experience major crisis and war in the absence
of a clear balance of military power between hegemons (Mearsheimer,
1990). Others underlined instead that institutionalism and norms,
linked to domestic factors influencing the formation of preferences,
could provide the necessary means to achieve peace and prosperity
through cooperation (Hoffmann, Keohane and Mearsheimer, 1990;
Russett, Risse-Kappen and Mearsheimer, 1990).
Cooperation has been a major feature of inter-state relations in Europe
for most of the post-Cold War context and regional conflicts such as the
Balkan wars are generally seen as (ethnic and nationalistic) exceptions
to this cooperative approach (van Ham, 2006). Similarly, the so-called
frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet states of Eurasia can be considered as
anomalies in the inter-state system and as marginal security issues in the
overall European security order (Barbé and Kienzle, 2007; Simão, 2014).
In European Union (EU) discourse, the construction of the image of
peace and cooperation in Europe has been strongly linked to the process
of European integration and the diffusion of a rules-based European
society which has emerged within the EU.

212 Licínia Simão

Moreover, through the externalisation of the EU’s governance system,

these rules and norms have come to shape non-EU states’ domestic and
foreign policies. The enlargement process has been one of the tools
to export EU norms and rules, through heavy political conditionality.
Policies of regional stabilisation such as the Stability Pact for Southeast
Europe (SPSE) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) have also
contributed to this goal. Thus, a process of gradual affirmation of the
European Union as a regional normative hegemon has unfolded, with
the EU looking to play a central role in structuring the regional European
order and gradually setting the borders of its regional influence.
In doing so, however, the EU has also created new asymmetries of
power among other regional actors who similarly sought to promote
their own interests. In the case of Turkey, we can see the process of acces-
sion to the EU as a means through which the Union sought to shape
Ankara’s regional ambitions and aligning them with the Union’s. The
EU’s valorisation of a regional order built on political and economic
liberal values is nevertheless a form of structural power, marginalising
other forms of political, social and economic organisation (Baumann
and Dingwerth, 2015), and reinforcing the EU’s views on regional peace
and security. Regardless, these processes have faced their own limita-
tions and challenges. Turkey’s accession has been systematically delayed,
partly due to conservative domestic debates in EU countries and insti-
tutional inertia in Brussels. This in turn has facilitated the emergence of
alternative perspectives on Ankara’s regional role among Turkish elites
and population. EU-Russia relations have also failed to accommodate
Russian perspectives on regional security as well as Moscow’s concerns
over challenges to national sovereignty and economic protectionism.
EU relations with states from the neighbourhood it shares with Turkey
and Russia are also unstable, contested and disputed and marked by
power asymmetries in a context of security interdependence. As opposed
to Turkey, Russia or the EU, these countries are characterised by a lack
of regional ambitions (or perceived incapacity to develop them), placing
them in a vassal cast of passive players in the regional order, pushed
around by competing views and pressures. Georgia, Belarus or Moldova
would be good examples of the latter situation and the management
of the Ukrainian conflict demonstrates how local political forces try to
benefit from and ‘navigate’ between competing pressures. We would
like to argue that, although hierarchy is visible, these states and their
communities are far from passive players and the understanding of
regional dynamics and forces is essential to grasp the scope of political
options in the hands of national leaders.
Conclusion 213

