IISS/CEPS European Security Forum

Chairman's Summing-Up

by François Heisbourg

In their oral presentation, the three paper-givers were more particularly urged to give their views on: (1) the durability of President Putin's policy of modernisation "within the West" if Western, and specifically US, quid-pro-quos were seen to be lacking; (2) the extent of potential EU-Russian relations, notably in security terms; to what extent would Kaliningrad be a test case for EU-Russian relations? and how well is the EU organized to handle the relationship? (3) what kind of division of labour could be worked out between the US, the EU and Russia in terms of managing security in what Angela Stent has called the "post-Soviet space"?

Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegic Moscow Center emphasized that Putin's strategic vision was not primarily driven by foreign policy considerations, but aimed at achieving modernisation which in turn implies a policy of non-confrontation with the West: this had already begun before 9/11 and has become clearer since.

Therefore, the main problems that the Russian President could encounter would be the result of insufficient economic returns, whereas US unilateral measures on political-strategic issues such as ABM, Iraq or NATO enlargement would have less impact. As far as EU Russian relations are concerned, there would be little to be gained from talk about EU membership. The relationship should be driven by the need to modernise Russia, 40 % of whose foreign trade is with the EU: therefore the relationship should not focus too heavily on military affairs – although EU military cooperation with the Russia armed forces could favour military reform. In terms of the "post-Soviet space", President Putin had dropped the old "Great Game" logic and was emphasizing co-management in Central Asia, although old-style geopolitics were more visible in the Caucasus, notably in Georgia.

Stephan De Spiegeleire, from the Rand Corporation's Europe office, underscored the need to move away from a ritualised, institutionalised, model of EU-Russia and NATO-Russia relations. He was cautious about the durability of Putin's course, noting that it was occurring as economic (and notably oil related) factors were uncertain, with a United States not terribly interested in expending political capital on Russia. Indeed there was something of a US backlash against the symbolism characteristic of American relations with Gorbachev and Eltsin. In this context EU-Russian relations are growing in importance.

On the plus-side, Russian is facing few external security threats. Conflicts could possibly be dealt with in a cooperative manner between Russia and its partners, but with the need to prioritise conflict resolution as a function of actual circumstances: Transnistria coming before Abkhazia for instance.

Angela Stent, Director of the Georgetown University Center for Eurasian, Russia and East European studies disputed de Spiegeleire's characterisation of US indifference: Washington actually has something of a concerted strategy of integrating Russia in the European space – and there is a significant constituency paying attention to Russia in the US body politic. Global issues, and particularly concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will be of great importance from the US standpoint in shaping US-Russian relations.

Although she concurred with Trenin's analysis on Putin's reforms, the question remains: where is the "new blood" (mentioned in Trenin's paper), the constituency with which Putin is supposed to conduct his policy? In effect, the durability of Russia's policy is dependent both on Putin's popularity (currently high) at home and on US quid-pro-quos. Professor Stent would like to see NATO, but also EU, membership as a long term proposition vis-à-vis Russia: new dividing lines had to be avoided, and in any case, adopting EU criteria would help Russian modernisation.

Finally, "post-Soviet space" management will occur more along cooperative lines than as an explicit division of labour.

In the debate, a number of points emerged:

In conclusion, several suggestions were made: