The role of the KO has also to be assessed from the viewpoint of reinvigorating the Russian regional landscape. Despite the fact that for Moscow the KO is but an instrument in improving its relations with the EU, the region itself is explicitly taking the role of a territory quite distinctive from other parts of Russia’s North West, including St.Petersburg, Pskov, Novgorod and Karelia. Yet most important here is that the KO political actorship has set some limits upon the re-centralization and re-unification policy pursued by President Putin. This is why Moscow is in search for non-standard solutions for the exclave (suffice is to say that the debates on whether the KO deserves a status of a separate federal district are regularly reemerging591). In fact, the KO is one of few Russia’s regions that resists defining its foreign interests through the lenses offered by Moscow. For example, the KO governor is - despite tacit opposition from Russia’s federal center - one of advocates of opening as many EU consular offices as possible, and transferring much more economic powers – primarily those related to the Special Economic Zone management - to the local authorities592. Another issue which demonstrated the KO’s potential for generating political initiatives was the proposal of the regional legislature to grant to the EU citizens the right of visa-free travel to the KO, which was rebuffed by the federal authorities but supported by many experts. The KO is a rare example of a region being a constant source of political pressure upon the federal center: a good proof for this is, for example, overt and public disagreement of the head of the KO’s Charter Court with the new version of the Federal Law “On the Special Economic Zone in KO” drafted by a task force led by Igor Shuvalov, an aide to Vladimir Putin. The main arguments emanated from the Kaliningrad side were that the federal center abstains from warding off the economic threats to the KO and from guaranteeing some Constitutional norms that are not being enforced in Russia’s Baltic exclave.
The “Strategy of KO’s Socio-Economic Development” approved by the governor Egorov in 2003 proceeds from the presumption that this region ought to “redefine its role in Russia and in the world”, and turn into “a region within the integrationist frame of socio-cultural and economic spaces of Russia and the EU”. The KO seems to be one step ahead of the federal center in, for example, coming up with the idea of forming the regional government on the basis of the legislative majority in order to give a boost to the ideas of political responsibility. This seems to be in conflict with the idea of “power vertical” imposed by President Putin. A number of local politicians keep advocating the perspectives of the KO’s associated relations with the EU and, as a step in this direction, raising the political status of the oblast via proclaiming it a “republic within the Russian Federation”593. Valery Ustiugov was the first member of the Federation Council (the upper chamber of the Russian Legislative Assembly) to resign from his post due to overt discord with the Moscow policy.
There are some (though rather modest) signals from the Kremlin demonstrating that the federal center is in principle capable of accepting some of asymmetric arrangements for the KO. For example, Dmitry Rogozin, after being appointed in 2002 presidential representative on the KO, was quick to declare that the installation of a special regime for one of Russia's regions «is the demise of Russia»594. Yet the real life went in a different direction: the bilateral visa agreement signed between Moscow and Warsaw in 2003 contains a specific non-reciprocal element for the KO, stipulating that its «residents may receive Polish visas free of charge, whereas people from mainland Russia have to pay regular consular fees. Polish citizens have to pay for their Russian visas with the exception of traveling to the KO».
It is worthwhile noting that the KO has also exerted some influence upon the EU. First, the EU not only came to the conclusion that Russia represents a special case in terms of EU’s relations with “non-accession countries”, but concomitantly recognized that the KO constitutes a problem of its own, deserving separation from the general framework of the dialogue with Russia.
Second, under the direct impact of KO-inspired debates the EU authorities had to recognize that the EU expansion may cause significant disturbances for it neighbors. This acknowledgement makes to rethink the sometimes simplistic reading of the EU as a “civilian power” and a “peace project”.
Third, the EU had to amend its legislation by formalizing the practice of Facilitated Travel Document which in a way could be seen as a “regionalized visa”.
Fourth, the Commission has agreed to partially accept existing Russian documentation for road and rail transit of goods.
