A Realist Approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy: The Case of Russian Intervention in Ukraine

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Emirhan Göral, Marmara University EU Institute, Istanbul, Turkey


    The current international crisis between Russia and Ukraine, and the sudden annexation of the Crimean Peninsula have once more proved that when a major international actor intensifies its political activity in an area where the vital interests of others are at stake, conflict becomes inevitable. Although there were severe economic and political implications of the current situation on the former superpower, Russia’s President Putin did not hesitate to respond firmly to the developments taking place in Ukraine. The early enlargement of NATO in 1999 and 2004 were somehow tolerated by Russia since those new members were, at that time, also in the process of EU membership. However, Russia has always had vital interests in those countries, which are encompassed by the Eastern Partnership. In other words, any increase in political activity particularly in Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia by any major international actor would prompt a serious response from Russia. European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) aims to provide a more prosperous, secure and peaceful zone in the close neighbourhood of Europe by signing association agreements with Southern and Eastern neighbours. Those bilateral agreements promote European standards in market economy for the EU’s closest neighbours and, furthermore, help to improve the values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. Until recently, the Russian reaction to the ENP has been moderate and Moscow somehow conceded European impact on the buffer states between the Union and Russia. The increasing political influence of the EU on Ukraine –particularly after the association agreement negotiations dominated the political agenda in EU-Ukraine relations- caused attention in Russia. By the late 2013, EU’s intensive efforts to convince Ukraine on European normative agenda, has caused tension in Kiev. The then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of the association deal and, in turn, the biggest wave of public protests in Ukraine after Orange Revolution has begun. In other words, instruments of ENP somehow contributed to the recent crisis in Ukraine. This paper argues that although the ENP has been an effective policy in providing a peaceful environment around Europe, implementation of its instruments should take into account the priorities of and respect to the vital interests of other major actors in the related regions.