The question of a ‘common neighbourhood’ – that is, the countries residing between the EU and Russia – and the interaction of the policies the EU and Russia have adopted for their respective neighbourhoods, is one of the most difficult and pressing issues in EU–Russia relations (Averre 2009a; Carnap and Trotskyi 2014; Bechev 2015; Smith 2015). It was, indeed, where the clash in 2014 between the EU and Russia took place, and that is why it is essential to ask whether the divergent and incompatible views concerning the region were, in fact, the root cause or just a symptom of the deepened conflict between the two. The question of a ‘common neighbourhood’ is closely intertwined with the question of EU enlargement. As already noted in Chapter 2, the issue of EU enlargement has been historically contentious, but not always equally so. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union viewed enlargement with suspicion and even outright hostility. During the 1990s, the Russian Federation approached the topic in a much more relaxed manner, even flirting at times with its own eventual membership in the Union, but it helped that the former states of the Soviet Union, apart from the Baltic states, were not intent upon becoming EU members. Since the early 2000s, however, the debate has taken an increasingly fractious turn, as the EU approached what Russia regarded as its vital zone of interests.
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