Fifth, the European Commission has conceded to start assessing the feasibility of non-stop high-speed trains that could provide sufficient security for visa-free travel from mainland Russia to the KO. The Commission has pointed out that the technical preconditions for that are still missing, but the whole idea might become realizable in the future595. It is not clear to what extent the idea of non-stop trains technically differs from the formerly declined idea of «transport corridors», but the progress is quite possible in this direction regardless of semantic differences.
3.3. Peripherality and Marginality: the Northern Appearance
Another interesting example of “peripherality cum marginality” discourse is given by different conceptualizations of the North as articulated by some of Russian thinkers. As parts of domestic conceptualizations, the North would be better characterized as a periphery, while entering the trans-national scene it may be labeled as a margin.
On the one hand, the North gained a reputation of a territory overwhelmingly dependent upon the center in providing infrastructure and guaranteeing a certain level of social protection for population. Yet on the other hand, the Northern regions are eager to come up with their own ideas aimed at their future. Here is one of the most illustrative narratives praising peripherality as a lifestyle and a worldview: “Forget about Moscow. Moscow is but a greedy hole in the infinity of Russian ice… Why do we need a Moscow that sold the country for “plastic bags” (a metaphor for Western-style merchandise. – A.M.). To the North, go to the North”596. This type of discourse may easily attract its adepts in Murmansk and Arkhangel’sk oblast, the republic of Komi and other Northern regions of Russia.
A number of features seem to be remarkable in this “go-to-the-North” narrative which has to be placed at the intersection of peripherality and marginality as discursive strategies. For the first, it synthesizes typically political arguments and technical predispositions. Politically, Russia’s capital would be compared with a “concentration camp” full of policemen, and is accused of pumping up the resources extracted from the Northern territories rich in minerals and energy. Moscow is not only lambasted as an administrative center, but also is de-legitimized as a hotbed of Russian statehood. Moscow-type politics is associated with useless “moaning”, garrulity, haughtiness and aimless convulsions. In the meantime, there are some indications of emerging trends toward de-politicization which are manifested in a variety of project-oriented approaches understood as a set of tools to achieve certain results within given institutional frame.
Secondly, the discourse under consideration simultaneously appeals to nationalist mindset (one referring to prospective Russia’s leadership in a circumpolar civilization) and adheres to the values of democracy which is believed to be originally introduced in Russia through indigenous parliamentary institutions known as veche with strong roots in the Northern lands. A democratic message seems to be quite visible in repeated appeals to revive the North by concerted efforts of free people who are expected to concentrate their efforts and energies on the Northern expanses (and concede, if necessary, the lands which historically did not belong to Russia to those who would be able to properly govern them).
Thirdly, the “go-to-the-North” discourse de-problematizes an old opposition between “Eurasianists” and “Atlanticists” by means of introducing a new vector for the Russian self-identification. Fourthly, it tries to find a compromise between globalization (in the form of envisioning a new “world order” based on a Northern way of life or thinking of a “Northern variant of globalization”) and regionalization (which comes up through such categories as inclusive trans-border cooperation and federalist ideas of multi-confessionality and poly-ethnicity).
Fifthly, despite a variety of a-centric conceptualizations, this discourse contains strong components of tacit longing for rediscovering a peculiar version of centrality. Internationally, the notion of centrality resurfaces each time Russia is called for becoming, due to the turning to the Northern expanses, the most developed and influential country in the world. Domestically, one of proofs of this implicit re-articulation of centrality is a counter-intuitive reference to Vorkuta, a Russian Northern city, as “a capital of the globe”597. On a different occasion it was claimed that Peter the Great has to be credited for snatching the Russian civilizational identity out of Moscow’s hands and transferring the center of Russia to the North, this is to say to St.Petersburg.
The discourse of Northern peripherality, therefore, can be defined not in ideological terms (liberal or conservative, left and right, etc.) but basically in spatial ones, understood through interrelated discursive practices of peripherality and marginality.
