U.S.-Russia Debates on Europe’s Security Architecture (1991–2014)


By launching a full-scale attack against Ukraine in 2022, Russia began an attempt to dismantle Europe’s security architecture and forcing a return to the security situation before the first wave of NATO enlargement (1998). The Kremlin justified its military aggression against Ukraine by claiming that the West had not kept its promise to Russia and decided to expand NATO toward the Warsaw Pact states. In the new post-Cold War security architecture, Russia would not be offered the status of ‘equal partner,’ as it requested. The war, however, began earlier, in 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea. That moment marked a major blow to the continent’s security architecture, with Russia blowing up the normative principles that anchored the European order—enforced by the likes of the Paris Charter and the Helsinki Final Act—through the expansion of its borders. 

Immediately after the annexation of Crimea, a high-profile American neo-realist professor, John Mearsheimer[1], argued that the West was to blame for Russia’s aggressive behavior because, by deciding to expand NATO eastward, the Western community had „provoked” Russia. In his argument, the American neo-realist referred to most of the classic concepts of offensive neo-realist theory, including the security dilemma, which describes a situation in which one state’s effort to enhance its security threatens the security of others. Neo-realists argue that, in the security dilemma process, misperceptions of the actors involved—namely Russia and NATO—play an important role. Given that the outcome of this war with global implications is paramount to the future of the international community and global architecture, analyzing the causes that led to its outbreak is vital.

The literature on Russia’s relationship with NATO is extensive, including studies by William H. Hill[2], Angela Stent[3], Martin S. Smith[4], Roger E. Kanet[5], Mark Webber, James Sperling[6] and Rebecca R. Moore[7]. The list also includes many international relations experts who have analyzed the specifics of Russian foreign policy, such as Andrei P. Tsygankov[8], David G. Lewis[9], Dmitri Trenin[10], Brian D. Taylor[11] etc. An approach less covered by academia is the influence that the American school of foreign policy thought had on the Russian elite after the end of the Cold War.

My analysis attempts to answer the question: which were the causes that led to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014? Is there a causal connection between the policies adopted by NATO post-1991 and Russia’s challenge of the European liberal order?

My research hyphotesis is the following: The failure of Russia’s post-1990 transformation and the return, under President Vladimir Putin, to a revisionist mindset are the major causes that have led to the collapse of the security architecture of Europe. It is a hypothesis that, if validated, will contradict the validity of John Mearsheimer’s neo-realist arguments.

The central concepts used in the present paper are revisionism, civilizationism, democratic peace theory, security community, authoritarianism, constructivism, statism, realism and neo-realism. For revisionism, I used the definition provided by Jason W. Davidson in „The Origins of Revisionist and Status Quo States” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005). According to Davidson, “a revisionist state is one that seeks to change the distribution of goods (territory, status, markets, expansion, ideology and the creation or change of international law and institutions)”. For civilizationism, I used the definition given by Andrei P. Tsygankov (expanded in Chapter 1) and the one explained by Gregorio Bettiza, Derek Bolton and David Lewis (described in Chapter 2). For democratic peace theory, constructivism and security community, I used the concepts as they are widely defined in established textbooks for students of international relations.

The first chapter consists of an analysis of all NATO-Russia documents, the limits of cooperation between the two actors and the reasons leading to the suspension of the NATO-Russia Council. The chapter argues that NATO’s enlargement process was pushed not by neo-realist ideas, as Mearsheimer argues, but by constructivist ones. A European community that placed more emphasis on shared democratic values and a common identity became more attractive to aspiring NATO member states. At the same time, I point out that the tenure of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, had as its strategy the integration of Russia into the Western community and NATO enlargement, which was not initially viewed with dismay by Russian political leaders. The second chapter is devoted exclusively to the Russian Federation’s foreign policy specifics. The chapter covers the distinct elements of Vladimir Putin’s revisionist mindset, which is also reflected in Russia’s strategic documents. This Russian revisionist mindset is made up of neo-realist ideas, filtered through the Russian civilizationist stance. In fact, Putin’s intention was to challenge the universalist nature of democratic values, which he perceives as hegemonic, by imposing Russian civilizationist values as an alternative.

Chapter 1

The Limits of NATO-Russia Cooperation

Some American neo-realist thinkers have argued that, after the end of the Cold War, NATO no longer had a functional role, given that the rivalry between East and West was mostly gone. With the fall of the Warsaw Pact, the North Atlantic Alliance’s main threat dissolved.

Kenneth Waltz, one such neo-realist, predicted that „NATO’s days may not be numbered, but its years are.”[12] In the same vein, John Mearsheimer prophesied the alliance’s demise. In an article published in the summer of 1990, Mearsheimer noted: „The Soviet Union is the only superpower that can seriously threaten to overrun Europe; it is the Soviet threat that provides the glue that holds NATO together. Take away that offensive threat, and the U.S. is likely to abandon the continent, whereupon the defensive alliance it has headed for forty years may disintegrate.[13]

However, those predicting the dissolution of the transatlantic military alliance were in the minority. The Balkan wars raged in the 1990s, and NATO had to change rapidly, shifting from a strictly defensive organization toward one that manages regional crises with the goal of preserving Europe’s stability.

NATO started operating in peacekeeping and peace enforcement—broadly defined as crisis management—as well as in partnerships with a variety of states and international organizations. Although the balance of power between the two blocs was the defining premise of the Cold War, the 1990s were a time when the arguments of democratic peace theory began to make sense to states that had been members of the Eastern Bloc or won independence following the USSR’s demise. 

Spheres of influence, as they had been configured during the Cold War, disappeared, and American, European, and even Russian political leaders started to encourage cooperation between NATO and Russia based on shared democratic values. The National Security Strategy of the U.S., published by the George H.W. Bush administration in January 1993, noted that „the threat of thermonuclear war has been radically reduced, and the danger that Soviet expansionism posed for 40 years has disappeared as well.”[14]

Arguments on the importance of transitioning to market economies and pluralistic democracy became dominant in academic and political debate. In this context, Francis Fukuyama’s article claiming Western liberal democracy would end up being „the last form of human government” was starting to make waves[15].

Furthermore, in the 1990s, democratic peace theory became the official foundation for the U.S.’ foreign policy initiatives. For example, Clinton’s 1994 national security strategy was based on: „…Enlarging the community of market democracies while deterring and containing a range of threats to our nation, our allies and our interests. The more that democracy and political and economic liberalization take hold in the world, particularly in countries of geo-strategic importance to us, the safer our nation is likely to be and the more our people are likely to prosper.”[16]

A few years later, in its National Security Strategy published in 1997, the U.S. underlined that the Alliance itself as well as the U.S. were working to assure that Russia would fully participate in the post-Cold War security system[17]. This perception persisted into the beginning of the 21st century, when the George W. Bush administration asserted that the U.S. and Russia were „no longer strategic adversaries” because they had switched „from confrontation to cooperation” in several policy areas[18].

The early years of the Russian Federation’s existence are considered a period of „fragile honeymoon” in its relationship with NATO, as Martin A. Smith describes it[19]. President Boris Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev were widely perceived as prioritizing strong relations with the U.S. and Western Europe as part of their foreign policy, which drew criticism from various political opponents inside Russia, including those in the Eurasianist camp. 

It is in this optimistic honeymoon context that one should also read the letter sent by President Boris Yeltsin to NATO onDec. 21, 1991, in which he conveyed to the Western military organization that „today, these relations can be based on the recognition of common values and a common vision of how to ensure international security (…) today, we raise the issue of Russia’s accession to NATO, but we are ready to treat it as a long-term political objective.”[20] Two years later, the Russian President’s pro-NATO attitude was also noted in relation to the decisions of his Polish and Czech counterparts to join NATO, arguing that „these two states’ desire for NATO membership was a decision made by sovereign states in the context of overall European integration.”[21]

According to Tsygankov, Yeltsin and Kozyrev belonged to the Russian school of thought of „westernizers,” which has existed in Russia since Tsar Peter the Great. In short, post-Soviet Russian liberal westernizers advocated for their country’s inherent affinity with the West based on common principles such as democracy, human rights and the free market.

According to Tsygankov, „Liberal westernizers warned against relations with former Soviet allies and insisted that only by building Western liberal institutions and joining the coalition of what was frequently referred to as the community of ‘Western civilized nations’ would Russia be able to respond to its threats and overcome its economic and political backwardness.”[22]

1.1 NATO’s Role from a Constructivist Perspective

In the international arena, the liberal order is characterized by democratic peace. The concept of democratic peace theory is based on the Kantian idea that liberal democratic states are unlikely to go to war with each other. Democratic states are often potrayed as more peaceful than non-democratic states. Thus, to avoid conflict and keep the security architecture in place, shared democratic values have become the pillars on which states cooperate effectively. Michael W. Doyle holds that a liberal peace comes from the mutual respect between states that respect individual rights and from the fact that democratic societies make it hard to go to war.[23]

The link between democracy-building and security was initially addressed by the ancestor of the OSCE. However, after the end of the Cold War, constructivists argue that NATO and the EU functioned as the main international organizations to predominantly take on the role of encouraging the consolidation of new democracies as a condition of membership. 