The authors in this volume offer a balanced and comprehensive view

of many of these dynamics. The focus on the construction of the neigh-
bourhood and the meaning attributed to this category of actors is a
transversal endeavor of the first four chapters. Using different method-
ologies and approaches, each author sought to understand the processes
through which the neighbourhood represents a relevant category for
political action. They also focused particularly on how the ‘creation’
of the neighbourhood partly resulted from the interactions among
these self-perceived three regional powers. Casier focused on the issue
of perception and identity formation; Freire focused on foreign policy
as both a mechanism of delimitation and influence; Üstün privileged
an historical account of Turkish regional policies in order to contextu-
alise and understand their major shifts; and finally, Fernandes sought
to underline the role of normative diffusion through non-state actors.
Each of these approaches sheds light on a different dimension of active
interactions in interest formation and identity shaping, directing our
attention to these nuanced processes of hierarchy and border setting.
The contributions in this volume underline the fact that, although it
would be an exaggeration to claim that competition is the only feature
in these trilateral relations, one needs to acknowledge that cooperation
is often based on pragmatic and limited aspects, reducing the impact of
the diffusion of asymmetry and hierarchy. The chapters addressing secu-
rity issues expose the underdeveloped nature of EU-Russia cooperation
in the so-called third common space of external security and its nega-
tive impact on conflict settlement and crisis management in Eurasia.
The increasing regional competition has contributed to the gradual
securitisation of the European approach towards its Eastern neighbours,
as argued by Simão and Dias. Pragmatic cooperation between Russia
and Turkey has also been of limited use in providing stability in the
Middle East, especially in Syria, as both countries have perceived foreign
conflicts as a valuable tool in domestic policy, tailoring their policies
towards the Middle East to generate domestic gains. This has naturally
limited the possibilities of alignment of interests and perspectives on
geopolitical issues, despite the evidence of the potential for pragmatic
cooperation on issues of trade and energy.
Thus, despite the clear security interdependence characterised by the
trilateral relationship between the EU, Turkey and Russia as well as their
respective foreign policy towards countries in their shared neighbour-
hood – forming interlinked security complexes – cooperation remains
underdeveloped as underlined by this volume. Multilateralism, for
example, has gradually acquired an exclusionary nature, such as the
214 Licínia Simão

EU and NATO or even GUAM and the Russian-led Eurasian Union, or

has been largely marginal in regional dynamics, as in the case of the
Turkish-led BSEC. A contested interpretation of international norms and
rules has further raised concerns on the ability of states to cooperate
based on jointly agreed normative view. The recognition of Kosovo’s
independence by some EU and NATO members in parallel with Russia’s
recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence and the incor-
poration of Crimea into the Russian Federation are vivid illustrations of
such contestation. Even economically, the EU’s (neo-) liberal approach
has raised concerns at a time of economic depression and protectionist
trends, limiting its appeal at the outskirts of ‘Europe’.
We are thus faced with a fast changing and complex picture of regional
interactions taking place in the wider-European (or Eurasian) context.
On the one hand, there is a clear hierarchy of relations, undermining
principles of horizontal multilateralism which had been advocated and
promoted during the post-Cold War period. We would like to argue,
however, that the pan-European order was never horizontal, but there
was rather a clear leading role assigned to the central EU powers and
gradually to its institutions, backed by US interests and NATO member-
ship. Russia also maintained a leading role in the former-Soviet space,
despite the gradual erosion of its influence until the mid-2000s, when
the tendency was inverted and Russia developed a more assertive defini-
tion of its interests and its presence in the CIS. Turkey, due to its strategic
relevance for western countries and institutions has also been assigned
a particularly important role in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
However, time has gradually changed the interests and dynamics of all
three regional actors and their mutual perceptions.
An historic perspective is useful to understand the dynamics shaping
regional power asymmetries and hierarchies, as well as the evolving
nature of interests and identities sustaining these processes. The impe-
rial legacies of the three regional powers are central elements in their
self-perceived centrality in regional pan-European politics, sustaining
ideas of privileged interests, cultural and historical connections, as well
as particular responsibilities towards their neighbours. These imperial
legacies also support exclusionary views of other regional actors, based
on identity issues, often portrayed as immutable, essential to national
identities, and constituting the basis for the definition of respective
national interests. Such essentialised stances on regional politics repro-
duce hierarchies of identity between former imperial centers and their
peripheries, reinvented through new policy tools and narratives of
Conclusion 215

However, time also favours change, as the deteriorating ability of the

EU to act as a regional magnet for countries like Turkey or Russia illus-
trates. On the one hand, the lingering process of Turkish accession to the
EU has facilitated domestic changes in Turkey, encouraging the devel-
opment of a neo-Ottoman view of Ankara’s regional ambitions. On the
other hand, the Union’s inability to deepen a partnership with Russia
and the changing domestic views in European countries regarding the
role of Moscow in the regional security order have favoured the perspec-
tive that the two partners are drifting towards a clash of regional projects
(Averre, 2005; Cadier, 2015). Overall, we are faced with both long-term
trends of deterioration of regional relations and short-term processes
of destabilisation, coalescing to a more complex and difficult regional
context for policy action.

