Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Baltic Journal of European Studies

Tallinn Law School, Department of Law, School of Business and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.21

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.140

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

The EU’s Difficulty in Translating Interests into Effective Foreign Policy Action: A Look at the Ukraine Crisis

Nicholas Ross Smith
Published Online: 2014-05-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/bjes-2014-0004


The EU’s foreign policy response(s) to the unfolding Ukraine crisis has further illustrated its difficulty in making effective foreign policy decisions. Using a neoclassical realist analytical framework, this paper argues that although the EU did have tangible collective interests in pursuing its Ukraine foreign policy, it was unable to adequately filter these through its domestic setting. Three key constraints to the EU’s Ukrainian foreign policy> were identified: decision-makers ’ miscalculations; rigid normative demands; and a reliance on consensus politics. Ultimately, the Ukraine crisis illustrated that the EU, in current incarnation, cannot translate interests into effective foreign policies, even when making policy for their direct neighbourhood.

Keywords: EU foreign policy; neoclassical realism; Ukraine


  • Averre, D. (2009), “Competing Rationalities: Russia, the EU and the ‘Shared Neighbourhood’,” Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 61, no. 10, pp. 1689–1713. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09668130903278918Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bressand, A. (2011), ‘Between Kant and Machiavelli: EU foreign policy priorities in the 2010s,’ International Affairs, vol. 87, no. 1, pp. 59–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2346.2011.00960.xCrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Brooks, S. G. & Wohlforth, W. C. (2010), World Out of Balance: International Relations and the Challenge of American Primacy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

  • Casier, T. (2011), “Russia’s Energy Leverage over the EU: Myth or Reality?” Perspectives on European Politics and Society, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 493–508. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15705854.2011.622963CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Christou, G. (2010), ‘European Union security logics to the east: the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership,’ European Security, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 413–430. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09662839.2010.526110CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Copsey, N. & Pomorska, K. (2013), ‘The Influence of Newer Member States in the European Union: The Case of Poland and the Eastern Partnership,’ Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 421–443.Google Scholar

  • European Commission (2009), EU-Ukraine Association Agenda, Brussels: Commission of the European Communities.Google Scholar

  • —— (2013), EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, Brussels: Commission of the European Communities.Google Scholar

  • European Council (2014), Joint statement on Crimea by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, Brussels: Council of the European Union.Google Scholar

  • Forsberg, T. (2013), “The power of the European Union: What explains the EU’s (lack of) influence on Russia?” Politique européenne, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 22–42.Google Scholar

  • Hamilton, P. (2014), ‘Professor Stephen Walt on the Crisis in Ukraine,’ Boston Global Forum. Retrieved from http://bostonglobalforum.org/2014/03/professor-stephenwalt- on-the-crisis-in-ukraine/ [accessed Apr 2014]Google Scholar

  • Hyde-Price, A. (2007), European Security in the Twenty-First Century: The Challenge of Multipolarity, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Keohane, R. & Nye, J. (1973), ‘Power and interdependence,’ Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 158–165.Google Scholar

  • Layne, C. (2012), “This Time It’s Real: The End of Unipolarity and the Pax Americana,” International Studies Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 1, pp. 203–213. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00704.xWeb of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Leonard, M. & Popescu, N. (2007), A Power Audit of EU-Russia Relations, London: European Council on Foreign Relations.Google Scholar

  • Petrovic, M. (2013), The Democratic Transition of Post-Communist Europe: In the Shadow of Communist Differences and Uneven EUropeanisation, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9781137315359CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Pridham, G. (2005), Designing Democracy: EU Enlargement and Regime Change in Post-Communist Europe, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230504905Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Rose, G. (1998), ‘Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,’ World Politics, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 144–172. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0043887100007814CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schweller, R. L. (2004), ‘Unanswered Threats: A Neoclassical Realist Theory of Underbalancing,’ International Security, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 159–201. http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/0162288042879913CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sjöstedt, G. (1977), The External Role of the European Community, Farnborough: Saxon House.Google Scholar

  • Thomas, D. (2012), ‘Still Punching below Its Weight? Coherence and Effectiveness in European Union Foreign Policy,’ JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 457–474.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Toje, A. (2008), “The Consensus—Expectations Gap: Explaining Europe’s Ineffective Foreign Policy,” Security Dialogue, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 121–141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0967010607086826CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • —— (2011), ‘The European Union as a Small Power,’ JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 43–60. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2010.02128.xCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Toje, A. & Kunz, B. (2012), ‘Introduction: neoclassical realism in Europe,’ in A. Toje and B. Kunz (eds.) Neoclassical Realism in European Politics: Bringing Power Back In, Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar

  • Whitman, R. G. (2011), Normative Power Europe: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230305601CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wohlforth, W. C. (1999), ‘The Stability of a Unipolar World,’ International Security, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 5–41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/016228899560031CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Zielonka, J. (2013), “Europe’s new civilizing missions: the EU’s normative power discourse,” Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 35–55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2013.750172 CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Nicholas Ross Smith

Nicholas Ross Smith is a PhD candidate in politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland. His research interests predominately focus on EU foreign policy in their Eastern Neighbourhood and Russian foreign policy in the post-Soviet setting. Recent peer-reviewed articles have focussed on the external perceptions of the EU’s post-Lisbon action and the objective case for the EU enlarging further into the Western Balkans. A list of publications and current projects is available at http://auckland.academia.edu/NicholasRossSmith

Published Online: 2014-05-17

Published in Print: 2014-06-01

Citation Information: Baltic Journal of European Studies, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 54–68, ISSN (Online) 2228-0596, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/bjes-2014-0004.

Export Citation

© by Nicholas Ross Smith. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. BY-NC-ND 3.0

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Thomas Gehring, Kevin Urbanski, and Sebastian Oberthür
JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 2017, Volume 55, Number 4, Page 727

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in