3.4. Provinciality plus Marginality: the Pskov Collocation
The discourse exemplary of interwoven coalescence of marginality and provinciality is to be identified in relation to the Pskov oblast. In my reasoning, this region may be regarded as a province and a margin simultaneously, depending on the contextual frame one employs. Consequently, two different stories – that ones of marginality and provinciality – may co-exist and intermingle.
As a chain, a transit territory, a city-guardian, a point where Russia ends up, as well as constituting «almost Europe» - the region of Pskov has repeatedly experimented with all these and some other metaphors in its bid for rediscovering its marginal/in-between identity. Some of these metaphors point to remote – both spatially and temporally - semantic contexts that are reprocessed, transformed and saturated with a variety of new cultural, historical, and political meanings.
It is arguably within this context that one should interpret the meanings that have been ascribed to Pskov having an “in-between” identity and in which also the celebration of the city's 1100 anniversary was grounded. The politically most stimulating message consists of that the Pskov oblast has to become “Russia's face turned towards Europe” (it is quite telling that the local educational books note the fact that for Pskov, Helsinki is located as near as Vitebsk in the neighboring Belarus, Warsaw can be accessed as fast as Vladimir or Ryazan', and Oslo or Copenhagen may be hypothetically reached by plane with the same amount of fuel as Arkhangel'sk598). The reiteration that Orthodoxy is but a branch of common Christian faith, a view inscribed into the official political discourse of Pskov, serves the same aims of social de-bordering and cultural inclusiveness.
Yet the idea of an “in-between” location may also be comprehended as a form of criticism pertaining to the way the border issues have been dealt with by the “central players”. The web site of the Pskov administration refers to the “controversial status” and the “declaratory nature” of the documents signed by Russia with Latvia and Estonia. The western neighbors deserve, it is claimed, a certain criticism for their policies towards Pskov. What creates irritation is that, for example, Estonia in September 2000 cancelled facilitated travel to its territory, originally initiated in 1992, when the temporary border crossing procedure was introduced to allow the residents of the border areas to get to Estonia with special permission599. From the Pskov side, the Estonian position provoked criticism verbalized in terms of reference to the “locked border”.
For a deeper comprehension of the discourse of marginality as pertinent to the Pskov oblast, we have to find out what is the outside core, apart from the domestic one (i.e. Moscow), and what it looks like. A set of rather nuanced policy frameworks that have emerged at the vicinity of Pskov offered inclusive opportunities for trans-border interactions. The Nordic countries, in particular, are important gravitation poles for Pskov. Despite a variety of discourses, it would be fair to assume that Pskov – unlike Estonia - has (re)interpreted the “Nordic message” predominantly as a story pointing to commercial and inter-cultural communications between “West” and “East”. To some extent, the “Nordic lesson” has been accepted and acknowledged in Pskov in terms of reconciliation and pacification, which, historically speaking, is rather appealing taking into account that this city has been many times seized and dominated by western powers600.
Thus, there are some opportunities embedded in Pskov’s relations with the ND-related countries, but the scope of roles that may be tried by this Russian region is rather limited. In terms of political attention, Pskov certainly loses to other Russian regions located at the doorstep of the EU, including St.Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and Karelia. The matter of fact is that Latvia and Estonia, two of Pskov’s Baltic neighbours, basically employ strategies of exclusion that will be discussed below in more details. The strategy of marginality, therefore, faces serious challenges and constrains, the most important of which appears to be exclusionary perceptions of Russia and its territories strongly embedded in the dominant European attitudes.
