“Russia-EU Relations and the Common Neighbourhood: Coercion vs. Authority” by Irina Busygina is an exceptional study despite the fact that the author herself claims it to be “yet another book” on the relations between Russia and the European Union (EU). Not only is it acute and timely, for it thoroughly depicts how the relationship between the two entities has rapidly slipped into a severe conflict since March 2014. It also traces how this long-lasting rivalry has been steadily unwrapping in the countries belonging to the Common Neighbourhood (CN), with a rather unconventional case study of Turkey included into the analysis alongside with the more expected cases of Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine.
The exceptionality of the book however has less to do with what is being studied (in this sense, it is “yet another book”, indeed), it is much more about how the EU-Russia relations are approached theoretically. Busygina herself states that this book is, first and foremost, about power and power types present in the international arena and between different states and non-state actors, while the relations between the EU and its Eastern neighbour in the CN serve as a unique case to test the proposed framework. In fact, studying the power types practiced by Brussels and Moscow with regard to each other and the countries lying in between, allows the author to actually look beyond the instances of these power relations and to grasp their roots in the domestic political arrangements of the Russian state and the EU’s institutional environment.
This chapter seeks to provide a detailed account of the policy process that led to the adoption of the pension reform in Russia in 2001. Focusing on the major actors involved in the elaboration of the reform concept and their preferences, I show that the 2001 Russian pension reform appeared to be a compromise squared for the liberal insiders of Kasyanov’s government and, most of all, for Mikhail Dmitriev, a major driver and proponent of the market-oriented reform. As the 2000-2001 attempts to reform pensions in Russia were not the first of such endeavours, a previous attempt to introduce a model of privatization into the Russian pension system, carried out by the “young reformers” government in 1997-1998, is also examined in this chapter. This analysis helps us to identify the network of policy actors involved in the bargaining at the turn of the century (namely, distinguishing the “old” bureaucracy from the Ministry of Labour and the liberal reformers who were invited by Anatoly Chubais from the outside to elaborate the reform). Also, I show how the “window of opportunities” which opened when Vladimir Putin became the Russian president in spring 2000, in fact, limited the liberal reformers’ room for manoeuvre as the newly elected president chose to stake on the “old” bureaucracy as the backbone of the regime in the earliest stage of his presidency.
The article questions the structural approach to autocratic transition that sees government as knowingly and purposely building autocracy, and contributes to the tradition emphasizing the plurality of possible regime developments and the role of contingency therein, by providing a more systematic treatment of such contingency. We offer a path-dependent theory of political change and use insights from cognitive institutionalism to show how ad hoc policy reform practices become accepted as a trusted way of interaction by political actors and how they “learn” their way into autocracy. This intuition is substantiated with a case-study of the labour reform in Putin’s Russia. The early 2000s marked a surge in uncertainty in Russian politics caused by the succession crisis and the profound political turnover it triggered. This uncertainty could have resolved in a number of ways, each leading to a different political development. We trace the actual way out of this uncertainty and show that the major factor to condition further regime trajectory was the way social reforms were conducted. The course of these reforms determined the ruling coalition and the institutions that ensure credible commitment within its ranks (the dominant party), and contributed to crowding out the political market and opposition decay.