Russia-France: Balance of Economy and Policy

By Mikhail Agadzhanyan

Russia proceeds with the course of development of special relations with the biggest economies and leading political centers of continental Europe. Interaction with Germany and Italy promotes within quite predictable sphere of energy cooperation. As for France, then the trade scopes of Russian-French cooperation within absolute numbers fall behind from Russian-German and Russian-Italian analogues, but it possesses a pretty significant peculiarity. Moscow and Paris strive to diverse their economic relations.


Within the list of big contract, which to the mind of experts, allow talking about strengthening of Russian-French economic relations, we can name introduction of the group «Renault-Nissan» into the capital of Russian “AvtoVAZ” (by 2014 the French group shall control 67% of the joint venture capital). Agro-industrial group “Danone” intends to invest more than 500 mln EUR into Russian market. “Societe Generale’ from 2011 has controlled 82,4% of “Rosbank” shares, which has become as a result of this deal the biggest asset of French bank group outside France.


The Parties started the accomplishment of projects in such peculiar sphere of interstate cooperation as VTS: purchasing by Russia helo-carriers “Mistral” and plans on joint construction of the 3rd and 4th ships of the kind at Russian shipyards with share of France; establishment in August 2011 by the companies “Sagem” and “Rostehnologii” of a joint company, specializing on the systems of inertial navigations for military aviation; launching on October 22nd 2011 of Russian missile “Soyuz” from the spaceport Kourou in French Guiana (the first in history start of Russian missile from the spaceport outside the former USSR). On December 2nd Russian missile-carrier “Soyuz-ST” with European space vehicle “Pleiades 1B” started from French spaceport Kourou.


The sphere of energy cooperation keeps on motivating additionally the both states to approach each other. Participation of French companies “GDF Suez” and “EDF” correspondingly in gas pipeline projects “North Stream” and “South Stream”, introduction of “Total” company into the capital of Russia “NOVATEK” – are important supports within developing fundament of Russian-French economic relations.


Goods turnover of Russia and France for the last year comprised less than 10% of the total scopes of Russian trade with the EU states, which dictates constant search of new spheres of mutual investment of capitals. As per the estimations of Russian government, current year can be finished by the parties with some reduction of the level of trade-economic cooperation in comparison with the last year index.


Development of bilateral economic relations leads the both nuclear powers in Europe to a special trustful contact within policy. The line of France (similar to the line of Germany) during Bucharest Summit of NATO in April 2008, when they discussed the issue of granting to Georgia the Action Plan to become a member of the Alliance), was trapped in focus of Russian diplomacy. The same is for highly-estimated intermediating efforts of personally the President Nicolas Sarkozy in August 2008. France was the first to support Russia within such an important issue for Moscow as relaxation of visa regime with the EU states.  In 2003 Germany concluded with Russia intergovernmental treaty on relaxation of mutual trips of their residents. In June 2004 the governments of Russia, France and Italy signed treaties on mutual relaxation of visa regime.


Meanwhile there is a number of issues, where the lines of Moscow and Paris differ in the range from slight disagreements to significant contradictions.


Return of France into military bodies of NATO has affected foreign political views of the country on many urgent issues, in particular, Near East. Russian-French relations are in grave opposition as for Syria and Iran is concerned. Paris follows the course of enhancement of sanction pressure of West towards the specified countries, meanwhile Moscow repeatedly expressed its principle view on exhaustiveness of sanction pressing towards Teheran and its inacceptability to Damask.


But also within foreign policy issues, which incite serious disagreements within Russian-French relations, there are positive moves. Here we can recollect the session of Russian-French Security Cooperation Council in the format “2+2” (the Heads of Foreign Affairs and Defense departments), which demonstrated balanced character of relations between Moscow and Paris. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov under the results of the session declared that regarding Syria “we have quite similar views: we don’t want the country to collapse, diverse on ethnic-confessional basis, the same as dissemination of terrorism in the region”. Noting some disagreements in the evaluation of the situation, the Head of Foreign Affairs Ministry underlined the existing within Russian-French dialogue consensus on the main issue; “our objective is to avoid power vacuum in Syria”.


Experts in Russian-French relations note positive signs of recent time within relations of Moscow and Paris. They note the fact of establishment within the system of executive power of the Fifth Republic of the position of the Foreign Affairs Ministry special representative on economic relations with Russia. The President Francois Hollande appointed for this post Jean-Pierre Chevenement – former Defense and Internal Affairs Minister, currently a powerful senator.


The system of relations of Russia and France, which differs with quite extended content (for example, at intergovernmental level acts Russian-French Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, Russian-French Council on Economy, Finances, Industry and Trade) during past months has filled with analytical component, which gives greater assurance in further positive dynamics of bilateral relations. By French-Russian Commerce of Trade and Industry from spring 2012 analytical center “Observo” has started its operation, which is headed by a famous expert on Russian-French relations, political analyst Arnaud Dubien.


Relations of Russia and France deserve foreground attention of politicians of the both states. They are of greater value for Russian diplomacy as a sample of balanced combination of economic and political instruments within development of relations with the biggest foreign partners.



Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from politcom.ru