Estonia is discursively presenting itself as a “model pupil” of Europeanization601, but by and large this country (as well as Latvia) has failed to become a generator of positive impulses for the adjacent Russian territories. “The Estonian 'mental window' has been more open to the North and West than to the East”602, and the Estonian security identity has been frequently constructed as being under threat603. A group of Estonian intellectuals claimed that Estonia’s historical service to the West consists of holding the border of the European civilization during thousands of years604. There is hence little surprise that Estonia is one of those countries where the Huntingtonian ideas of the “clash of civilizations” appear to have found a fertile ground (with some exceptions from this dominating trend, of course605). According to Stefano Guzzini, “Huntington's fault line between Western Christianity and the rest has become a major issue in the identity imagination”606 of Estonia and, perhaps, to a lesser extent in Latvia as well. In Pami Aalto's interpretation, Estonia is quite sensitive to issues pertaining to its eastern border. This is so because the whole debate has not been that much about the territories as such (the pieces of land contested by Tallinn in the beginning of 1990s lack strong economic potential and are mostly populated by ethnic Russians), “but about the perception of the Estonian elites that the Tartu Peace Treaty, with all its clauses on Estonia's borders, was the 'birth certificate' of Estonia”607, i.e. relates to Estonia’s understanding of itself.
The close cultural association with Finland has been understood in Estonia in a similar divisive and exclusionary way, even if this appears to be in contrast to the Finnish ideas pertaining to de-bordering aspects of the Northern Dimension. The conceptualization of a “post-modern North” as a “post-sovereign” meeting place and “the third space” skipping the East – West gaps by moves of social de-bordering, was either misread or rejected in Estonia. Estonia’s orientation towards Finland might in many spheres – from arts to trade - have been beneficial in terms of fostering and enhancing trans-border cooperation608. However, despite what is labeled Estonia’s “exclusive relations with Finns”, Tallinn has failed to share one of most important elements of Finnish foreign policy – the non-alignment exemplified in the unwillingness to joint NATO, at least in the foreseeable future. Even the cultural arguments – like Finno-Ugric language and folklore shared with Finns – are often used by Tallinn in divisive geopolitical terms, as instruments that “helped Estonians maintain an inner distance from the Soviet-Russian forms of everyday practices”609. The arguments of this sort are apparently inconsistent and sound weak due to the mere fact that a significant segment of the Finno-Ugrian world lives alongside and within Russia, which implies the necessity of inclusive approaches to the issues of cultural identity (one may note here that the name of Pskov is believed to be of Finno-Ugrian origin). Parenthetically it could have been also mentioned that the Estonian state, being geopolitically very much U.S.-oriented, failed to borrow and reproduce such basic elements of American social policy as cultural integration of minorities and, when appropriate, bi-lingual arrangements.
As we have seen above, there are several factors that hinder Pskov’s marginality discourse. Firstly, Estonia and Latvia, the two neighboring countries, as well as the EU in general, do not always allow and encourage Pskov to play a full-fledged role of a margin. Secondly, Moscow is also rather suspicious as to all kind of outward activities that the region might pursue. In Kremlin these might be interpreted as moves of undermining Russia’s geopolitical position and seen as being detrimental to the overall Russian security interests. Thirdly, as the most recent study of “Vozrozhdenie” Center reveals, despite the fact that many local experts tend to deem that the connections with the EU are the only reliable source of the region’s successful development in a long run, most of regional-level decision-makers appear to have rather vague knowledge about what the EU is as an institution, what is useful in the practice of Euroregions, and how the concepts of Wider Europe or Neighborhood Policy are linked to the Pskov oblast610. Social attitudes of the Pskov oblast residents are characterized by lumpenization, fear of innovations and a complex of perennial dependence on external poles of power (the former vice governor of the Pskov oblast has brilliantly expressed this “philosophy of a poor relative” by suggesting that the authorities of this region “must approach its neighbors and explain to them the perspective of having in close vicinity a hungry and underdeveloped neighbor”)611.