For example, Thomas Risse-Kappen described NATO as being an international institution that helps build a common values-based identity for its member states. „In sum, liberal theory argues that democracies do not fight each other because they perceive each other as peaceful. They perceive each other as peaceful because of the democratic norms governing their domestic decision-making processes. For the same reason, they form pluralistic security communities of shared values. Because they perceive each other as peaceful and express a sense of community, they are likely to overcome obstacles against international cooperation and to form international institutions such as alliances.”[24]

What is more, NATO was tasked, from the very beginning, with strengthening an international community based on democratic principles. Article 2 of the original Washington Treaty precisely specified „the parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being.”[25]

NATO evolved into an institution that protected and promoted cooperation with non-member states based on shared values, especially as democratic values were re-legitimized internationally during the 1990s as authoritarian communist regimes expired. The waves of democratization washing ex-communist states in Central and Eastern Europe, the freedomto choose one’s own foreign policy and the ability to join international organizations voluntarily have broughtmuch enthusiasm on the international stage through these countries’ desire to achieve a type of governance that meets democratic standards. 

Schimmelfennig emphasizes the process of socialization among these states to build the whole environment of security community, also noting that the primary goal of NATO and EU enlargement processes has been the internalization of democratic values by the recently ex-communist states. „NATO documents on cooperation with the CEECs and Eastern enlargement confirm the sociological expectations about the community-building motivation for enlargement and about the norm-based conditions new members have to fulfill.”[26]

In the light of these fresh waves of democratization touching former communist states, NATO’s new mission focusedmore on „community building” in Europe and „the normative aspect of assisting post-communist transitions and stability” than on „traditional military functions.”[27]

Constructivists argue that looking at NATO only from the perspective of military capabilities, as neo-realists do, is areductionist way of understanding this institution. Constructivists also emphasize the role of ideas in constructing the identity of this close-knit security community, and during the post-Cold War era, these ideas were represented bydemocratic values and norms. The constructivist approach can be found in the argumentation of Vaclav Havel—theformer Czech dissident and later president. 

Havel showed that the Central European states, which had been advocating for NATO membership since the early 1990s, viewed this institution as a guarantor of the Euro-American civilization, not only as a simple security guarantor. „NATO should urgently remind itself that it is first and foremost an instrument of democracy designed to defendcommonly held and created political and spiritual values. It must see itself not as a pact of nations against a more orless obvious enemy, but as a guarantor of Euro-American civilization.”[28]

The view that NATO is more of a „military-civilizational force” than a „military bloc per se” appears in James Sherr’sthinking as well[29]. Moreover, Gheciu argued that, post-Cold War, all international institutions that helped define the security architecture have concentrated on shared values and norms to characterize this Euro-Atlantic environment: „The Western discourse on international security articulated in the early 1990s depicted the triumph ofliberal democracy (particularly against ‘flawed,’ ‘dangerous’ pro-communist projects) as the source of progress,freedom and stability in and among Euro-Atlantic states. By extension, it presented the projection of the samevalues in the former Eastern bloc as a solution to the problems of ex-communist states, and, at the same time, a key to broader European security. The new emphasis on ‘good’ norms and institutions as a source of international stability was accompanied by a privileging of cultural and symbolic forms of capital, and a relative decline in the value of traditional military capital in the field of security. In other words, those actors that were recognized to possess knowledge/expertiseregarding the (re)production of those ‘good’ (liberal-democratic) norms, and the authority to decide who does and who does not deserve inclusion in the liberal security community, acquired significant power in the reconfigured field of security.”[30]

Returning to Havel’s discourse, one can see it contradicted the neo-realist arguments that NATO enlargement primarily aimed to maximize U.S. power as a counterbalance to Russia in terms of capabilities. After the dissolution of the USSR, Russia’s military power declined significantly and the country could no longer be perceived as a competitor to the U.S. The rules-based liberal order became rather an effective instrument of U.S. soft power.

Neo-realist theory also does not explain why societies in Central and Eastern Europe felt threatened by Russia rather than the much more powerful U.S. These states viewed Russia as a threat because of the recent totalitarian past. Russia lacked internalized democratic values, lacked effective civilian control over military systems and could use military force against them to settle internal disputes. In their perception, NATO embodied the ideas of Kantian peace between democracies, irrespective of their relative power.

According to some experts, Europe’s hard-won post-war order is symbolized by this values-based approach to security, and it should be protected and preserved at all costs. Others, however, have criticized NATO for being naive orhypocritical and have advised the Alliance to stop using these statements.[31]

1.2 Why Russia Adopted a Neo-Realist Approach to NATO’s Enlargement

While the Russian Federation attempted to integrate into the West (1991-1995), official Russian documents on foreign and security policy show that Russia started to stress the importance of democratic values as the main way for countries to cooperate. 

Russia assumed that it would follow the democratic path that would fundamentally change the global balance of power. „The democratic nature of the new Russian state made it possible to close this stage. The struggle of ideology has ended. The time has come to achieve Russia’s goals by economic, diplomatic, military means etc. The foundations are being laid for equal, partnership relations with neighboring, highly developed democratic countries.”[32]

The year 1993 also marked the first dispute over how the balance of power between NATO and Russia should be accepted. In a report about the possibility of former Warsaw Pact states joining NATO, SVR chief Yevgeny Primakov stated that the Alliance was still stuck in old ways of thinking about the two blocs. According to NATO’s 1991 Strategic Concept, made public a month before the formal dissolution of the USSR, the Alliance still operated under the concept of balance of power over Europe: „Even in non-adversarial and cooperative relationship, Soviet military capability and build-up potential, including its nuclear dimension, still constitute the most significant factor of which the Alliance has to take account in maintaining the strategic balance in Europe.” 

Following the official strategic line of thought before the dissolution of the USSR, NATO Secretary General Manfred Worner stated at the conference titled „Maintenance of Peace in Europe,” in Madrid, that NATO’s main objective, along with ensuring collective defense, was to maintain „strategic balance in Europe.” Primakov argued that this could be interpreted „as a continuation (under new conditions) of one of NATO’s main functions since the Cold War period.”[33]At the same time, Primakov asserted, relying on neo-realist arguments, that there was a significant risk that Russia wouldturn into a revisionist state as a result of NATO’s eastward expansion because it would feel humiliated[34]. In hisopinion, the blame fell on NATO’s „Open-Door” policy for states that want to join this military alliance on their own, not Russia’s failure to strengthen its democratic political system. 

In fact, Russia’s initial openness in cooperating with NATO was made possible by its perceived weakness due to the dissolution of the USSR. But once Russia consolidated economically and militarily, and the statists took power, which Tsygankov described as realists, they applied only the neo-realist confrontational view to NATO. The alliance was perceived by the Russian political elite strictly through the lens of military capabilities, not through the lens of common values.

1.3 NATO-Russia Relations

When it came to the West, the Russian Federation’s foreign and security policy was not a linear one between 1991 and 2014. Thus, to understand Russia’s relationship with NATO in detail, dividing this period provides a useful tool. 

Valentina Feklyunina identified four phases in Russia’s foreign policy that display discreet dominating patterns of engagement with the West[35]:

1. Seeking integration with the West (1991-1995)

2. Balancing the West (1996-1999)

3. Competing with the West (2000-2012)

4. Challenging the West (since 2012)

Two major challenges have dominated efforts to establish a stable and predictable partnership between NATO and Russia. The first
 has been Russia’s repeated demand for a special institutional relationship with the Alliance that is demonstrably different from any other non-member state. 

In other words, Russia has demanded that NATO consider it an „equal partner” in negotiations on the security architecture, although only NATO member states can have this status. The second issue has been the enlargement ofNATO, especially as it has encroached on what Russia has called its „near abroad.”[36]

On one hand, Russia wanted a privileged relationship with NATO so its Western partners would take its positions on major security issues into account. On the other, Russia opposed NATO enlargement for European states that had been under USSR influence during the Cold War. Moscow continued to view Central Europe, formerly known as Eastern Europe, as a security buffer between Russia and the West. This ambivalent position—claiming to want integration into the Western community while perceiving any form of NATO enlargement toward its borders as a threat—is reflected in all official documents on the Russian Federation’s foreign and security policy. 

Moreover, Russia’s new foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, who took office in early 1996, imposed a different foreign policy line from that of his predecessor, Andrei Kozyrev, who has been labelled a fervent supporter of Russia’s integration with the West. Primakov introduced the „Eurasian orientation” into the Russian Foreign Policy Concept and viewed a Russia-India-China triangle as a counterbalance to Washington and as a building block of a multipolar international order as opposed to a unipolar order dominated by the U.S.[37]

The two Russian foreign ministers’ primary distinction was that they came from opposing Russian schools of foreign policy thinking. While Kozyrev was recognized as a „westernizer,” Primakov belonged to a much more prominent post-Soviet Russian category, that of the statists. Statist ideology is explicit in its preference for power, stability and sovereignty over freedom and democracy. Critical to statism is the notion of external threats to Russia’s security[38]. Since then, Russia has viewed the U.S. as a hegemon against whom it must compete to reduce its dominance. By the late 1990s, Russia’s foreign policy vision was already changing in all its strategic documents. Russia was proposing the concept of multipolarity on the international stage, in which it was returning to great power status and seeking to counter American influence through closer political and economic relations with China and India. For instance, the 1997 National Security Concept advocated for Russia to keep a similar distance from „global European and Asian economic and political actors” and provided a supportive plan for the post-Soviet integration of the Commonwealth of Independent States. 

