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.