This is why the reinvention of a provincial identity of Pskov contains a number of messages that seem to be appealing mainly to different domestic audiences. On the one hand, there is a strong nationalist background to be traced in numerous writings pertaining to Pskov’s intellectual heritage. In particular, prince Alexander Nevsky, being one of the local heroes, is referred to as one of most appealing symbols of the emerging Russian statehood of the 13th century in providing military resistance to the invaders from the West (Swedes and Germans in particular). The Pskov region is proud of being a home to monk Filofey, known as one of most cherished spiritual thinkers of 15th century Russia and an author of the concept “Moscow as the Third Rome”, in other words – the most loyal successor and heir of the Europe’s origins. Nowadays this concept displays clear connotations with the debates on “true” and “false” Europe and Russia’s positioning of itself in this dichotomy as a country that managed to preserve in purity the spirit of Europeanness presumably lost by some other nations.
On the other hand, there are strong liberal conceptualizations embedded in today’s reading of Pskov’s political and social pedigree. For properly fulfilling its mission, the Pskov region's valuable democratic experience and the heritage of local self-government dating back to medieval times has to be revived as a strategy of retrieving and revitalizing the most precious elements of the past for the sake of dealing with current issues. In the 19th century, especially during Alexander the Second’s reign, the Pskov’s zemstvo was an important institution capable of exerting some influence upon the decisions taken in the Russia’s capital. “The Culture of Pskov’s Land” web site612 gives prominence to the traditions of charity widely practiced before the revolution in 1917 by local merchants. Pskov is then praised for having developed such elements of market capitalism as the insurance system and the so-called Consumers’ Societies. It is also believed that Pskov was the first Russian city to ban capital punishment in the middle ages.
A good addition to the liberal interpretation of the Pskov’s identity consists of its presumed tolerance, a characteristic which has to be seen in the context of multiculturalism and intensive inter-ethnic communications613. The story of the Lithuanian prince Dovmont who in the 13th century was elected the Grand Duke of Pskov, forms a reliable historical proof of the traditions of openness and cross-border tolerance in one of Russia’s western-most regions. Interestingly enough, tolerance could be interpreted in a rather gendered context, bearing in mind that in the year 903, princess Olga married in Pskov. This fact has been used to furnish the anniversary discourse with meanings consonant with feminine dignity, family values and motherhood614.
Presumably, the search for identitive markers is a reaction vis-a-vis the multiplying challenges regarding the very subjectivity of the Pskov oblast as a federative unit within Russia. There are serious economic and political tendencies that are inimical to Pskov's alleged “marginality strategy”. An analyst from the Agency for Strategic Communications argues that the Pskov elites have missed all the options of attracting any interest to the region, even in negative sense like playing the autonomization game or using the anti-Kremlin and anti-Western rhetoric characteristic of Zhirinovskii's LDPR party which brought Mikhailov to power615. It is not surprising to find that some experts forecast that within a mid-term perspective, the whole region would disappear as a subject of the Russian federation. This arguably takes place in order to administratively merge it with one of the more successful Russian territories. Regional administration was blamed for relying too much on the federal funds coming from Moscow616, which might be explained by the fact that the Pskov oblast is usually referred to as the poorest and economically most depressed region in the whole of western Russia617.
In the discursive battle for an “inside subjectivity”, many in Pskov wish to draw some domestic lines of cultural demarcation. One of the easy targets consists of Moscow which - as the nation's capital, according to the traditions of Russia's provincial discourse - is conceptualized as being “infected by foreign influences” and standing out as “culturally hegemonic”618. Historically, Pskov's attitudes to Moscow have been marked by a victimization complex - for centuries Pskov was the first town to contain the attacks of Russia's foes from the West, but eventually the city was neglected, allowing it to turn into “Russia's deep outskirts”619. Local historians seem to share the idea that the medieval Pskov – that used to be “a God’s house on the earth” - has lost its spirituality and moral authority as soon as it gave up its independence and formed a single polity with Moscow620.