During the same period, NATO encouraged eastward enlargement, arguing that this process is stipulated in the Alliance’s founding treaty in Article 10: „Any decision to invite a country to join the Alliance is taken by the North Atlantic Council on the basis of consensus among all Allies. No third country has a say in such discussions.” At the same time, NATO also encouraged cooperation with the Russian Federation. NATO considered that the ongoing enlargement process posed no threat to any country. It was just aimed at „promoting stability and cooperation, at building a Europe whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values.”[39]

Thus, NATO pursued these two objectives in parallel, which are also set out in the 1999 Strategic Concept. The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation, signed in Paris in 1997, represented a hybrid formula for cooperation, in which on the one hand the issues of „common interest” in which the two sides could cooperate were outlined, but also the limits of this cooperation. What is more, „The provisions of this act do not give NATO or Russia in any way a veto over each other’s actions, nor do they infringe or limit the rights of NATO or Russia to take independent decisions and actions. They may not be used as a means to disadvantage the interests of other states.”[40]

The document also stated that NATO and Russia would seek the widest possible cooperation among OSCE-participating states with the aim of creating a common space of security and stability in Europe „without dividing lines or spheres of influence limiting the sovereignty of any state.” Although this very significant principle—that there should no longer be lines drawing spheres of influence at the expense of the idea of national sovereignty—was formally acknowledged by all sides, it later became clear that this principle was interpreted very differently by different parties. On one hand, Russiaassumed that NATO enlargement was not about the right of states to decide for themselves, but about the U.S.’ neo-realist policy to extend its domination in the former space where the USSR exercised its influence. On the other hand, NATO argued that state sovereignty and the independent right to choose their alliances is an important element of democratic principles, and the Open-Door policy was based on this principle. 

In a speech to the State Duma in December 1997, Primakov referenced the Founding Act as an important achievement and evidence of Russia’s diplomacy to achieve its own goals. Also, Primakov was ambivalent in his political speeches, claiming simultaneously that „the expansion of NATO is not a military problem; it is a psychological one.”[41] Primakov was the first Russian foreign minister to incorporate elements of Eurasianism in his foreign policy vision, distancing Russia from the Western community. 

The roles of democracy, political pluralism, the rule of law and respect for human rights are recognized as „vital” for both sides. A new „mechanism for consultation and cooperation,” to be called the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), was also established. The Act detailed „specific areas of mutual interest” that could be included on theagenda of PJC meetings. NATO promised no „permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” and „no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. Despite the formalization of this cooperation between NATO and Russia, the Security Concept approved by President Yeltsin in the same year, inDecember 1997, specified that NATO was perceived by the Russian authorities in the same neo-realistic optic as a military alliance threatening Russia’s security. 

„The prospect of NATO’s enlargement to the East is unacceptable for Russia, because it is a threat to its national security (…) The enlargement to the East and the transformation of NATO into the dominant military and political power in Europe pose a threat of a new division of the continent, extremely dangerous in the situation of maintaining mobile strike grouping and nuclear weapons in Europe, as well as in the face of the insufficient effectiveness of multilateral peacekeeping mechanism.”[42]

A comparative analysis can easily demonstrate how different these two actors, NATO and Russia, perceive themselves, despite their openness to official cooperation. Two years later, in the Alliance Strategic Concept, on April 24, 1999, NATO saw Russia as playing a unique role in Euro-Atlantic security: „Within the framework of the NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, NATO and Russia have committed themselves to developing their relations on the basis of common interest, reciprocity and transparency to achieve a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area based on the principles of democracy and co-operative security.”[43]

After two years of formal cooperation, expert assessments of the effectiveness of this partnership have been described rather pessimistically. A report prepared for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly argued that „NATO’s dialogue withRussia remains thinly rooted.”[44] Moreover, the greatest weakness of this relationship came from the fact that topicshighly relevant to both sides were never put on the table, leaving room for less sensitive ones, such as counter-terrorism, arms control, nuclear security issues and so on. As a result, when NATO decided to intervene militarily in Kosovo, the cooperation framework got put on hold.

1.4 The Kosovo Crisis 

The 1999 military intervention in Kosovo, decided without NATO’s UN Security Council vote, was a turning point in NATO-Russia relations. Some experts consider this moment to have been more upsetting for Russia than the process of eastward expansion. As a result, President Yeltsin quickly blocked cooperation through the PJC meetings. For the first time in NATO’s history, Secretary General Javier Solana authorized the Alliance’s Commander for Europe, WesleyClark, to undertake his first mission outside the borders of NATO member states. The advocates of military intervention felt that the UN mandate was granted both by the adoption of a series of unheeded resolutions and by the Security Council’s inability to enforce demands on Belgrade. Before Alliance troops entered Yugoslavia, the UN repeatedly called for the withdrawal of the Serbian army from Kosovo, but the Belgrade government and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic ignored this demand. As a result, supporters of NATO’s intervention in Kosovo considered it highly necessary to provide humanitarian support in the region but also as a guarantee for world peace. These unauthorized humanitarian interventions have been described by the Independent International Commission on Kosovo as „illegal but (morally) legitimate”.[45]

Russia positioned itself as a polar opposite. Immediately after the news broke, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov decided to call off upcoming talks with the U.S. and IMF, scheduled to take place in Washington on March 24, 1999. He ordered his plane to return to Moscow even though it was already flying over the U.S. Russia argued that only the UN had the right to authorize a military intervention on the territory of a state and that humanitarian intervention is not an argument in international law. Russia accused NATO of violating the Helsinki Act in terms of sovereignty, withdrew its military mission from Brussels and asked NATO representatives to leave Moscow. Moreover, Russia felt humiliated by NATO for disregarding its position, and since then the Kremlin’s stance against the West has been based, among other things, on the Kosovo precedent. 

Serbia was a long-standing ally of Russia and felt that NATO had intervened in an area of traditional Russian influence. The Russian government perceives NATO’s 1999 military intervention in Kosovo as the „original sin” of post-Cold War international law. It has centered the debate on textual interpretation of the UN Charter, arguing that no military operation could be acceptable without UN Security Council authorization or beyond self-defense against armed attack. Western experts admitted that the military intervention in Yugoslavia was „illegal but legitimate” under the UN Charter. From NATO’s perspective, Russia’s apparent disinterest in the suffering of Kosovars who were victims of Serb ethnic cleansing raised doubts about the extent to which Russia and the West actually shared values[46].

Moreover, Vladimir Putin utilized the Kosovo precedent to recognize the independence of the separatist territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia nine years later, when Kosovo requested to the international community to officially recognize it as a state: „This is a harmful and dangerous precedent – the Kosovo precedent is a terrible precedent – you can’t observe one set of rules for Kosovo and another for Abkhazia and South Ossetia”[47]. However, Putin’s comparison is not exactly fair since, in the case of Kosovo, the International Court of Justice ruled in 2010 that Kosovo did not violate the principles of international law.

Despite the PJC’s brief suspension, Russia continued to have direct communications with NATO and participated in negotiations that led to the June 1999 interim agreement, which put an end to the conflict against Serbia. The NATO-Russia crisis was quickly overcome as President Yeltsin’s term was coming to an end. 

In early 2000, the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, decided to start his term with friendly messages addressed to NATO and the Western community.

1.5 The NATO-Russia Council

Since Putin’s ascension to power, Russia’s rhetoric toward NATO remained ambivalent. During his first term as President, Tsygankov defined his strategy toward the West as one of „pragmatic cooperation”[48], similar to former Foreign Minister Primakov. Putin, as Prime Minister at the time, presented a document to the EU „troika” in Helsinki in October 1999, in which Russia applauded the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) for limiting „the U.S. and NATO and its continental dominance” and countering „NATO dominance in Europe.”

Simultaneously, the new Russian president stated, during a BBC interview in March 2000, that „Russia is part of the European culture. And I cannot imagine my own country in isolation from Europe and what we often call the civilized world. So, it is hard for me to visualize NATO as an enemy (…) We believe that we may discuss closer integration with NATO, but only if Russia is viewed as an equal partner.”[49]

The international context was becoming conducive to a reinvigorated NATO-Russia relationship. Immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Putin stated his willingness to collaborate with U.S. President George W. Bush in combating terrorism. As a result, the institutional framework changed to a greater level of PJC cooperation, with a new format for the NATO-Russia Council being introduced in 2002. The new cooperation format was driven by recurrentRussian complaints about the lack of sufficient institutionalization. To avoid the pre-prepared stances of NATO members, the Russians argued that the former consultative organization lacked a pre-committee consisting of both parts to plan official meetings. 

This period is considered the „Golden Age” of NATO-Russia cooperation, recording several examples of good practices. E.g., Russia participated with ships in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour as part of an anti-terrorism patrol in the Mediterranean. In addition, Russia permitted the International Security Assistance Force to transit materials via its territory to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. Among other examples, a joint exercise called Kaliningrad 2004, betweenNATO and the Russian military, was held in June 2004 to evaluate the combined defenses against terrorists employing weapons of mass destruction. The scenario involved the managing of a mass-casualty environmental disaster brought by a terrorist strike. There were about 1,000 participants from 22 international organizations that are members of NATO. 

