The EU’s relationship with Russia for the past decade or more has been characterised by uncertainty. That uncertainty finally came to an end in 2021, albeit in a fashion which raised further questions over the EU’s ability to become a significant player in the emerging multipolar international order.
EU-Russia relations have been through several hurdles since the end of the Cold War. Although the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo had already encouraged Russia to view the West as unilateralist and threatening, the ‘colour revolutions’ of the mid-2000s drove home the notion that EU and Russian interests in the post-Soviet space were largely zero-sum. At this point, the vision of a ‘Greater Europe’ rooted in some sort of common zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok may have lingered on, but Moscow was determined that this construct could not develop on a purely Brussels-centric basis. Even a liberal Russia predisposed to positive relations with the West would not concede its great power status or the notion of a ‘civilising mission’ in its ‘near abroad’.