The federal capital is frequently represented in the regional discourse as being more inclined to harbour a restrictive stand on border control issues, while the regional authorities, in contrast, are seen as lobbying for a more liberal approach621. The whole procedure of border-crossing is perceived as being bureaucratized and corrupted due to inefficiency of the Russian frontier-guards and custom officers622. There has also been some rare instances of lobbying for regional solutions – one of these cases consisted of the Pskov administration's support for the old proposal of passing a federal law stipulating special powers for border territories, including the right to grant customs exemptions to a selected group of merchandise. However, Kremlin has so far been quite reluctant to make any moves in this direction623. In particular, the turning of Pskov into a free-trade zone was never implemented due to Kremlin's resistance.
Apart from “anti-Moscow” feelings, one of most interesting elements of Pskov's identity-building consists of the attempted “cultural rivalry” with St.Petersburg, a city that stand out as the administrative center of the North West Federal District. In the local media, St.Petersburg tends to be presented as an “infant” in comparison to Pskov624. In one of most remarkable interpretations of Pskov's self-definition vis-à-vis and through St.Petersburg, Lev Shlosberg tries to draw the contours of an assumed «cultural revenge». In his reading, Pskov's importance in the context of the Russian – European relations was destroyed by the appearance of St.Petersburg, a city which, arguably, still bears some symbolic guilt for the peripheralization of Pskov and the exhaustion of its resources pumped instead into the new Russian capital. Yet, in Shlosberg's interpretation, St.Petersburg – despite the preferential treatment that it currently gets from Moscow – is but a “junior brother of Pskov”. This is so as the latter was the city where Peter the Great took the decision to erect the “new (Northern) Russian capital”. The contest is watered down, however, by the argument that Pskov constituted “St.Peterburg's predecessor”625; but still, the Pskov anniversary celebrated in 2003 is seen as being culturally different from the festivities on the occasion of 300 years jubilee of St.Petersburg, a city that incarnates, unlike Pskov, the spirit of “imperial Russia”.
In conclusion, let me reiterate that the Pskov region tries to play its own game on the Russian border with Estonia and Latvia, and to gain subjectivity vis-à-vis Moscow, but simultaneously wishing to obtain a certain amount of leverage with Brussels. Having joined the group of international actors, the Pskov oblast has found itself in a rather controversial though stimulating and rewarding environment, under multiple and sometimes conflicting external influences. By the virtue of its location the region of Pskov is destined to find its identity niches in a complex system of different spatial and temporal orders. It has not only to distinguish itself from those spaces where it does not seem to belong, but also to adopt the best of the “new geometries of regionalism” that pertain to Europe-building. Subsequently, the space that surrounds the Pskov oblast resembles a multi-tier patchwork which contains “varying degrees of Europeanness and Eastness”626 and harbors a considerable innovative potential to be explored further.
Marginality and provinciality as discursive strategies are mentally constructed on the basis of certain bifurcation, or “binary identification”. Margins and provinces are two examples of zones characterized as “double belongingness”627, and in this sense they may be regarded as two sides of the same coin. However, these two strategies are different in terms of their vectors: marginality discourse is externally oriented and is by and large about borders, while provincial discourse is directed towards one’s own core. There is another difference as well: margins look for a niche of their own in-between two competing centers of power (which, in most radical version, might signify a pattern of “double non-belongingness”), while provinces tend to remain politically loyal to their own centers but at the same time manifest distinct cultural originality.
In this research paper I have emphasized the importance of discursive strategies that may be seen as shaping regional actors’ identity-based policies. In this sense, ideas, beliefs and values proved to be meaningful structural characteristics of the regional discourses. All patterns of spatial and temporal ordering are about determining the rules of belonging and exclusion, of contact and separation.
The ideas of provinciality, peripherality and marginality that are on their ways to eventually frame the Russian regionalist discourse entail the analysis of the concepts of exclusion and inclusion. Both the EU and Russia are still in search for most adequate visions of their “near abroads” and most efficient instruments to influence the territories situated on the border between these two centers. What is at stake is a set of issues that includes preventing conflicts, managing diversity at the EU external borders, stimulating networking practices in multi-actor environment, and balancing inclusive and exclusive policy impulses.