As part of this „Golden Age,” marine cooperation also moved forward, with the NRC constituting several working groups on naval issues. NATO and Russian authorities signed a framework agreement in February 2003 to govern participation during submarine rescue operations. Following that, the Russian government launched bilateral conversations on this topic with individual NATO members, including the U.S. 

However, these rather small attempts of cooperation did not have a spillover effect between low and high politics. During the next major crisis, which was the war in Georgia, the council proved totally ineffective, as in the Kosovo crisis.

1.6 NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Enlargement Relations 

The relationship between NATO and Ukraine on the one hand, and NATO and Georgia on the other, are crucial, as both states are of strategic interest to the Russian Federation. As Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in the mid-1990s, „without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire (…) if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources, as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”[50]

After gaining independence, Ukraine was the first ex-Soviet state to join the Partnership for Peace (PfP) in February 1994, and Georgia soon followed. Although institutional cooperation between NATO and Ukraine developed in parallel with that between NATO and Russia, there were no serious intentions in the 1990s for Ukraine to join the transatlantic alliance. It was only in the early 2000s that NATO treated Ukraine’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic structure more seriously, through the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan initiative. After the protests of the Orange Revolution (2004), NATO further enhanced its relationship with Ukraine by offering, in April 2005, a package of reform programs called an Intensified Dialogue[51].

Ukraine was the most active PfP country in NATO operations, contributing personnel to missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Mediterranean via Operation Active Endeavor, and off the coast of Somalia in Operation Ocean Shield. 

Georgia had a similar trajectory. The country contributed troops to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) from 1999 to 2008, also being one of the largest non-NATO troop contributors to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Georgia participated in Operation Active Endeavour, the counter-terrorist maritime surveillance operation in the Mediterranean, primarily through intelligence exchange[52].

However, the relationship between NATO and Ukraine had its ups and downs due to the latter’s political class, which pendulated between sharing Euro-alliance and Moscow-friendly views. In May 2002, President Leonid Kuchma shifted Ukraine’s policy of neutrality by unveiling a new military doctrine that stressed Euro-Atlantic integration. Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, another two prominent Ukrainian leaders with Euro-Atlantic aspirations, saw their initiatives thwarted by the rise to power of Viktor Yanukovych. With Yanukovych’s ascension to the presidency in 2010, Ukraine’s foreign policy pivoted once more. In April 2010, he dissolved Ukraine’s committee for NATO membership preparation and the country’s national center for Euro-Atlantic integration. Before Russia’s illegal invasion of Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian popular support for NATO membership was also in the minority[53].

The way Georgia’s political class related to NATO after the end of the Cold War was similar to the Ukrainian trajectory. After the color revolution, however, the political regime in Tbilisi was pro-NATO, with President Saakashvili contributing troops to military operations in the Middle East. President Bush, visiting Kiev on April 1, 2008, on his way to the Bucharest summit, advocated for both Ukraine and Georgia’s entry into NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP). Both nations sent troops to Iraq, and Bush’s support for their NATO membership aspirations was widely seen as an incentive for their contributions. However, opposition within NATO to offering Ukraine and Georgia MAP access was substantial. Top European powers Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands opposed this idea due to fears of a Russian backlash.

1.7 War in Georgia

The 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia served as another lesson of how fragile the NATO-Russia relationship was. Unlike the Kosovo crisis, when the Russian President suspended cooperation, in this case it was NATO that suspended the NATO-Russia Council. 

Russia’s tensions with NATO on the one hand and with U.S. leaders on the other had grown in the context of the NATO summit in Bucharest, when the Alliance signaled that there was an open door for Georgia and Ukraine to be included in a future enlargement but without a specific date being mentioned. It represented a compromise between the American option, which supported NATO integration for these states, and the European option, which opposed it: „NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO. Both nations have made valuable contributions to Alliance operations. We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May. MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP. Therefore, we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications. We have asked Foreign Ministers to make a first assessment of progress at their December 2008 meeting. Foreign Ministers have the authority to decide on the MAP applications of Ukraine and Georgia.”[54]

Europe’s descent into crisis in 2008 begun with the February unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo and recognition from most of the EU and NATO member states. The timing of Kosovo’s declaration of statehood at the UN and Russia’s position on the case is all the more interesting because it was used as a precedent, in a distorted interpretation of international law by the Kremlin regime, to subsequently recognize the independence of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 and the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

In the UN Security Council’s meeting, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN stated that Kosovo’s declaration of independence constituted „a blatant breach of the norms and principles of international law—above all the Charter of the United Nations—which undermines the foundations of the system of international relations.”[55] On the other hand, the U.S. delegate considered Kosovo’s declaration of independence a „logical, legitimate and legal response to the situation at hand.”[56]

The U.S. recognized Kosovo as a state on the grounds that there was no other legal way to resolve this conflict, given the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansing of Kosovars, and the long period of UN administration of the region, making Kosovo „a special case”. 

In Russia’s argument before the International Court of Justice, the country used the progressive concept of „remedial secession” in international law, which a little later became the legal pretext for recognizing the independence of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. More precisely, in the Russian view transmitted to the ICJ, „the right of remedial secession” is „limited to extreme situations in which violent acts of discrimination are continuously committed against the people in question and all the possibilities for a resolution of the problem within the existing state have been exhausted,” that is, as „a measure of last resort, where the very existence of the people or its characteristics are in danger.” The paradox of Russian interpretation of international law arose when Russia claimed that the killing of 6,000 Kosovar Albanians in the Kosovo-Serb conflict would not be a special case in which this right of „remedial secession” should be applied but instead falsely claimed that Georgia had committed genocide against ethnic people in the two separatist regimes, and in this case the invocation of the right of „remedial secession” becomes legitimate[57].

In the seven-day war of August 2008, when Russia illegally utilized the right to use force against Georgia, about 300 people were killed on the South Ossetian and Russian sides, as were about 360 people on the Georgian side. 

Despite NATO’s critical official stance condemning Russia’s abuses during the military invasion of Georgia, NATO surprisingly agreed to resume cooperation with Russia, and Russia presented the same attitude. So, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy brokered a ceasefire, the NATO-Russia Council resumed pragmatically, even though the differences in values were as stark as ever. The partnership was becoming a form without substance, as the issues of dissent that dividedthe two parties were more important than the issues that could unite them. At the same time, the Russian Federation’s Foreign Policy Concept, which was approved by President Dmitry Medvedev in January 2008, made it clear that „Russia maintains its negative attitude toward NATO expansion, especially plans to let Ukraine and Georgia join the alliance, as well as bringing NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders in general, which violates the principleof equal security.”[58] Two years later, despite all evidence coming from Russia, NATO naively concluded in the 2010 Strategic Concept that „NATO poses no threat to Russia. (…) On the contrary, we want NATO and Russia to have a real strategic partnership, and we will act that way, expecting Russia to do the same.”

Despite significant NATO outreach efforts, Russia remained openly antagonistic to NATO’s vision of European security.

1.8 The Annexation of Crimea 

The next misinterpretation of international law by the Russian Federation occurred in 2014, when the Kremlin decided to illegally annex Crimea. It should be noted that the justification for this annexation was no longer based on Ukraine’s intention to join NATO but on a trade agreement with the EU. 

Compared to NATO’s enlargement, which is considered in all of Russia’s strategic documents as „a threat to Russia,” the EU received a much friendlier treatment in the Russian Federation’s foreign policy documents. The illegal use of force against Ukraine was entirely unjustified, especially as there was no question of Ukraine joining the EU, but only of warming up economic relations between the Union and Ukraine. To have a legal justification, Russia did not annex Crimea directly, but first, through the political class ruling the peninsula, the Crimean Parliament declared its independence and issued an appeal to join the Russian Federation. Russia promptly recognized the Republic of Crimea as an independent state. The Russian Parliament ratified the Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Crimea just a day later.

Socher explained Russia’s main argument for legality of Crimea’s incorporation into the Russian Federation: „The claim that Crimea has a right to secede was based on the reading of the Ukrainian Revolution having creating ‘an extreme situation’ in which Crimea’s right to self-determination could not be exercised any longer in the constitutional framework of Ukraine, whose territorial integrity was purportedly ‘destroyed’ by the Ukrainian interim government. This reasoning clearly reminded of the argument raised in the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, where a similar point was made in the context of the recognition of South Ossetia as an independent state, with Russia arguing that the bombing of Tskhinvali amounted to ‘genocide’ and Georgia therefore having ‘ended’ its sovereignty.”[59]

Vladimir Putin’s rhetorical justifications have mostly made references to history[60], not to the principles of international law and the UN Charter. „Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the locations of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol—a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.”[61]

The international community’s principal reasoning for the illegality of the annexation of Crimea, on the other hand, is that the use of Russian special forces—often known as „little green men”—infringed upon Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Additionally, the 2003 border agreement between Russia and Ukraine, which acknowledged Crimea as a part of Ukraine, was broken by Russia. 