Steps ahead – rebalancing regional dynamics

This volume addresses two main areas of interaction and mutual interest
driving regional relations in the pan-European context and neighbouring
regions to the East and South. The first is the hard security realm of conflict
resolution and crisis management, including elements of regional polit-
ical, economic and social destabilisation, potentially resulting in armed
violence. In this area, power balance calculations based on hard power
alone are insufficient. Asymmetric warfare, soft-security threats, civilian
dimensions of (in-) security all combine to produce insecurity and drive
political action. The European Union stands as an example of an actor
with limited autonomous military capabilities, which nevertheless
remains a relevant regional security actor. Thus, regional calculations
of security have gained increasing complexity, requiring more advanced
conceptualisations of the dilemmas of merging military and civilian
tools and instruments, as in the case of migration and refugee manage-
ment in the Mediterranean (Financial Times, 2015). Also requiring more
thought are the complex relations between freedom and security, and
between democratic oversight and security operations, as in the case of
the fight against organised crime and terrorism. As different normative
and ethic visions co-exist in the pan-European area, and as mutual influ-
ence and pressure are deployed, these paradigms require comprehensive
analysis and open discussion.
The area of hard security also requires a clearer articulation of the princi-
ples sustaining international peace and security in the 21st Century as these
often rely on the most powerful states for implementation, protection and
diffusion. The value of sovereignty, territorial integrity, self-determination
216 Licínia Simão

and non-interference in domestic affairs has been systematically chal-

lenged since the end of the Cold War. Within the constraints of inter-
national law and of material power imbalances, intervention, conflict
management, democratisation, development, stabilisation and other such
goals have been selectively pursued, creating a normative puzzle which
is increasingly harder to discern (Chandler, 2015; Barnett, 2010; Hughes,
2013). In the pan-European context, which we analyze here, this scenario
has produced an increasing number of crises and sources of destabilisa-
tion, creating pressure on the European integration project and disrupting
societies in the Mediterranean (both North and South), the Middle East,
in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Whether the EU and its norms can
act as the structuring element of a new regional order is highly disputed.
Considering the limitations of enlargement policy and the failures of the
ENP, one would expect the Union will have to engage in direct negotia-
tions with each partner and neighbour to redefine the contours of a more
stable and fair regional order.
The second area of regional interest we approached is the develop-
ment of competing political and economic projects, including the issue
of energy resources. This dimension is clearly interconnected with the
previous one, as political change and economic interests are often at
the origin of armed violence and insecurity (Coyne and Mathers, 2011).
Normative considerations feeding the official discourses on political and
economic engineering also work as building blocks for regional competi-
tion, exclusivist identity-building and difference. Having moved beyond
the ‘end of history’ and faced with the instrumental use of democracy
promotion as a tool for economic and geostrategic gain, the choice of
domestic political system has become increasingly contested (Hedley,
2015; Keyman and Gumuscu, 2014). From Russia’s ‘sovereign democ-
racy’, to full-fledged authoritarian states, the emptying of democracy
has also taken place in countries which assign themselves the right to
impose democratic conditionality. The strengthening of nationalist and
xenophobic parties in many EU and non-EU countries, as well as the
EU’s own lack of democratic accountability and representation, pose
important questions for the future of citizen rights and engagement in
the political life of the continent.
On the other hand, formal democracy without social and economic
equality raises the issue of the attractiveness of political freedom without
fair and sustainable growth. The financial crisis of 2008 exposed with
unprecedented clarity the pitfalls of the New Economic Order of the
post-Cold War context and the inability of both democratic and author-
itarian governments and institutions to protect the most vulnerable
Conclusion 217

as well as to sustain regional integration projects. This has unleashed

powerful transnational movements of contestation to capitalism, with
many different forms, including violent movements built on either reli-
gious or nationalistic agendas. In the process, a discussion about the
nature of our societies and the possible redefinition of our political and
economic systems has become inevitable, with significant consequences
on foreign policy strategies in a highly securitised context. Neither the
EU, nor Russia, nor Turkey have been engaged in the desecuritisation
and repolitisation of these debates in Europe, each looking to preserve
their status quo. The result is added contestation and instability and
reduced institutional mechanisms to cope and address these challenges,
resulting in both domestic and regional tensions.
Energy security is another area of competition rather than coopera-
tion in this exacerbated context. Energy remains a central dimension
of trilateral relations between the EU, Russia and Turkey, promoting
opportunities for pragmatic market-oriented cooperation. However,
energy is also a highly political asset, instrumentalised for short-term
policy gains as in the case of Russian relations with transit countries
like Ukraine and Belarus, or similarly European relations with Turkey
and Georgia. Azerbaijan is another fundamental player in the energy
field with important implications for the security of all three regional
powers. Thus, although energy will remain in the foreseeable future the
main driver of regional economic relations, offering important oppor-
tunities for cooperation; in the current context of rising tensions and
geopolitical calculations, competition will certainly emerge as part of
the politicisation and securitisation of the energy sector.
Despite the numerous seeds of conflict, there are still strong argu-
ments supporting renewed cooperation in the shared neighbourhood.
A liberal institutional analysis of pan-European relations would posit
that dialogue and the reinforcement of regional institutions for coopera-
tion would provide the necessary means to redesign common interests
and minimise the risk of violent competition. In the highly institu-
tionalised European context, this still seems a sensible option. Such
a path would require reinvesting in organisations such as the OSCE,
and developing new more transparent channels of dialogue with the
CIS and the upcoming Eurasian Union, as well as the Arab League and
the Gulf Cooperation Council. But these institutions will be of limited
use to overcome the imbalances of power and the undemocratic trends
supporting domestic structures unless new forms of citizen engagement
provide the necessary steps for a more stable and balanced approach to
pan-European security.
218 Licínia Simão