The discourses that I have analyzed send certain signals to the outside world and contain profound identity-related components. The border regions of Russia, as it was shown, are rather constrained in conducting a strategy of marginality of its own and playing in two different directions. It might be assumed that a policy of exclusion practiced by the EU-related actors would most likely turn the border-located regions of Russia into provinces that would have to be politically loyal to yet culturally different from the domestic center, and would reinvent its identity as a tool for distinguishing itself from other parts of the political entity it belongs to. Provincial type of discourse in a way abstracts and/or distances itself from the outside milieu that is implicitly assumed to be either inimical or irrelevant. This is why the extrapolation of European lifestyles and social/political standards and practices onto what constitutes a province in Russia is most likely to be met with resistance628. Having faced an opposition vis-à-vis Europe, many of Russian territories wish to present themselves as useful provinces, as cradles of “Russianness” that may considerably contribute to the revival of national spirit in the whole country.
However, Moscow seems to be not so much interested in recognizing and legitimizing such self-ascribed roles. Moscow, undoubtedly, represents one of the two centers of strength in terms of each of the border discourses under consideration, but the reactions to Moscow’s preponderance are distinctively different. The discourse of provinciality (roughly associated with Pskov) highlights political loyalty but cultural difference, marginality (Kaliningrad) is aimed at gradually influencing Moscow policy making machinery, while alternative centrality (St.Petersburg) is keen to play the game of cultural and sometimes political rivalry with the Russian official capital. These discourses are premised upon certain forms of distancing from Moscow which sometimes may be perceived as an equivalent of “Eastern Brussels”. Many of local discourse-makers frequently accuse the federal center in neglecting the border regions’ interests, encroaching on their competence, pumping out the local money, and representing a source of troubles and injustices.
The European environment may be even less friendly and accommodating. First of all, the dominant European attitudes as to a whole set of Russia’s trans-border communications have to be viewed through a wider geo-cultural perspective. Against this background, the border regions of Russia are certainly located on the other side of what could be symbolically called “Europe Proper”. Russian localities would in such a context be described as “forgotten outskirts” of an “improperly looking and chaotic” Russian space.
Exclusion as a form of shaping identity implies different patters of distancing and border-strengthening, from temporal (Russia is perceived in the Baltic Sea region as a country unable to get rid of its malign past, still struggling with the historical “demons” that the Balts have themselves successfully defeated and left behind) to geo-cultural moves (the cultural gaps between Protestant Estonia and Latvia, on the one hand, and Catholic Lithuania, on the other, fade in comparison to the cleavages between all three Baltic countries and mainly Orthodox Russia). The implementation of a “policy of exclusion” may take different forms. It appears that the elites of the Baltic states are committed to rather stringent ways of excluding Russia from their “circle of trust” not only culturally but also in an administrative sense, while Russia recourses to somewhat softer forms of exclusion that are basically intellectually and/or mentally rooted.
Yet, even having deep disagreements with its western neighbours over a number of political and security issues, Russia has never seriously revoked – one may argue - its centuries-long European commitments. The paradox is that it appears to be mainly Russia, with its scant and somewhat unconvincing record of openness and freedom of movement, that has pushed for less restrictive and more inclusive/de-bordering solutions (economically, the Russian border regions are keenly interested in attracting shoppers and tourists from the neighboring countries that are priced significantly higher629). In the meantime, the countries with arguably more liberal traditions of policy making tend to opt for a prioritization of border safety over transparency and cooperation. One of the feasible explanations for this seemingly paradoxical state of affairs is that the Baltic countries, having identified themselves with the democratic “club of nations”, do not feel obliged to build their relations with those actors who do not belong to this “club” on the basis of liberal approaches. Besides, Russia itself has done little to persuade its western neighbors that it deserves the same treatment as the EU countries. Another possible explication suggests that the “open borders” agenda is not that much linked to the liberal mindset but rather stands out as an instrument of those countries that wish to join what could be called “a space of attraction”.
