Modern world politics is rich in neologisms. It would seem that the term “Brexit” appeared only recently but now everyone is used to it and the word has become something quite natural. A number of similar terms have been coined such as Frexit, Polexit, Italexit and the like and all of them are being exploited by Eurosceptic parties in various EU countries to put into question their own membership in the alliance. However, there is yet another word derived from Brexit that up until not so very long ago has been rather obscure, at least in Russia, although it was directly related to it. The term was invented and presented in public by Thorbjørn Jagland , a Norwegian politician currently serving as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Addressing a recent news conference held jointly with the Finnish foreign minister, he happened to mention that Ruxit was approaching and Russia’s likely withdrawal from the Council of Europe.
The context of this situation is quite clear: Russia was stripped of its vote at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) after the onset of the Ukraine crisis. In response, the Russian delegation refused to attend any meetings and generally suspended its contributions to the budget of the Council of Europe. According to the rules of procedure, a country that fails to pay its contributions within a strictly defined timeframe can be expelled from the Council of Europe on formal grounds. For Russia, this period will expire in 2019. Given that the CE leadership failed to push through a decision to restore Russia’s vote at PACE’s autumn session (and it is far from certain that a decision to this effect will be adopted at the next winter session), the likelihood of Russia’s expulsion for failing to pay its contribution to the budget is becoming increasingly more real. Under these circumstances, some Russian politicians urged the country to voluntarily withdraw in the winter or the spring of 2019 without waiting to be expelled.
Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko was the first leading Russian politician to declare in public earlier on in the autumn that an understanding was growing ripe in Russia that we might withdraw from the Council of Europe. Other similar statements followed and, logically, a discussion was launched at the working interagency level of various solutions to the problem. Hence, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Jagland has come up with a name that the world can easily understand: Ruxit.
Let us be objective: The average person on the street in Russia did not find it a very hard job to cope with the country’s expulsion from G8 in 2014, and many probably did not even notice. So far, there are no reasons to believe (as is to be regretted, perhaps) that the majority of the Russian public will care to any particular degree over Russia’s withdrawal or expulsion from the Council of Europe.
There are two other restraints as regards Russia’s perception of Council of Europe membership. One is related to the abolition of the death penalty. Russia has assumed its obligation to commute the death penalty to life imprisonment under the Council of Europe Conventions. At the same time, a fair share of public opinion in Russia has refused to accept this imperative and is insisting that the death penalty be reintroduced. Apart from conservative moods prevailing in society, this attitude can be explained by the fact that in recent decades Russia has been exposed to an international terror onslaught. Terrorist attacks would kill peaceful civilians, while terrorists would later relax in jail at the expense of the taxpayers.
The other restraint is about Russia’s perception of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a crucial institution within the European system. As is common knowledge, Russia leads in the number of suits submitted against the member states. Looking in retrospect, it is the ECHR rulings that played an important constructive role in improving Russia’s penitentiary system and prison conditions, in fighting corruption, and in many other matters as well. At the same time, a number of Russia-related ECHR decisions have left a feeling of being politically motivated and biased. So this impression is only growing with the passage of time. The incisive and unexpected altercations between the ECHR and the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation have raised the problem to a fundamentally new level. As a result (to reiterate: possibly regretfully), Russia’s post-Ruxit withdrawal from the ECHR jurisdiction will be accepted with much relief by many forces in Russia.The PACE’s winter session and the outcome of the diplomatic negotiations will show whether the formal Ruxit is consummated or not. But regardless of Russia’s Council of Europe prospects, it must be honestly postulated that at the axiological and historical identity level, a “worldview Ruxit” has happened and is a fait accompli. The only question which remains is whether Russia and Europe will be able to have a dialogue after steering clear of each other on the principle “not together, but near,” or we will see progress only at the level of Russia’s bilateral relations with individual European countries.