This poses a final dilemma, which relates to the need to engage with
critical debates about the ideological nature of politics, often disguised
as technicality and depolitisation, or imposed under the impera-
tive of national security interests. Critical views on discourse and the
deconstruction of interest-formation are fundamental steps for sound
academic research and for responsible and democratic policy-making.
Thus, by addressing these pressing issues and pointing to the limitations
of conventional approaches, we hope to make a small but solid contri-
bution to the untangling of the complex dilemmas of the pan-European
context, pointing to some of the necessary conditions for more collabo-
rative approaches. This volume sets the agenda for further research deep-
ening the analysis of these dynamics and providing further insights on
the possibilities to overcome the dilemmas each regional power faces.

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Abkhazia Caspian Sea, 171

and EU, 108 energy, 171
and Russia, 46, 47 and EU policies, 172–6
and Turkey, 57 and Russia policies,
AKP, 124ff 176–7
Arab countries and Turkey policies, 177–9
and relations with Turkey, Caucasus, South, 97, 201
121–2 EU and conflict resolution in, 58,
Arab spring 106
and Central Asia, 152ff Central Asia, 1–3
and Russia-Turkey relations, 67 and Arab Spring, 145ff
and Turkey, 3, 129ff and democratic transition, 149
Armenia, 184 and energy resources, 54
conflict of with Azerbaijan, and relations with the EU, 161–2,
57, 197 175
and Russia, 27, 63, 184 and relations with Russia, 182
and Turkey, 57, 59–60, 125 and relations with Turkey, 64
Asymmetrical relations Chechnya, 64
between EU and neighbouring Civil society
states, 212 in Russia, 82–3
between EU and Russia, 18, 20, 212 Collective Security Treaty
between EU and Turkey, 212 Organisation (CSTO), 45, 160–1
between Russia and post-Soviet Colour revolutions, 18, 19, 81, 104
states, 23 Commonwealth of Independent
in international system, 35, 211–12 States (CIS), 2, 23, 35
Authoritarian political trends Competition, geostrategic,
and Azerbaijan, 198 geopolitical, 1–3
in Central Asia, 149, 154, 157–8 between EU and Russia, 21
in Russia, 77, 79, 83 between Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian
in Turkey, 135–6 integration, 191ff
Azerbaijan, 190ff perceptions of, 14, 18
conflict of with Armenia, 197 Cooperation, 21, 75–6
and Euro-Atlantic integration, 175 between EU and Russia, 18, 19–21,
geopolitical location of, 184, 195ff 39, 43, 49, 81, 85
and Russia, 184 between the EU and Eastern
neighbours, 107, 109
Black Sea, 44, 54 between Turkey and Russia, 41, 44,
and energy transit, 54, 172 64, 68
and Turkey, 60 in Europe, 211, 213
Black Sea Economic Cooperation in the Black Sea and South
Organisation (BSEC), 53, 58 Caucasus, 55–6, 58, 60–1
BLACKSEAFOR, 60–1 in the energy sector, 54, 161, 175
Borderlands, 194 Crimea, 19, 25, 29, 37, 47