Should the EU and the Russian federal center opt for more inclusive approaches to a group of border-located regions, their chances to pursue a strategy of marginality – one that envisages exerting some influence upon the cores and re-shaping their attitudes and policies - would certainly soar.
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THE EASTERN DIMENSION :
POLISH INITIATIVE AND RUSSIA’S REACTION
Dr. Andrey S.Makarychev,
Department of International Relations and Political Science,
Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University
PONARS Policy Memo
There are some elements in the Polish proposals that move the ED in “dimensionalist” direction:
Supporting local activities seems to be a cornerstone of the whole initiative;
Ethnic minorities are welcome to develop their own relations beyond the administrative borders;
Russian business is welcome to invest in the Central Europe.
At the same time, while containing some border-crossing potential, the ED is clearly biased towards the idea of Europe as composed of “Concentric circles”, not “Olympic” ones. Poland seems to strengthen the existing spatial hierarchies and tends to perceive the ED landscape in a state-centric manner, as the area victimized by its “edgy” location between Germany and Russia, and thus doomed to be the battlefield of not only different ambitions but different values as well.
Poland is likely to perceive the ED as a continuation of centuries-long geopolitical conflict with Russia. In particular, “the EU move to establish a permanent security mechanism with Russia was a humiliation for Poland … which, although NATO member, was not afforded similar consultative mechanism”635. Thus, Poland’s intention is to have greater influence on avoiding “Russia first” approach within the EU in the future. One of illustrations is that some Polish experts deem appropriate to take the Common European Security Space program out of the EU – Russia dialogue; on the contrary, Belarus may be included in EU-Russia agenda, with the purpose of avoid its incorporation by Russia. Another example is the opinion that “Russia’s exclusive right to peacemaking activities in Georgia does not correspond to the principles and long-term interests of the EU. Ukraine can serve as a bridge to the strategically important Caucasian region… Ukraine’s participation could also contribute to the formulation of the EU’s strategy in the Black Sea region”636.
Therefore, with Poland as the chief designer of the ED, the EU Eastern policy is likely to become less sensitive to the Russian demands. According to a wide spread view, Russia (along with Ukraine) is supposed to remain on the EU visa list637, which testifies that Poland gives priority to the “safe border” concept over “friendly border”.
Related to what was said above is Poland’s eagerness to introduce the principle of complete conditionality in the relations with the Eastern European countries. For example, in return to non-standard visa solutions in Kaliningrad issue Russia is expected to give more freedom to the local authorities and facilitate the travel between this exclave oblast and the EU. Even more important is that the basic conditions for cooperation are said to be unilateral reforms in specific sectors and harmonization of country’s legislation according to the EU norms. If Moscow prefers to stay behind this sort of “adaptation program”, it will fail to qualify for any economic preferences.
The problem with the Polish vision of the ED mechanism is that, firstly, the principle of conditionality has a poor record of success in EU – Russia relations. Secondly, the question of how sensitive the ED has to be to the Russia’s and Ukraine’s aspirations is still open. Russia has repeatedly expressed its intention to be treated differently by the EU and, in particular, to conclude special agreement with the EU on Kaliningrad. Ukraine also feels uncomfortable in the ED framework arguing that “the EU mistakenly took a unified approach to all four neighbors… Ukraine is not juts a neighboring country but a strategic partner that requires a different approach”638. Some in Poland seem to support Ukrainian demands for heeding to its particularity assuming that “the conditionality for starting negotiations on a new agreement (between EU and Ukraine. – A.M.) should be broader and more ‘political’ in scope than just technocratic requirements”639. That may lead to the ED fragmentation and complicate the ED implementation as a single institutional initiative.