While the significance of the deterioration of EU-Russian relations due to the Ukraine conflict since late 2013 has received much attention, less attention has been paid to the nature of the EU's role in the run-up to, and during the conflict. This paper argues that the EU's role has been characterised by two distinct, yet classic dynamics. First, the EU's much-vaunted soft power arguably played a key role in mobilising the initial Euromaidan protests against Viktor Yanukovych's sudden U-turn on the Association Agreement. The EU thus became the focal point for Ukrainian aspirations. However, the very impact of EU soft power also carried with it a Ukrainian expectation for a clear EU policy in support of the country's aspirations. Yet, this turn of events also brought about a classic capability-expectations gap, as the EU was unable to respond adequately to a rapidly changing situation. As Russia resorted to military aggression and illegal territorial annexation, Ukraine - perhaps naively - expected external support, only to find a relatively unresponsive and passive EU. The difficulty of reaching internal agreements in the Council has led to a policy based on the lowest common denominator, as the EU has continuously proven unable and unwilling to rein in Russian aggression. Ironically, the EU's own soft power exposed a capability-expectations gap that has brought about great instability on the EU's periphery and posed the greatest challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War.
The abstracts and papers on this website reflect the views and opinions of the author(s). UACES cannot be held responsible for the opinions of others. Conference papers are works-in-progress - they should not be cited without the author's permission.