Following the fall of the Soviet Union’s European empire in 1989, there was some hope within security circles that the end to near-constant confrontation and conflict in Europe had finally been achieved. In 1991, three quarters of a century had passed since the outbreak of the First World War; very few in government could remember a time when the threat of continent-wide conflict was lower than in that year.
The newly-formed European Union (EU) saw the potential to establish a new security situation on the continent; as late as 1999, the EU declared it its aim to see “a stable, democratic, and prosperous Russia…governed by the rule of law and underpinning a prosperous market economy”. Fifteen years later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation, directly violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the process. So what happened? How, in less than two decades, did we get from the end of history to the new Cold War?Continue reading “New Faces on Old Tensions: Understanding the Decline of EU-Russian Relations”