Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 195 (2016)   

Detour or Direction?
The Europeanisation of France’s policies towards Russia

Published 23.5.2016

David Cadier
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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France’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis attests to the growing Europeanisation of its policies towards Russia.

This trend has been exacerbated and accelerated by the magnitude of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but was also sustained beforehand by a conjunction of factors, including: disillusionment over the potential benefits of the bilateral political relationship with Moscow, particularly in comparison to the cardinal importance of the EU context for French interests; the assessment made by French diplomatic and strategic elites of the drivers and direction of Russia’s foreign policy; and the societal context in which France’s policies towards Russia are formulated.

An alteration of the EU context, of these domestic factors or of Russia’s foreign policy could potentially lead to a change of policy. The domestic factors are unlikely to be overturned in the short term, however.

France invested its diplomatic clout in the Minsk process: this means that it will not trade the lifting of sanctions for nothing, but also that it needs the Minsk process to produce visible results soon, especially as the pressure is mounting at home. The Europeanisation of France’s policies towards Russia means that Paris is not just likely to follow but also to seek to shape the EU consensus, both towards preserving the EU’s credibility on sanctions and on avoiding further escalation towards a permanent and structural conflict with Russia.