The illegal annexation of Crimea was also the moment when the Kremlin’s politicized way of interpreting international law became clear. In fact, the Russian school of thought on international law never got out of the neo-realist logic of the struggle between great powers, in which law is simply irrelevant or ‘a mere reflection of the prevailing balance of power,’ which was the case before 1945, when the UN Charter was established and which stipulates sovereign equality between states. In Hans Morgenthau’s words, „Where there is neither a community of interest nor a balance of power, there is no international law.”[62] Also, E.H. Carr argued that law within states was a reflection of the „policy and interests of the dominant group in a given state at a given period.”[63] Moreover, one of the proponents of the neo-realist paradigm in international law, Rein Mullerson, who has also published a book[64] defending Moscow’s neo-realist approach to the interpretation of international law, argues that „contemporary international lawyers have started to forget what role balance-of-power arguments have played in the considerations of war and peace in classical international law”. In Mullerson’s view, there is a certain relativity to violations of international law as long as there are other precedents set by major powers, referring, like Vladimir Putin, to the Kosovo case. According to Mullerson, Russia annexed Crimea for the sake of the balance of power. He stated that until the early 1990s, international law evolved as a balance of power system, but that the U.S.’ dominance since then has generated unipolarity and disrupted the balance, which is harmful to international law[65]

After the UN Charter specifically specifies that the use of armed force in the takeover of other states’ territories is an illegal activity, this realism logic can no longer have any actual basis. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation recognized Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the non-realist balance of power argument only relativizes the foundational principles of the UN Charter. 

Currently, from the perspective of international law, Crimea still belongs to Ukraine, whatever the situation on the ground may look like. The UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/262 of March 27, 2014—which was adopted with 100 votes, 58 abstentions, and 11 no votes—urged states not to recognize any change to the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, consequently mentioning the concept of mandatory non-recognition. This reasoning is articulated in Article 41 of the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on State Responsibility. The obligation is a principle of customary international law that tries to prevent a violation of international law from being confirmed through recognition. 

Chapter 2

Russian Foreign Policy in Focus

Immediately after the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea, one of America’s most prominent neo-realists, Jean J. Mearsheimer, published an article[66] in Foreign Affairs arguing that the West was to blame for Russia’s behavior. The main argument is that NATO and the EU „provoked” Russia’s reaction by recklessly expanding eastward and thus entering Russia’s sphere of influence.

Mearsheimer argues that Ukraine belongs to the category of „buffer states” and would have been wiser to remain neutral precisely not to anger a great power like Russia. He also warned that it „would be an even greater mistake” for the West to continue a policy of „attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border.[67] However, Mearsheimer’s theory cannot explain everything that happened between Russia and Ukraine. For example, why did Russia, in 2014, only invade Eastern Ukraine and Crimea and not the whole country? 

Mearsheimer was not the only one to express concerns that NATO expansion would be a mistake for U.S. foreign policy. George Kennan, a realist and former ambassador to the Soviet Union who advised on many of America’s Cold War policies—including the fatal American foreign policy mistake of the entire post-Cold War era.”[68] Other well-known neo-realists opposed the first wave of NATO enlargement for former Warsaw Pact states during the Clinton administration, like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: „Kissinger complained in an op-ed piece on Nov. 24, 1993, that the ‘Partnership for Peace would dilute what is left of the Atlantic Alliance into a vague multilateralism,’ and he called on NATO to offer Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic some form of ‘qualified membership,’ whereby they could become members but would not be included in the integrated military command.”[69] The American neo-realists, in considerable containment policy—referred to NATO enlargement as „the most numbers, have spoken out against NATO’s eastward expansion policy. 

In explaining the international arena, Mearsheimer applies all the concepts of offensive neo-realism, and in most of his writings, he has vehemently criticized the liberal world order developed after 1945, when the UN established its Charter—which is considered an instrument of international law[70]—the most important liberal document setting rules in relations between states and condemning the illegal use of armed force to annex territories belonging to other states. 

Because realism and neo-realism, with most of their subcategories, are theories of international relations that have massively influenced Russian foreign policy, in analyzing the causes that led to rise of Russian Federation’s revisionist behavior, it is mandatory to explain why Moscow political leaders were influenced by the main assumptions of this theory.

Neo-realism is not a monolithic theory, but an umbrella under which many schools of thought have developed, each with its own particularities. Nonetheless, there are some common concepts that define the broad international relations theory of neo-realism, and they are anarchy, balance of power, national interest and survival. During the Cold War period, the dominant theories in international relations were liberalism and realism. However, the two penetrated Russian academia rather late, as Marxism was dominating, including in explaining international relations. 

Morgenthau argued that „the Cold War is not a matter of ideologies but merely of power.”[71] Realists place great emphasis on the idea of power, linking it to the interests of states. Understanding power is the key to understanding international politics, since it is the foundation of all political action. International politics, same as all politics, is a dispute for power, with the goal of maintaining, increasing and showcasing it. With the international scene being dominated by anarchy, in neo-realist logic, states become the most important actors. Neo-realists contest the idea that there is a stronger authority on the international stage than that of the states, and therefore place a higher value on the concept of sovereignty than liberals, for whom international organizations that impose a set of rules on the interaction between states are crucial. For Mearsheimer, international organizations have obvious limits to their functioning, and they still depend on the power of states exercising influence within them[72].

It is also the realists who justify the revisionist behavior of states. Morgenthau[73], for example, explains the revisionist behavior of states by referring to Nazi Germany. He argued that after the Peace of Versailles, Germany felt humiliated, and this humiliation led to revenge. Other classical realists argue that „power vacuums” can spawn revisionism. They argue that states will adopt revisionist foreign policy goals when they have several small, vulnerable states nearby[74].

In this case, the vulnerable state would be Ukraine, and Russia a rising power. Moreover, as a Jew by origin who lived during Nazi Germany, Morgenthau’s work was massively influenced by the way the great powers behaved on the international stage at the time. Having personal contacts with the anti-Semitic philosopher Carl Schmitt, Morgenthau became, in the first part of his life, a closer reader and transmitter of his ideas about international political theory and geopolitics for the post-war world. His 1946 work, Scientific Man versus Power Politics, repeats many distinctive Schmittian themes[75]. His primary goal in this book was to discredit Wilsonian liberalism, that be believed to have dominated inter-war American thought. 

The caveat is important because Schmitt’s illiberal views massively influenced Russian foreign policy thinking, as Lewis shows[76]. Schmitt advocated forms of authoritarianism to dominate the world order at the expense of the liberal ideas he virulently criticized. Putin’s policy of restoring order by weakening the power of Russian parliamentarianism has its origins in Schmitt’s writings.

Davidson argues that states that perceive their security and autonomy at risk are more likely to challenge the status quo and become revisionist states[77]. „This is because they will seek to acquire or maintain goods such as territories to address their security and autonomy concerns.” When it comes to defining concepts, Davidson differentiates between revisionist states—those that seek to change the distribution of goods (territory, status, markets and expansion of ideology, as well as the creation or change of international law and institutions)—and status-quo seekers, so those that seek to maintain the distribution of same goods.[78]

Mearsheimer claims, in Tragedy of the Great Powers, that all states are revisionist. He argues that all states seek to increase their power—ultimately seeking hegemony—as a means of increasing their security[79]. He also offers some exceptions: 

  1. States might seek for an opportune moment to behave revisionist, so would maintain the status quo until that moment.
  2. States that benefit from maritime isolation tend not to become revisionist, precisely because they do not feel that their security is at risk and are harder to conquer. 
  3. In rare cases, states actually seek to maintain the status quo because they have achieved regional hegemony. 

Mearsheimer’s argument is an exaggeration, since it can be empirically observed that, on the international scene, there are numerically more small states seeking security and wishing to maintain the status quo than states behaving like expansionist empires. In fact, the neo-realist argument has more to do with the behavior of great powers in the past than with the present. Arguments based on the balance of power were prevalent in historical Europe but became irrelevant in post-1945 discussions of just ad bellum in international law[80].

Analyzing Putin’s 2014 manifesto as a justification for the annexation of Crimea and comparing it to many past manifestos justifying war, Yale historians Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro have shown that such texts are primarily propaganda[81]. They demonstrate that a third of these manifestos use, as their justification for the enemy, the imbalance of power they would create. The major paradigm difference between the pre-1945 and post-1945 periods is that the threat of military force, aggression and annexation became illegal under international law[82].