222 Index

Democracy promotion, 20, 104, 216 Hierarchy, 211

of identities, 25–6
Elections, in Russia, 78–81
Energy, companies, 177 Identity, 15ff
Energy, diplomacy, 181 formation, 17
Energy, hub of the EU, 13, 25
Turkey’s policies as, 65, 179–80, 183 of Russia, 13
Energy, policy as a Great Power, 19, 35
of the EU, 54, 65, 105, 173 Imperial legacies, 63, 68, 214
of Russia, 65 Iran
of Turkey, 40, 65, 172 nuclear programme, 127–8
Energy, security, 174, 217 relations with Azerbaijan, 203
of the EU, 178 relations with Turkey, 127–8
of Turkey, 182 Islamic State, 132, 192
Erdogan, Recep, 3, 57, 128, 134–5 Israel
Eurasian Customs Union, 20, 24, 45 relations with Azerbaijan, 202
Eurasian Union, 20, 45, 175 relations with Turkey, 3, 128–9
European Union
Deep and Comprehensive Free Karimov, Islam, 150, 156
Trade Agreement (DCFTA) of Kazakhstan, 154–5
with Ukraine, 21 autocratic regime of, 147
Eastern Partnership of, 2, 19, 21–3, and the Caspian, 171
39, 61, 107 and the EU, 171
Enlargement of, 18, 20, 103 and Eurasian Customs Union, 23,
European Neighbourhood Policy of, 27, 45, 88, 161, 175
19, 22, 23, 39, 103 intra-elite struggles in, 152
European Security Strategy of, 53, 103 modernization of, 150, 160
Partnership and Cooperation national leader of, 151
Agreement with Russia of, 18, Kyrgyzstan, 156–7
26, 66 and Eurasian Customs Union, 45,
Strategic Partnership with Russia 88, 161
of, 18 and the EU, 160
political regime of, 147
Financial crisis, 20, 46, 216 Tulip Revolution of, 149, 150
Foreign policy
of the European Union (CFSP), 99, 106 Libya, 2–3, 121, 130
of Russia, 35ff
of Turkey, 120ff Mediterranean
Turkey’s role in, 3
Gas wars, 20, 104, 177 Middle East
Georgia Russian policy toward, 3
war with Russia, 25, 40, 57, 66, 107 theories of stability in, 206
Greater Europe, 37 Turkish policy toward, 122, 135
in Russian foreign policy, 37, 181 Modernisation policy, of Russia, 38
Multilateralism, 58, 213–14
Hegemony, 3, 211 in Black Sea, 60–1
of the EU, 42, 212 in Central Asia, 160
normative, of the EU, 23, 26 in energy sector, 181
Russia’s reaction to, 30 and EU, 56
Index 223

Multilateralism – continued ministerial summit in Sofia, 104

and Russia, 45 and Turkey, 67
and Turkey, 56–8, 68–9
Nagorno-Karabakh, 201 Turkish recognition of, 3
Russia and, 183–4 Pipeline
Turkey and, 57, 125 Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, 57, 66, 203
National Security, 99, 218 Blue Stream, 40
Nationalism, 19, 82 in Azerbaijan, 199
Nazarbayev, Nursultan, 150, 154 in Russian-EU relations, 41
Niyazov, Saparmurat, 151, 158 in Russian-Turkey relations, 65–6
death of, 158 integrity of the transit through, 111
Normative power interconnections and grids, 174–7,
of the EU, 20, 22, 104, 212 179
of Turkey, 59 Nabucco, 179–80, 199–200
North Africa, 119, 145 safety of the Georgian, 57, 66
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation South Stream, 40–1, 65, 200
(NATO) trans-Adriatic, 179
and Azerbaijan, 201 trans-Anatolian, 180
enlargement of, 9, 18, 102, 125, trans-Caspian, 172
173, 196 PKK, 64, 132
and the European Union, 214 Poland, 112
norms and consensus building, 111 Putin, Vladimir
and Russia, 45, 105, 113 and Azerbaijan, 184
Turkey membership to, 4, 44, 57, and energy security, 174–6
63, 121, 131–5 and EU, 24, 38, 40–1, 76, 81
withdrawal from Afghanistan, 158 and Eurasian Union, 20, 38, 45, 201
Nuclear political regime, 77–8, 81, 90
Iranian program, 3, 67, 127–8 and Russian economy, 82, 85
Power plant in Akkuyu Turkey, 40, and Russian foreign policy, 19, 23,
172 103
and Russian identity, 29, 82
Oil and gas Russian revival under, 2
and the Black Sea, 54, 65, 172 and Turkey, 40, 64–7, 134
and the Caspian region, 171, 195–8, and Ukraine, 194
companies, 155 Religion, 8, 66, 123, 145, 151, 195
import from the Middle East, 121 Russia
infrastructure and pipelines, 173, and Armenia, 43
180 and Belarus, 23, 29, 45
prices, 121 and Black Sea, 63–9
in Russia-EU relations, 180 and Caucasus, 54
Organisation for Democracy and civil society, 75
Economic Development and CSTO, 45
(GUAM), 214 and democratic norms, transition,
Organisation for Security and 18, 20
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), economy, 19, 38, 41, 68, 77
35, 55–7, 217 energy as foreign policy instrument,
and elections in Russia, 80 20, 40, 65
224 Index

