The USSR and European Integration

Encina Ground Floor Conference Room

The change of Russian foreign policy under President Putin, the war in Georgia, and the recent disputes over Russian gas exports cannot but affect Moscow's relations with the European Union. Looking back at the history of these relations in the 1960s and 1970s will provide the analyst with valuable insights and with recommendations for future European policy.

Dr. Mueller focuses not only on Russia's current relations with the EU but also the historical buildup to the current state of play. He examines the most recent issues straining the EU-Russia relationship and the dependence of the two powers on each other. Dr. Mueller also leads the audience from World War II to the USSR's eventual recognition of the EEC in 1988. 


Dr. Mueller begins by introducing the current status of both the EU and Russia. As it stands, Russia’s population of 142m people is outweighed significantly by the EU’s 500m. In addition, Dr. Mueller reminds the audience that the EU’s economy is 10 times the size of Russia’s. However, the two are important trade partners. To Russia, the EU represents more than 50% of its trade. To the EU, Russia represents its 3rd largest trading partner. However, the EU’s dependence on Russia for energy is crucial. Dr. Mueller explains how various integration efforts have come to very little. The 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement has not been renewed, and the four common spaces approach the EU took to Russia has borne little fruit. Dr. Mueller reveals how relations are further strained by a variety of current issues such as debates over disarmament, democracy in Russia, and Kosovo.

In order to properly understand this, Dr. Mueller returns to the post-World War II period and the formation of the EEC in 1957. While Western European countries saw the EEC as an opportunity to unite and help each other in economic recovery after the war, the USSR perceived it as an economic base for NATO and an organization standing in the way of the USSR becoming Europe’s supreme power. Dr. Mueller describes how the Soviet Union was forced to change such an attitude because of the success of the EEC in raising wages in member states as well as Eastern European countries’ increasing dependence on it as an export partner. In 1962, Khrushchev took a new approach to all-European integration but his offer of formal relations fell through when de Gaulle vetoed the UK’s membership application into the EEC. Such efforts on the part of the USSR fell through once again in 1972 when the EEC was not interested in dealing with Comecon. Under Gorbachev, the USSR finally recognized the EEC in 1988. Dr. Mueller concludes by saying that while it was obvious that USSR did not really endorse Western European integration, it is surprising that the USSR did not see it as an opportunity to counter U.S. influence during the Cold War.

About the Speaker

Dr Wolfgang Mueller is a research fellow at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and a lecturer in Russian history and politics at the University of Vienna. His book on Soviet policy in Austria, Die sowjetische Besatzung in Österreich 1945-1955 (Böhlau 2005), was awarded the R.G. Plaschka Prize. Dr Mueller was a visiting scholar at the Freeman Spogli Institute's Forum on Contemporary Europe during the 2008-2009 academic year.