Even if there are precedents of the U.S. resorting to armed force without the approval of the UN Security Council, such as the invasion of Iraq or the Kosovo intervention, as a general norm, the international community rejects such illegal actions and no longer accepts them as a given. If before the end of the Second World War, what really mattered in the struggle between main global actors was power, calculated in terms of military capabilities, population, resources and the size of the state, after the creation of the liberal order, so since 1945, the Western community has gradually placed the emphasis on respect for rules and norms on the international stage. The illegal annexation of Crimea thus becomes an example of revisionist behavior by a great power that has violated several provisions of international law. The obligations between Russia and Ukraine regarding territorial integrity and the prohibition of the use of force are clearly expressed in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter[83] and in the Helsinki Final Act[84]

In addition, Russia violated other bilateral treaties. For instance, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum[85] was established to give Ukraine security assurances that it could join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a state without such weapons. The U.S., the U.K. and Russia pledged to „respect the independence, sovereignty, and existing borders of Ukraine” in exchange for the surrender of Soviet nuclear weapons. They also reaffirmed „their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”[86]

The 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and Russia again affirmed the inviolability of the borders between both states and provided that both parties „shall build their mutual relations on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for their sovereign equality, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, peaceful resolution of disputes, non-use of force or the threat of force, including economic and other means of pressure, the right of peoples to freely determine their fate, non-interference in internal affairs, observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, cooperation among states, the conscientious performance of international obligations undertaken, and other generally recognized norms of international law.”[87]

Mearsheimer does not address these violations of international law on the part of the Russian Federation. As his writings show, the author often uses metaphors and tends to romanticize international relations rather than provide scientific accuracy. A vehement critic of liberalism in international law, Mearsheimer reduces the „Ukrainian crisis” to one of two sides operating with ‘different playbooks’: „Putin and his compatriots thought and acted according to realist dictates, while their Western counterparts adhered to liberal ideas about international politics.[88]

In Mearsheimer’s view, all that matters on the international stage are the big powers, with small states subordinate to their will, or proxy states at best. Mearsheimer’s focus on great powers tends to marginalize the rights of small states conferred by the UN Charter. The equality of state sovereignty, a principle enshrined in this UN document[89], is simply nullified. 

Same as most Russian foreign policy thinkers, the American neo-realist explains the illegal annexation of Crimea as a mere consequence of geopolitics: „A huge expanse of flat land that Napoleonic France, imperial Germany and Nazi Germany all crossed to strike at Russia itself. Ukraine serves as a buffer state of enormous strategic importance to Russia. No Russian leader would tolerate a military alliance that was Moscow’s mortal enemy until recently moving into Ukraine. Nor would any Russian leader stand idly by while the West helped install a government there that was determined to integrate Ukraine into the West. Washington may not like Moscow’s position, but it should understand the logic behind it. This is Geopolitics 101: Great powers are always sensitive to potential threats near their home territory.”[90]

Although international law is universalist in character, Mälksoo[91] argues that Russian statesmen do not have the same understanding of international law that prevails in the West because the history of Russian international law has also been influenced by thinkers who either wanted to appropriate the doctrine of international law to Europe or wanted to push it away. Geopolitics and the evolution of international law are understood in the context of Russia’s fiercer resistance to the West than „communism ever was as an ideology.”[92] Russian politicians give international law a specific meaning that is etatist and ultimately reflects their idea of the Russian state as a powerful derzhava, „a unitary actor in international affairs that not only has the right to keep away from U.S.-led globalist tendencies but is entitled to a regional historical larger space (sphere of influence).”[93]

„Such sentiments, although not compatible with the UN Charter as far as the ‘sphere of influence’ is concerned, echo both in legal scholarship as well as in state practice. In the Russian mind, Russia is not ideologically constructed as just any other country, another sovereign state among the UN’s 193 member states. In the Russian understanding, the country pursues a unique ‘Russian idea’ and, respectively, also has legitimacy to watch and guard its neighborhood. The ‘Byzantine’ strain—in opposition to the Latin West—which the late Tsarist international law Russian-Baltic scholars such as Baron Taube explained and tried to ideologically distance themselves from, is also the ultimate foundation of the continuity between Soviet and post-Soviet approaches to international law in Russia.”[94] Due to the fact that realism views international law as an instrument for powerful nations to advance their agenda on the global stage, the Russian realist thinking on international law only competes with the legal order established by the Americans, as Morgenthau himself expressed it: „American globalism assumes the existence of one valid legal order whose content is de­fined by the U.S. and which reflects the content of the American foreign policy.”[95]

2.1 The Link Between Neo-realism and Geopolitics in Russian Foreign Policy Thinking

Returning to the history of the influence of realist thought on Russian thinking, Soviet scholars in the 1970s started applying such concepts as power, interests and spheres of influence, which belong to the realist paradigm, without having read Morgenthau, a situation described by Lebedeva as „intuitive realism.”[96] With the fall of the USSR and the beginning of Russia’s liberalization, Russian academia borrowed much of the Western theories that defined international relations, leading Alexei Bogaturov to conclude in 2000 that „Russian IR studies for 10 years concentrated only on mastering and absorbing Western works instead of producing original works.”[97]

Russian foreign policy thinkers have concluded that this Western influence, which has in fact existed in Russia since the time of Peter the Great, would have provoked a backlash among Russian nationalists, and this would be the main cause of the revival of the Eurasian current. With Russia’s economic strengthening, coinciding with Vladimir Putin’s coming to power, the country’s desire to return to the status of a great power on the international stage, as historical Russia had been, led the political elite to prefer neo-realism and reject liberal ideas as unsuitable for Russia’s culture and specificity. As long as Russia could not veto NATO decisions, as it claimed, and EU enlargement was also achieved through a mechanism of conditionality with respect for democratic values, Russian leaders rejected the ideas of liberalism as a solution for state cooperation on the international stage. 

In response, Primakov and Putin claimed that they prefer pragmatic cooperation between states to achieve objectives of national interest, a concept also introduced in Russia’s strategic foreign and security policy documents. The rejection of liberal internationalism has also come as a result of the fact that liberals vehemently reject the idea of a sphere of influence in international relations, as outdated and illegitimate[98]. However, according to the strategic foreign and security policy documents adopted by the Kremlin after the 2000s, the former Soviet space, known as „near abroad,” has been transformed into a security priority for the Russian Federation precisely in order to preserve its prestige as a great power. Moreover, as neo-realism offers a simplistic worldview, the Russian political elite has been treating it as „a tool to mobilize the support of the Russian population.”[99]

Tsygankov as well as Sergunin have called Russian realists derzhavniki, so guided by the principles of strong state power and self-sufficiency, as well as the protection of Russian identity, national interests and values as the opposite of the pro-Western way of modernization[100]. „The statist worldview was a familiar realist picture of power competition between sovereign states reminiscent of 19th century European politics: that is, the world is not inherently hostile, but it does consist of selfish power-seeking state actors whose interests must be balanced in order to maximize peace and stability. Statists thoughts about the international system in terms of power poles and favored the U.N. as the key institution for maintaining a multipolar balance of power, particularly among great powers.”[101] Russian realists predominantly regarded the world through the lens of potential external threats to the Russian state. 

Tsygankov[102] and Sergunin[103] also link Russian foreign policy thinking to realism, geopolitics and even „geocivilization.” In Russia, being statist inevitably favors geopolitics as a tool for understanding international relations, within which a particular emphasis is placed on the concept of civilization. Zeleneva[104] argues that „the genesis of geopolitical ideas in Russia is inextricably linked with the process of the formation and development of the Russian statehood itself.”

Russian civilizationism illustrates a rich intellectual tradition that integrates Russian political thought from the 19th and 20th centuries, the Eurasianist ideology of the 1920s and the esoteric writings of Lev Gumilev with ideas from non-Russian sources like Carl Schmitt’s anti-liberalism and, more recently, Samuel Huntington’s „Clash of Civilizations” theory[105]. Huntington’s thesis depends on the idea that a stronger sense of cultural belonging can only cause tension and conflict, because cultures and civilizations encourage different values and meanings. In the post-Cold War world, conflict would not primarily be ideological but, rather, cultural in character. According to this author, conflicts can erupt at both micro and macro levels. Civilisations are described as “tectonic plates” that periodically collide[106].

This intellectual current positioned Russia and its values as essentially different from the West. Seeing Russia as a civilization in its own right, many civilizationists insisted on Russia’s mission in the world and the spread of Russian values abroad. Russian values are generally perceived as conservative religious values, defended by the Russian Orthodox Church, which plays a crucial role in shaping the idea of civilization distinct from the „decadent” West. In 2000, the first security strategy signed by Putin as president already made the link between state security and civilizational heritage: „Assurance of the Russian Federation’s national security also includes protecting the cultural and spiritual-moral legacy and the historical traditions and standards of public life, an preserving the cultural heritage of all Russian people.”[107]

All the Russian researchers in this field speak about the uniqueness of Russian civilization[108]. President Putin, a statist realist who has encouraged Eurasianist civilizational ideas in Russian foreign policy, has gradually imposed the agenda of civilizational Eurasianism as a rival alternative to the values of Western democracy. 

In the 2000 Foreign Policy Concept signed by Putin as president, the concept of geopolitics related to Eurasianism was already introduced: „A distinctive feature of Russia’s foreign policy is that it is a balanced one. This was predetermined by Russia’s geopolitical position as one of the largest Eurasian powers requiring an optimal combination of efforts along the vectors. Such an approach predetermines Russia’s responsibility for maintaining security in the world both globally and regionally, and presupposes the development and mutual complementarity of foreign policy activity both bilaterally and multilaterally.”[109]

In a study that analyzed President Putin’s speeches to the Russian Parliament, Zeleneva pointed out that „it clearly shows that while domestic issues clearly dominate the speeches from 2011 to 2016, foreign policy is consistently addressed, and during the period in question, Russia’s number one priority in international relations remains the same: strengthening cooperation within the Eurasian space.”[110]

Like Samuel Huntington’s controversial theory of the clash of civilizations[111] that would characterize the 21st century, the Foreign Policy Concept endorsed by Putin in 2013 warned that there could be global risks of increasing xenophobia, intolerance and tensions precisely because the world is divided into different civilizations.