Russia – continued Syria, 40–1, 161–4, 204

and Eurasian Union, 21, 23–7, 45 Russian and, 28, 67, 126
and European Union, 14–18, 21–31, Turkey and, 119–26, 130–5, 185,
35–40, 47–9, 66 203
Europeanisation of, 111
foreign policy strategy, 27–30, 35–6, Tajikistan
42–9 and Afghanistan, 158–9
and ‘frozen conflicts’, 66, 201 civil war of, 150, 155
as gas and oil supplier, 40, 54, 65–9 and CSTO, 157
and Georgia, 40, 43, 46, 66 and energy, 46
and Germany, 40 and Europe, 158
as a great power, 23–7, 35, 44, 47 political system, 146–7, 159
identity, 13, 17–20, 26–8 and regional integration, 45
and international institutions, 22, as Russian protectorate, 46
28 TRACECA, 56
and Iran, 64–6 Trade
and Iranian nuclear policy, 67, 127 between EU and Russia, 85–7
and Kazakhstan, 45 between Russia and Turkey, 41, 63,
and Middle East and North Africa, 66
83, 213 between Turkey and Middle East,
military doctrine, 63 130
and Moldova, 45–6, 63, 105–6 Turkey
multi-vectoral policy of, 35, 39, 43 and accession to the EU, 2, 3, 126
and Nagorno-Karabakh, 183–4, 201 and Azerbaijan, 203
and NATO, 45 and Cyprus question, 121, 126
and OSCE, 35, 67, 80, 104 and European Union,133, 182
and Syria, 28 and Iran, 121–3, 158, 173
and Turkey, 35–8, 40–9, 53–69 and Iran nuclear negotiations,
and Ukraine, 19–20, 25, 30–1, 41, 127–8
60–5, 81–8, 103–8, 177–8, 180, and the Middle East, 54–6, 120–4,
193, 200 128–36, 213–14
and United States, 47–9 and Nabucco, 179–80, 203
and Nagorno-Karabakh, 57, 125
Securitization, 98ff, 217 and Russia, 35–8, 40–9, 53–69
Security complex, 1, 4, 213 Turkmenistan, 147–8, 151–9, 171–2,
Security policy, 1, 55, 98–9, 101, 183
110–14, 173–5, 204 record on democracy, 151–9
Serbia, 18, 64
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Ukraine
(SCO), 134, 160 and CIS, 45
Soft power colour revolution in, 19
of the EU, 27, 58, 110 energy politics, 104–5, 108
of Russia, 21, 104 and European Union, 26–31, 46–8,
of Turkey, 185 58–60, 97, 103–8, 180
Solana, Javier, 103, 112, 178 Association agreement of, 19, 21,
South Ossetia, 47, 57, 106, 214 27
Southern Energy Corridor, 179–80 and gas pipelines, 65, 200–1
Sovereignty, 27–9 gas wars of with Russia, 20, 41,
Helsinki Final act and, 37–40, 55 177–8, 200
Index 225

Ukraine – continued and Northern Dimension, 54

Orange Revolution, 19, 81, 104, 157 relations of with Azerbaijan,
and regional balance of power, 14, 191–204
21 with Iran, 186, 192
and Russia, 25–31, 37–41, 47, 85–8, with regional actors after the
194 Georgian War, 113, 196
Russian speaking population, 20 with Russia, 43, 81–2, 196
and trade agreements, 62, 85 with Turkey, 122, 125
and Turkey, 67, 134 Uzbekistan, 147, 150–3, 155–61,
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 172
(USSR), 122, 146
United States Vilnius summit, 21
energy security and interests, 191–2, Visa regime
195 between EU and Russia, 87
with Europe, 192
and Iranian nuclear program, 204 Yanukovych, Viktor, 27
missile defence program of, 132 Yeltsin, Boris, 64, 83,
and NATO, 192 174, 176