A choice between neoliberal engagement and strategic autonomy? The impossibility of EU’s green cooperation with Russia between 2019 and 2021
This article explores the dynamic coexistence of neoliberal and realist narratives in the EU’s discourse on international green cooperation with a focus on Russia. Using critical discourse analysis and critical geopolitics, the article explores how the neoliberal and realist narratives were applied in the EU’s international (Russia-focused) energy transition cooperation. The neoliberal narrative presupposed fine-tuned multilateralism and market openness, with an opportunity for Russia to join the EU’s success story. The realist narrative was based on the notions of relative gains, strategic autonomy/sovereignty, market corrections by public authorities, borders and closed alliances, Russia was used in this narrative to encourage more EU autonomy and strategic partnerships. The article demonstrates how and why the geopolitical narrative was strengthened between 2020 and 2021. It reveals the similarities between the neoliberal and realist narratives regarding the policy framework and relative positions of the EU and Russia in the spacialisation of the green energy policy. As a result, no policy opening for selective engagement with Russia emerged; rather, the 2020–2021 discourse prepared the EU for a policy shift that it took to react to Russia’s assault against Ukraine in February 2022.