Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Natalia Morozova (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia)

Resisting Europe, Forging Regional Consensus: Russia's Discourse on Humanitarian Cooperation in the CIS

Realism- and geopolitics-inspired rhetoric was common currency in Russian foreign policy discourse throughout the 1990s. This led some commentators to adopt realism and geopolitics - realism’s more nationalist and strategic counterpart - as conceptual lenses for understanding Russian foreign policy. However, a more nuanced interpretation views the rise of geopolitics in Russian post-Soviet foreign policy discourse as an attempt to fix a foreign policy identity crisis brought about by the end of the Cold War. This interpretation implies a debilitating effect that uncertainty can have on an actor’s capacity to formulate and pursue their goals. However, unlike uncertainty that is generated by thin and weak normative-institutional structure in realism, on this largely constructivist reading uncertainty, or “ontological anxiety”, arises when a state’s privileged foreign policy identity is not reciprocated or recognized by international society. In the 1990s Russian foreign policy makers employed geopolitical “fixing” in order to deny the existence of any identity crisis. Since the mid-2000s, however, Russia has tried to mould international society to fit its own identity discourses. As a result, balance-of-power politics and a desire to carve out spheres of influence have been officially pronounced utterly anachronistic and inappropriate, a “thing of the past”. More specifically, the geopolitical discourse was succeeded by a new discourse on humanitarian cooperation as Russia attempted to legitimize its foreign policies internationally and shape the rules of international legitimacy in the process. This paper will conceptualize the various meanings of contemporary Russian humanitarianism as both a remedy to the persistent identity crisis and a counterpoint to Western liberal humanitarianism that centers on peace-building, democracy and human rights.