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- IS THERE A NORDIC WAY OF DEALING WITH EUROPE
The constructivist interpenetrations of regional identity leave spacious room for integrated approaches to KO which are likely to emerge between those actors that speak similar political language. Yet at the same time, the gaps between parties involved are still there. Interpretative differences are stark. For example, in traditional functional way, the Russian approach towards the Northern Dimension has focused mainly on the issue of the funds attached to the initiative, while the Finnish experts treat it basically as a platform allowing to express innovative forms of cooperation and meet the challenges related to the future institutional architecture of Europe. In other words, Northern Dimension might be interpreted either as a tool in the hands of dominating actors, or as a policy forum open to everybody wishing to participate246.
What was accomplished by now in trying to solve the “Kaliningrad puzzle” is only identifying the issues of major concern and creating the platform for discussion and negotiations. In this sense Kaliningrad is heading towards what could be called “the learning region”247. Its record of success is not still too encouraging for the whole decade of 1990s, yet the process of studying and maturing is far from being over.
IS THERE A NORDIC WAY OF DEALING WITH EUROPE?
THE MENU OF RUSSIA’S CHOICES
Russia’s Northern European neighbours are actively looking for new roles to play in Europe, and new identities to share. Yet Moscow had wasted time and was late in reacting to the appearance of the “new European North”. So far Russia seems to have kept aloof from the Nordic debates being developed in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. It is doubtful that Russian authorities adequately understand the importance of profound changes in country’s Northern milieu.
One reason for that neglect is related to Russia’ foreign policy attitudes. The Russian state gives priority to security and geopolitics, two classical tenants of Realpolitik, over regionality and trans-nationalism. Russia tends to treat Nordic and Baltic countries as “small states” that have a limited capacity for foreign policy action on their own248. In the meantime, Russia assumes that the North is a much wider geopolitical notion that the Nordic Europe, and includes vast territories in Russia’s Siberia249, which again ought to confirm Russia’s great power aspirations.
The second reason of Russia’s lack of pronounced contribution to the Nordic debates is of domestic background. Within Russia the North is associated with remoteness and cultural backwardness; is synonymous with vast loosely organized spaces250 marked by social conservatism251. The Northern provinces are negatively perceived in Moscow as prone to separatism based on emphasizing their self-identities252. Moreover, the central government has no strategy towards the Northern territories except for planning to gradually do away with tax privileges, compensation and special guarantees for employees, as well as closing down some industries253.
Therefore, in parallel to the strengthening of the Westphalian-like nation-state with sovereignty at its core, the new, much softer approaches to regionalism and security proliferate in Russia. The recent years have witnessed a clear rise of interest to post-territorial, “dimensionalist” ways of conceptualizing the political space.
First, the importance of hard security issues is decreasing in the framework of Russia’s Northern agenda. Just to number a few examples, in 1990s a significant part of the Russian army was removed from the Northern territories, and the responsibilities for the navigation safety of the Northern Sea Route (Sevmorput’) was shifted from the Defense Ministry to the Ministry of Transportation, with the Ministry of Natural Resources also playing an important role.
Second, this de-hard-securitization has invigorated the proliferation of soft-security concerns, like depopulation and migration of labour force, and poaching of precious stones, non-ferrous metals, wood and oil products, furs, etc. Therefore, there is a conflation of two "security agendas": one is formulated in state-centric categories, with clear geopolitical and hard security bias; the second one is of post-modernist background, leaning toward dimensionalism and trans-localization. Soft security discourse get more prominence all across Russia257, and it has to be seen not as an alternative to "hard security", but as an attempt to demonstrate that there is a human dimension of security which is increasingly perceived as public policy phenomenon (in particular, the “Strategia” Center from St.Petersburg deserves much credit for putting this issue in the policy agenda and for including the concepts of transparency and openness into security framework258). What is common for the hard and soft security agendas in Russia’s Northern agenda is concentration on a variety of border issues, as seen from the perspectives of both strengthening the protection functions and fixing the Russian borders in the Arctic which is still a problem259.
Third, an increasing number of Nordic-related issues are being tackled in Russia on the basis of functionalist prescriptions meaning that technical, politically neutral and low-profiled issues should be given priority in trans-boundary relations (reducing pollution, water purification methods, upgrading health care system, training programs for civil servants and rescue service agents, etc.)260 The North is increasingly considered to be the «Russia’s future», the country’s long-terms reserve. Some of the North West territories – like Murmansk oblast for instance – have been labeled as the «New Ruhr» or the «Northern Near East» as a result of their immense natural resources261.
Functionalist agenda is important in conceptualizing the Nordic integration is not a zero-sum-game. Issues of common concern include trading energy across the borders; economic efficiency262 and due financial management. Moscow seems to understand that should the EU lower its commitment to trans-border cooperation in its ND format, Russia having an encouraging record of direct neighborhood projects with Finland will be the first to loose.