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Ivan Timofeev

PhD in Political Science, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

Sabine Fischer

Ph.D, heads the Eastern Europe and Eurasia Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin

This report presents four different scenarios about how EU-Russia relations could look like in 2030: Two of them, “A Cold Partnership” and “Community of Values”, imply different degrees of cooperation and even partnership. The two others, “Descending into Anarchy” and “On the Brink of War”, suggest increasing tensions and the danger of military escalation.

These scenarios are the result of a scenario building process EUREN members went through between February and September 2020. At a time when the EU and Russia have hit yet another low we hope to inspire readers on both sides to direct their gaze to the future and weigh carefully the pros and cons of this important relationship.

EUREN Report 2

EUREN members believe that the EU and Russia will not be able to overcome their fundamental disagreements in the coming decade. But the two sides can come to a pragmatic partnership that safeguards peace and stability in Europe. This is the main finding of the EUREN scenario-building process, conducted between February and September 2020. Four scenarios were developed:

1. A "Cold Partnership" in a multipolar world, where Russia and the EU ultimately return to extensive cooperation on issues such as climate change, digitalisation and visa liberalisation, while still facing major disagreements on European security.

2. A "Descent into Anarchy" as former allies turn on each other in the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, backed variously by rivals Russia, the United States and China.

3. Europe "On the Brink of War" as a reunited and rejuvenated West approaches military confrontation with a sluggish Russia.

4. A "Community of Values" uniting a transformed Russia and a strong EU, in an international environment characterised by progress on conflict resolution in their neighbourhood and resurgent multilateralism.

The EUREN experts found the "Cold Partnership" scenario most plausible, with few believing that the EU and Russia were likely to see a "descent into anarchy" or end up "on the brink of war". In other words, armed conflict was considered unlikely but not ruled out entirely. Not one EUREN member considered a "community of values" plausible by 2030.

The discussions within EUREN during the scenario-building process allow the following conclusions drawn concerning the future of EU-Russia relations:

  • Internal developments will play a key role for the future of the relationship. Its improvement will require a consolidated and united EU, on the one hand, and at least some political and economic reforms in Russia.
  • Ukraine and, by extension, the common and contested neighbourhood are likely to play a pivotal role throughout the coming decade. Developments in the neighbourhood will depend as much on the consolidation of statehood in Ukraine and the other countries in the region as on the policies of Russia, the EU and other external actors.
  • Rivalry between Washington and Beijing will continue and will impact on relations between the EU and Russia. The degree of the EU's and Russia's autonomy from and dependence on the United States and China, respectively, will be an important factor in their mutual relationship.
  • Climate change and climate policy, technological developments, and economic relations are closely intertwined. Where the EU's climate policy coincides with reforms in Russia, there is a chance to unlock the potential for economic and technological cooperation. The EUREN scenarios suggest that growing political tensions and conflict go hand in hand with economic and technological decoupling.

    European security will remain a thorny issue: None of the four scenarios envisages a complete resolution of the problems that characterise EU-Russia relations in this area.

    Alternative Futures of EU-Russia Relations in 2030. EUREN Report 2, 8Mb

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
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