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European Russia

October 27th, 2006

My knowledge on this topic is limited, so perhaps others won’t be surprised as I was, by the information in this Washington Post story that Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, is subject to the European Court of Justice Human Rights, and that

Russians now file more complaints with the court — 10,583 in 2005 — than people from any of the 46 countries that make up the Council of Europe, according to court statistics

Among other stats, the Court has issued 362 rulings on Russia, all but 10 going against the government.

This and other things point to the fact Russia’s primary strategic relationship nowadays is not with the US, where things are still viewed through the prism of residual Cold War rivalry, but with Europe. And this relationship is full of ambiguities, starting with the old question of whether Russia is part of Europe, part of Asia, or belongs in a special category of its own.

This is a big problem on both sides, but it’s hard to see any positive alternative to the logic of gradual integration implied by membership of a growing range of European institutions, and ultimately of the EU itself. Europe could try to draw permanent lines that excluded Russia (and maybe also Belarus), rather than deal with the problems of integration, but that seems unlikely, even with the recent backlash against expansion. More plausibly, Russia could turn in on itself, perhaps repudiating bothersome institutions like the Court of Human Rights. That would be bad for (nearly) all concerned, but clearly there are powerful forces in Russia pushing in that direction.

As I said, lots of people here understand more than me about all of this, so I’d be interested in comments, pointers to further reading and so on.

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  1. October 27th, 2006 at 10:35 | #1

    I don’t know much about Russi either, but this post reminds me of the fact that Australia remains a member of the International Criminal Court…

  2. Hal9000
    October 27th, 2006 at 11:54 | #2

    The Russian connection with the ECJ began with the Helsinki agreement in 1975, which also spawned what is now Human Rights Watch. The troubles with Russia joining the EU are:

    fear of Russia among the former satellites now EU members, particularly Poland and the Baltic States

    the fact that by area Russia is 70% east of the Urals, having borders with China, Japan, the US, Mongolia etc

    corruption and relative absence of the rule of law

    poverty

    permanent non-membership of NATO

    Russia has always been divided intellectually and culturally into Slavophiles and Westernisers – Putin’s court is no different in this respect from Khruschev’s or Nicholas II’s. The most Westernising leaders have been Catherine the Great and Lenin, the most Slavophile Ivan the Terrible, Alexander III and Stalin.

  3. October 27th, 2006 at 17:59 | #3

    John, some good comments. I just came back from the Ukraine and Russia has no interest in joining the EU, rather they are doing their best to claw back influence in places like the Ukraine. It seems to me that China and Russia have formed a tight block on the UN Security Council vs France and the UK, with the US an outlier to both and frankly I think there needs to be more focus on this. For example the French, English and Americans all want to do something on Darfur and because China gets 5% of its oil from Sudan and they are a big weapons market for Russia nothing happens at the UNSC. A more recent example of a Russian power-play is what is happening in Georgia. Putin has turned out to be a real old-school Cold War leader which is a big disappointment.

  4. October 29th, 2006 at 23:53 | #4

    i know diddly squat about the current state of russian politics. all i know is that russas has tended to oscillate between reactionary and revolutionary with little reformatory.

    i am in st petersburg at the moment and raised exactly this issue with a local
    in an offhandway. he shrugged his shoulders and made a gesture of despair.

    he did point out that the russian imperial emblem contained a double headed eagle. one head pointing west towards europe and one head pointing east towards asia.
    this symbolised russias eternal dilemma, which has become more pronounced since the fall of communism. in addition russias true centre of gravity runs from the centre,
    from moscow to kiev.

    my gut feeling is that the CIS will split up. all large imperial comglomerations
    are splitting up, whether they be the catholic church, ma bell or indonesia. states work best with national cultures.

    so the CIS will probably split up into two or maybe three regional federations.
    the european part looking west and centred in st petersburg, will probalby
    align with USE. another asiatic section looking east and centred in vladivostok (?) will probably align with PRC. and the central rump, will be capitaled in moscow.
    and look to the byzantine past.

    but what would i know?

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