„The reverse side of the globalization processes is the increased emphasis on civilizational identity. Desire to go back to one’s civilizational roots can be clearly seen in recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, where political and socioeconomic renewal of society have been frequently carried out under the banner of asserting Islamic values. Similar processes can be observed in other regions as well, which makes it a priority for world politics to prevent civilizational fault line clashes and to intensify efforts to forge partnership of cultures, religions and civilizations in order to ensure a harmonious development of mankind. In these circumstances, imposing one’s own hierarchy of values can only provoke a rise in xenophobia, intolerance and tensions in international relations leading eventually to chaos in world affairs. Another factor which negatively affects global stability is the emerging trend toward international relations dominated, as in the past, by ideological factors.”[112]

Many scholars have connected the concept of ontological security to civilizationism, the logic being that the civilizationist argument would only cover up the rulers’ psychological fear of insecurity for that region. In the case of Russia, Kazharski[113] argues that political discourses that refer to civilization are an attempt to provide ontological security as they aim to „construct unity across ideological, spatial and societal cleavages.” Those explaining the actions of political leaders to preserve ontological security based on psychological anxieties are the structuralist neo-realists: „Therefore, if one subscribes to the idea that Russia’s increasing use of civilizational thinking (and Ukraine’s crucial part to play in this) is about asserting ontological security and related psychological-emotional instincts, then Putin’s decision to unleash a war against Ukraine starts to make sense than it simply being about power and Western encroachment, and survival in a more physical sense of the world, as structural realists approaches assume.”[114]

Russia is not an exception when it comes to using rhetorical references to civilization in order to reject liberal democratic norms that are seen as being overly normative. During the past three decades, many other places—the U.S., the Middle East, China—have experienced a rising shift toward diverse civilizational discourses and practices. In general, conservative, illiberal or authoritarian political leaders use civilizationist rhetoric in reaction to the post-Cold War globalization of the liberal international order[115]. As defined by Bettizza et al[116], „civilizationism embodies a particular set of constitutive ideological logics that challenges and seeks to go beyond the liberal standard of civilization by articulating an essentialized and valorized sense of collective belonging, as well as a normative system and an alternative vision of the international order.” 

Even the Russian tradition of interpreting international law is explained through the civilizational paradigm, the work of renowned scholar Lauri Mälksoo on the history of Russian international law being emblematic in this respect. Mälksoo argues that the crucial key to understanding Russia’s post-Soviet approach to international law is the strong idea of Russia’s civilizational distinction from the West. „At the same time, it has also become clear that in significant contexts post-Soviet Russia continues to represent ideological opposition to the West. Altogether, we have witnessed another ‘limit’to international law and its universality.”[117]

The Russian civilization’s approach also contributes to the understanding of the global order by arguing that the key elements of the multipolar system are not states but rather civilizations. The concept of multipolarity is also tied to the concept of Eurasianism. There are Russian academics who view civilization as ‘a pole’: „The pole of a multipolar world is civilization + a large space (that is, cultural unity tied to a certain territorial attribute). The pole is culture + power. The pole of identity (cultural identity) + sovereignty (ability to defend identity).”[118] Strong regional alliances are central to such a civilizational multipolarity, which explains Russia’s strategy of building strong alliances in the CIS region. 

In the 2008 Foreign Policy Concept, the Kremlin also saw the role of the UN in terms of inter-civilizational dialogue: „The UN bears a unique legitimacy in international relations, and it must play a fundamental role in setting an effective inter-civilizational dialogue.”[119]

2.2 What Exactly Does ‘Managed Democracy’ Mean?

In this paradigm of civilizational opposition to the West, it is easy to understand the concept of ‘managed democracy,’ introduced by Vladislav Surkov in the first half of the 2000s as a reaction to the color revolutions in post-Soviet states. 

Managed/sovereign democracy is a hybrid form of authoritarianism that emphasizes stability and order over political competition. Once this form of authoritarianism is promoted, the alternation of power, the basic condition of a democracy, becomes almost impossible. Lewis argued that “Surkov’s slogan could also be read through Schimtt in a more productive way, defining a democracy not as a system of accountability and constraints on power, but as a ‘democratic identity of governed and governing’, in Schimtt’s phrase”[120].

Russian authoritarianism is characterized by the militarized vision of those with decision-making power in the bureaucratic apparatus. This explains the major role played by the secret services in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. 

This view of authoritarian rule is also reflected in the public perception of the Russian population. Russians wanted to see both democracy and order strengthened, but clearly place more importance on the latter. Between 2000 and 2010, for instance, several opinion polls showed that more than 70% of respondents preferred order, with only about 15% preferring democracy[121]. The respondents associated order with economic stability and lower unemployment and inflation, not with the idea of strengthening democracy. In this context, some of Vladimir Putin’s statements of the early 2000s read in a very specific way: „A strong man is not an anomaly that should be got rid of (…) but a source and guarantor of order and the initiator and main driving force of any change.”[122] Also, answering a question about the war in Chechnya and human rights, he stressed that „if by democracy one means the dissolution of the state, then we do not need such democracy”[123]

In 2012, when asked „What do you think is more important for Russia at the moment, economic growth or democracy?”, 52% of respondents prioritized economic growth and only 3% considered democracy[124]. According to Freedom House’s rankings, Russia’s democratic status declined sharply between 2003 and 2014, from the category of ‘partly free’ to ‘not free’. [125]

Putin’s hybrid regime is an authoritarian political system that, like all contemporary illiberal regimes, has attempted to adapt to the democratic spirit of the times by representing the popular majority within the system rather than through free elections and by asserting a common identity between leader and people. 


Although many international relations experts have argued that, with the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, the international scene has returned to the confrontational mindset of the Cold War[126], in fact, the situation today is not entirely similar to the ideological warfare of the 20th century. We are indeed still witnessing an ideological war unleashed by the Kremlin regime against the West, but it shows different peculiarities. All the Russian Federation’s foreign and security policy documents show that Vladimir Putin’s regime has promoted civilizationism in its foreign policy, an ideologized trend particularly favored by authoritarian regimes[127] that sought to challenge Western systemic values by insisting on the cultural distinctiveness of Russia and Russia-centered civilizations. 

The response of Russian civilizationists to Russia’s security dilemmas is generally more aggressive than that of Russian statist leaders, who aim only to maintain the status quo. President Vladimir Putin has embraced both statist ideas—which emphasize order as defined in Carl Schmitt’s authoritarian thinking[128] at the expense of liberal democracy—and those of Eurasian civilizations. If the Cold War was characterized by the ideological struggle between communism and capitalism, the current state of confrontation waged by the Kremlin against the Western community is a struggle against liberal values that Moscow perceives as hegemonic. Even the NATO-Russia relationship can be analyzed through this lens of the struggle of Russian civilizationism against the liberal democratic values transmitted by the transatlantic alliance. The statement of Russian General Vladimir Dvorkin, who accused NATO of perpetuating „a civilizational schism in Europe,”[129] should also be read in this context.

States that were part of the Warsaw Pact wanted to join NATO because they wanted to identify with this community of NATO member states that shared common liberal values[130]. The liberal identity of the community of NATO states was a determining factor in the eastward expansion of the alliance. After the end of the Cold War, the constructivist vision that emphasized identity and values in defining this community and placed less weight on the importance of military capabilities became a NATO practice. This has become increasingly troublesome for the Putin regime, which perceived President Yeltsin’s plan to integrate Russia into the Western community as a failure that only weakened Russia abroad. The policy of NATO enlargement is expressly speculated in the treaty that founded the alliance in 1949 and is not a post-Cold War American invention. Indeed, the decision to expand eastward was crucially influenced by the Clinton administration, but it was not designed to antagonize or provoke Russia; on the contrary, there were ideas in the early 1990s, shared even by Russian political figures, that Russia might at some point be part of NATO.

Russian civilizationism illustrates a rich intellectual tradition that integrates Russian political thought from the 19th and 20th centuries, the Eurasianist ideology of the 1920s, and the esoteric writings of Lev Gumilev, with ideas from non-Russian sources like Carl Schmitt’s anti-liberalism and, more recently, Samuel Huntington’s „Clash of Civilizations” theory[131]. In addition to this ideological mix, it should be added that the Russian foreign policy elite has massively embraced American realist and neo-realist ideas. In Western academia, the democratic deficit embodied by realist ideas has been debated[132], but not in Russian academia. This democratic deficit is an expression of the realists’ emphasis on great power struggles, typical of the 19th century concert of powers, at the expense of the liberal order established by post-1945 international law. 

Perceiving the liberal order as a hegemonic one led by the U.S., Russia proposed the concept of civilizational multipolarity. Specifically, Russia prefers international law not to be universal but to bend under interpretation, depending on the civilization to which that UN state belongs. Applying such a grid of interpretation, the illegal annexation of Crimea finds justification in the Russian paradigm, which emphasizes historical and cultural references rather than the international law enshrined in the UN Charter. 

