The EU and Russia seem currently locked in a conflictual perception of each other, accusing each other of expansionism and oblivious to potential common interests. Moreover, the deterioration of Russian-Western relations is dividing the EU member states – each informed by their respective interests and historical trajectories. The relationship between Russia and the EU is in dire need of a reset. In this context, the strategic orientation Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is a geopolitically sensitive issue, but it also provides the opportunity to establish a new dialogue on a cooperative rather than competitive and conflictual mode. WeBuildEurope.eu, in partnership with Sciences Po, asks: can the EU and Russia work on a common strategy for the South Caucasus?
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, many were eager to believe in the end of the confrontational logic that had prevailed during the Cold War, in the possibility to reap the ‘dividends of peace’ and even in the perspective of a ‘Greater Europe’ transcending the old divide. However, different actors had diverging visions of those ‘dividends of peace’. The end of the Cold War had created a geopolitical vacuum in the post-Soviet space, from where Moscow had retreated, and there was no unanimous vision for the strategic future of the newly independent states. In the past two decades, a lack of mutual understanding, especially as regards the fate of the two blocks’ respective “spheres of influence”, has resulted in a slow deterioration of the relationship between Russia on the one hand, and NATO, the EU and their member states on the other. Tensions rose as NATO and the EU expanded eastward, while Russia, regaining some strengths after the blow of 1991, started reasserting its influence in its “near abroad”. The outbreak of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, in its geopolitical dimension, is but the latest, if the most dramatic, expression of this mutual misunderstanding and competitive rather than cooperative approach. It epitomizes the failure of the past decades to build trust between Russia and the EU, and to construe the fate of the post-Soviet space as a common challenge of regional development rather than a zero-sum game of geopolitics. It signals the failure to develop a common strategic vision for the post-Soviet space.
The South Caucasus, like the rest of the post-Soviet space, is an area of strategic importance for the EU. The EU needs a grand strategy towards this region – but when devising it, it should avoid triggering or feeding into the same kind of conflictual processes as the ones that led to the Ukraine crisis.
With this challenge in mind, WeBuildEurope.eu has designed a project that aims to overcome the West-versus-East ‘alignment’ logic and to identify a vision, strategy and course of action for the development and geoeconomic positioning of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan that is acceptable to those actors as well as the EU and Russia – in order to avoid future conflicts and to establish a positive dynamic of dialogue between all interested states.
WeBuildEurope.eu is directing two international teams of students working on this question, one in Sciences Po and one in Russia. The two teams will run a parallel track until mid-project, when they will share their findings and enter the collaborative phase of the project. The final research output will be common to the two teams.
Morgane Fert-Malka coordinates this project. Morgane holds a Master of International Security from Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), specialising in Russian affairs and Intelligence. She completed her Bachelor of Political Science at Sciences Po Paris, studied at the Copenhagen Business School, and is an alumnus of the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale (IHEDN). She previously worked at a futures studies think tank in Copenhagen and at the leading Public Affairs company in Scandinavia. She speaks French, English, German, Danish, Russian and Spanish. She also has experience in freelance journalism, and is a contributor to Russia Direct and Russia Beyond the Headlines. At WeBuildEurope.eu, she is also in charge of partnerships, external relations and contact with the supervisory board.
Juliette Faure co-manages this project with Morgane. Juliette holds a double Master’s in International Affairs from Sciences Po Paris and Columbia University in New York. She completed her Bachelor in Political Science at Sciences Po Paris, along with a Licence in Philosophy from The Sorbonne (Paris IV). Juliette also studied in India for a year during her exchange at the Saint Stephen’s College in New Delhi. While enrolled in her Master’s, Juliette took a gap year to work in Myanmar for the NGO Green Lotus, which promotes sustainable development policies. After graduating from Columbia, she carried out research at the United Nations University (UNU) in New York and worked as Assistant Director for the Sovereign Investor Institute, a private think tank for government investment funds. She currently lives in Paris and studies Russian at INALCO.
Barbare Asanidze is pursuing her graduate studies in Public Policy (policy stream: social policy and social innovation) in Sciences Po. She studied International Relations in Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Her previous work experience includes internships in Georgian embassy in Estonia and the Danish Refugee Council’s South Caucasus office. Barbare’s research interest encompasses EU policies, comparative development studies and politics of Southeast Asia. She speaks Georgian, English, Russian and French.
Andrey Birg is a project participant from Sciences Po’s side. He is currently doing a Master in International Energy studies, in the framework of a Sciences Po-MGIMO partnership. Next year, he will study the Global Energy Policies Master programme at MGIMO in Moscow. He has a legal academic and professional background, having obtained his LL.B. from Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands and worked in the Financial Markets practice group at the law firm Simmons & Simmons in Amsterdam, as well as clerking for judges at the courts of Appeals and Cassation in Saint-Petersburg. He speaks Russian, English, Dutch and German.
Bettina Richman is currently a candidate for a master’s degree in International Public Management at Sciences Po in Paris, with concentrations in European Studies and Global Risks. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and spent an exchange semester at University College London. Prior to her enrollment at Sciences Po, Bettina worked for over two years at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in Washington, D.C. At NDI, Bettina focused on political development programs in central Europe and the Balkans. Her research interests include EU policies and eastern European security.
Michail Schuch is a dual master’s degree student at Sciences Po Paris and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He studies Public Policy with a special focus on Management of Public Affairs. He completed his Bachelor in Business, Economics and Social Sciences at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and studied at the City University of Hong Kong during his exchange semester. Previously Michail worked for the Austrian Trade Mission in Moscow and assisted the advisor on Economic Governance and the European Semester at the European Commission’s Representation in Vienna. Before coming to Paris, he was an Economic Department intern at the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC, and a voluntary staff member of the Academic Council on the United Nations System. Michail speaks German, English, Russian, and French.