Journal article // Social Development and Security






EU-Russian Relations and the Eastern Enlargement: Integration or Isolation
2021  //  DOI: 10.33445/sds.2021.11.6.12
Mukesh Shankar Bharti

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Abstract

Initially, in the first half of the 1990s, Russia's plans to include the countries of the former Eastern bloc within the EU were not seen as a threat to its interests. Furthermore, in the context of NATO's enlargement, some Russians regarded them as an advantageous alternative. Russia is aware that the EU enlargement with the Central and Eastern European states resulted in a present increase in the number of EU members supporting close trans-Atlantic relations. Moscow's fears of further EU enlargement were softened due to a dispute that continues to grow within the Union, regarding the rationale and limits of further enlargement, primarily for the Balkan states, Turkey, and the CIS states. Moscow expects that the reluctance of European societies towards further enlargement will inhibit this process.
The external relations dimension of the European Union's enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe has received surprisingly little attention despite the fact that in the long‐term the issues it raises may be far more important than those currently dominating the debate. Nowhere is this more likely to be correct than about Russia, for which the EU's enlargement poses a risk of increasing isolation from the rest of Europe. The danger of creating a new dividing line across Europe is widely recognised, and the challenge, therefore, is to find ways of ensuring that Russia can be fully integrated with Europe while almost certainly remaining outside the EU Itself. This article focuses on relations between the EU and Russia and addresses three fundamental questions: how Russia has responded to the prospect of the EU's eastern enlargement; the specific issues arising from expansion, and the kind of long‐term relationship that could develop between Russia and an enlarged EU.

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