In the 21st century, no sovereign state can be forbidden from choosing itself the alliances it wishes to join or the strategic foreign policy line it wishes to adopt. According to the UN Charter, no state can any longer be sacrificed to cynical great power struggles. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter clearly states that „all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”. This was later confirmed in a number of additional global and regional treaties and legal documents, including the United Nations Friendly Relations Declaration and the Helsinki Final Act, which led to the formation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 
What Russia wants is not a return to the Cold War, but to the international situation before 1945, when the use of military force to conquer territories belonging to other states was not a crime under international law but strictly the cynical expression of the great power struggle. There is ample evidence in official NATO documents and statements by U.S. leaders that NATO encouraged cooperation with Russia. Even though Russia broke international law in 2008 by launching war against Georgia, NATO quickly moved on from this incident and resumed cooperative relations with Russia. After the end of this war in 2008, Russia was still defined as a ‘partner’ in the 2010 Lisbon Strategic Concept. The NATO-Russia Council was suspended only a few years later, when Russia decided to annex Crimea. The reasons for the intent to dismantle the European security architecture can thus be explained by the civilizational expansionist behavior that has characterized Russia’s foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin. 



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[42] Kuniecki Rober, Menkisak editors (2020), Documents Talk NATO-Russia, Relations after the Cold War, The National Security Concept of Russian Federation, approved by the decree of President Boris Yeltsin on December 17, 1997, The Polish Institute of International Affairs, p. 260. 

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[55] Socher Johannes (2021), Russia and the Right to Self-Determination in the Post-Soviet Space, Oxford University Press, p.99. 

[56] Ibidem, p. 99.

[57] Ibidem, p. 130. 

[58] Kuniecki Robert, Menkisak Marek editors (2020), Documents Talk NATO-Russia, Relations After the Cold War, The Polish Institute of International Affairs, p. 402. 

[59] Socher Johannes (2021), Russia and the Right to Self-Determination in the Post-Soviet Space, Oxford University Press, p.174.

[60] Ibidem, p. 175.

[61] Address by the President of the Russian Federation, March 18, 2004, accessed here: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20603

[62] Reus-Smit Christian (2004), The Politics of International Law, Cambridge University Press, p. 16. 

[63] Ibidem, p. 16. 

[64] Mullerson Rein (2017), Geopolitics and the Clash of Ideologies. Dawn of the New Order, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. 

[65] Malksoo Lauri (2019), The Annexation of Crimea and Balance of Power in International Law, The European Journal of International Law, vol. 30, no. 1. 

[66] Mearsheimer J.J. (2014), „Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault”, Foreign Affairs, 93 (5), pp. 77-89. 

[67] Ibidem

[68] Goldgeier James M. (1999), Not Whether But When. The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO”, p. 45. 

[69] Ibidem, p. 47. 

[70] United Nations Charter, United Nations, accessed here: https://www.un.org/en/about-us/un-charter.

[71] Morgenthau Hans J. (1951), In Defense of National Interest. A Critical Examination of American Foreign Policy, New York, Knopf. 

[72] Mearsheimer John J. (1994), The False Promise of International Institutions, International Security, vol. 13, no. 13, pp. 5-49. 

[73] Davidson Jason W. (2006), The Origins of Revisionist and Status-quo States, Palgrave MacMillan, p. 23. 

[74] Ibidem, p.23. 

[75] Specter Matthew (2022), The Atlantic Realists, Empire and International Political Thought Between Germany and the United States”, Stanford University Press, p. 143. 

[76] Lewis David G. (2021), Russia’s New Authoritarianism. Putin and the Politics of Order, Edinburgh University Press, p. 29. 

[77] Ibidem, p. 20. 

[78] Ibidem, p. 14. 

[79] Mearsheimer John J. (2001), The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, New York, W.W. Norton, p. 2. 

[80] Mälksoo Lauri (2019), The Annexation of Crimea and Balance of Power in International Law, The European Journal of International Law, vol. 30, no. 1. 

[81] Ibidem

[82] Ibidem

[83] Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter states: „All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

[84] Helsinki Final Act (1975), Part 1 (a) “Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States”, Principle III (Inviolability of Frontiers); Principle IV (Territorial Integrity of States).

[85] Budapest Memorandum, signed Dec. 5, 1994.

[86] Ibidem

[87] Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, signed May 31, 1997, Article 3.

[88] Mearsheimer John J. (2014), „Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault”, Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5, pp. 77-89. 

[89] Article 2 (1) of the UN Charter: „The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”

[90] Mearsheimer John J. (2014), „Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault”, Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5, pp. 77-89. 

[91] Mälksoo Lauri (2015), Russian Approaches to International Law, Oxford University Press, p. 184. 

[92] Ibidem

[93] Ibidem.

[94] Ibidem

[95] Orford Anne, Hoffmann Florian (2016), The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law, Oxford University Press, p. 342. 

[96] Lagutina M., Sergunin A., Tsvetkova N. (2023), The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 312. 

[97] Romanova Tatiana, Pavlova Elena (2012), „Neoclassical Realism in European Politics”, Manchester University Press, p. 236. 

[98] Lewis G. David (2021), Russia’s New Authoritarianism, Putin and the Politics of Order, Edinburgh University Press, p. 166. 

[99] Ibidem

[100] Lagutina M., Sergunin A., Tsvetkova N. (2023), The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 100. 

[101] Tsygankov Andrei P. (2013), „Russia’s Foreign Policy. Change and Continuity in National Identity”, Third Edition, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., p. 98.

[102] Ibidem

[103] Sergunin Alexander (2016), Explaining Russian Foreign Policy Behavior, Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, Ibidem-Verlag Stuttgart, p. 101.

[104] Zeleneva Irina (2023), „Russian Geopolitics: From Geographic Determinism to Critical Geopolitics”, The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 69. 

[105] Bettiza Gregorio et al. (2023), Civilizationism and Ideological Contestation, International Studies Review, vol. 25, issue 2.

[106] Heywood Andrew (2015), Key Concepts in Politics and International Relations, Palgrave, p. 32. 

[107] Kuniecki Rober, Menkisak Marek, editors (2020), Documents Talk NATO-Russia, Relations after the Cold War, The Polish Institute of International Affairs. 

[108] Zeleneva Irina (2023), „Russian Geopolitics: From Geographic Determinism to Critical Geopolitics”, The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 89. 

[109] Kuniecki Robert, Manisa Manek, editors (2020), Documents Talk NATO-Russia, Relations after the Cold War, The Polish Institute of International Affairs, p. 343. 

[110] Selezneva Irina (2023), „Russian Geopolitics: From Geographic Determinism to Critical Geopolitics”, The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 82. 

[111] Huntington Samuel P. (1996), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, Simon & Schuster. 

[112] Konicki Robert, Menkisak Manek, editors (2020), Documents Talk NATO-Russia, Relations after the Cold War, The Polish Institute of International Affairs, p. 448. 

[113] Smith Nicholas Ross, Dawson Grant (2022), Mearsheimer, Realism, and the Ukraine War, Analyse & Kritik, vol 44, issue 2.

[114] Smith Nicholas Ross, Dawson Grant (2022), Mearsheimer, Realism, and the Ukraine War, Analyse & Kritik, vol 44, issue 2. 

[115] Bettiza et al. (2023), Civilizationism and Ideological Contestation of the Liberal International Order, International Studies Review, vol. 25, issue 2. 

[116] Ibidem

[117] Mälksoo Lauri (2015), Russian Approaches to International Law, Oxford University Press, p. 190. 

[118] Antonova Irina, Lagutina Maria (2023), The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 266. 

[119] The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, Approved by Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, on July 12, 2008. 

[120] Lewis G. David (2021), Russia’s New Authoritarianism. Putin and the Politics of Order, Edinburgh University Press, p. 82. 

[121] Tsygankov Andrei P. (2014), The Strong State in Russia. Development and Crisis, Oxford University Press, p. 137.

[122] Tsygankov Andrei P. (2019), Russia and America. The Asymmetric Rivalry, Polity Press, p. 142. 

[123] Tsygankov Andrei P. (2019), Russia and America. The Asymmetric Rivalry, Polity Press, p. 35. 

[124] Tsygankov Andrei P. (2014), The Strong State in Russia. Development and Crisis, Oxford University Press, p. 138. 

[125] Sindelar Daisy (2004), Russia: Freedom House Downgrades Country to ’Not Free’ Status, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, available here https://www.rferl.org/a/1056525.html

[126] Black J.L, Johns Michael, editors (2016), The Return of Cold War: Ukraine, The West and Russia, Routledge, 1st edition. 

[127] Bettiza et al. (2023), Civilizationism and Ideological Contestation of the Liberal International Order, International Studies Review, vol. 25, issue 2. 

[128] Lewis G. David (2021), Russia’s New Authoritarianism, Putin and the Politics of Order, Edinburgh University Press, p. 166. 

[129] Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, cited in Lilia Shevtsova, Lonely Power [Odinochkaya Derzhava], Moscow Carnegie Centre, 2010, p. 101.

[130] Schimmelfennig Frank (2003), „The EU, NATO and the Integration of Europe”, Cambridge University Press, p. 92.

[131] Zeleneva Irina (2023), „Russian Geopolitics: From Geographic Determinism to Critical Geopolitics”, The Routledge Handbook of Russian International Relations Studies, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. 86.

[132] Specter Matthew (2022), The Atlantic Realists. Empire and International Political Thought Between Germany and the United States, Stanford University Press, p. 211. 

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