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Eastern economic integration projects and the EU periphery
Attempts to foster economic integration in the space between Europe and China form the broader context for analyzing the crisis in Ukraine. The country fell victim to the collision of two competing integration projects that Russia and China have set up in the recent past: the Russian-led EAEU and China’s OBOR initiative.
Following the crisis in Ukraine and the implementation of sanctions against Russia, many conceptualize the relations between the West and Russia as a “new Cold War.” But this notion is utterly misleading. With China’s involvement in the neighborhood that the EU and Russia share, a new constellation has evolved. This situation is marked by direct Chinese interference in the political economy of the post-Soviet space, increasingly assertive Russian and Chinese foreign policy approaches, and an ambivalent alignment of their integration projects. Oscillating between collision and collusion, these projects – together with weak and unstable institutions in the affected states – result in much more complexity and volatility than the Cold War dichotomy caused in the past.
An assessment of this new situation and the development of a policy approach for the EU and NATO must be based on two factors. First, it is vital to acknowledge that Russia and China are establishing a diverse set of multilateral institutions beyond the United Nations, where Western states can neither observe nor influence decision-making processes with respect to crucial geo-economic developments. Second, politicians and policymakers must take into account the willingness of Russia and China to reshape the international economic and security order – either in collusion with each other or as a result of conflicting interests.
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