Russia–European Union relations after 2012: good, bad, indifferent?
Russia and the European Union (EU) have one of the most unique geo-political relationships in the world today. In many ways they are like binary stars constantly rotating around one another, never able to be in the same place at the same time, never able to get away from one another. Remarkably, this continual push and pull has been going on for centuries and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Russia (and the Soviet Union) has fascinated, confused and periodically terrified Europe. It represents the great unknown, a country so similar to Europe but in other ways completely foreign. The feeling in Russia is similar, with both the people and the government often striving to be seen as European but always leery of their Western neighbours. From the time of Peter the Great this mistrust and cooperation has continued. It continued through two World Wars, a Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Every time the two sides get close, they inevitably push each other away. Unlike binary stars who are always attracted and repelled at the same time equally, the relationship between Russia and Europe has never been one of equals. The power dynamics are always shifting between them, when one side thinks it has an advantage over the other it quickly finds that the reality is turned on its head. In previous work I have described their relationship as that of ‘reluctant dance partners’, and if this image is to hold true we have to accept that they have spent their entire history arguing over who should lead.1