Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

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

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Russian Conceptions of International Order: Theory and Practice

Chair: Lucila de Almeida (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Discussant: Pami Aalto (University of Tampere, Finland)
Zachary Paikin (University of Kent, UK): How Structures and Norms Can Alter International Society: The Russian Case
Camille-Renaud Merlen
(University of Kent, UK): Russian Perspectives on Sovereignty
Rabekah Everett (University of Kent, UK): Central Bank Independence and Russia's Economic Transition: An Analysis of the Central Bank of Russia
Natasha Kuhrt
(King's College London, UK): Diverging or Converging Norms? Sovereignty, Self-Determination and Secession from Russian and Chinese Perspectives

In recent years, the expansion of the international liberal sphere of states has encountered a roadblock, manifested particularly by the Ukraine crisis. At the same time, liberalism itself appears to be in crisis in the West following votes for Brexit and Donald Trump. With the normative and structural character of the present-day international order in question, it is worth examining whether the conceptions of order present in countries outside of the dominant West differ from those of the West, to what extent they do, and whether it is possible for these to affect the character of the international order itself. One of the most vocal countries over the past quarter-century in critiquing the West has been Russia. The pace of global change has proven to be very rapid over the past number of years, and it could continue apace over the years to come. Which begs the question, how does Russia view the world, how much has it been a driver of global change and how much can it be one? Paikin's paper discusses the interaction between sovereignty and world order. The first part examines how sovereignty shapes -- and has shaped -- international order (and vice-versa), historically, theoretically and presently. The second part focuses on Russia, examining the differing sources of thinking within the country on questions related to sovereignty and world order, and taking issue with the simplified manner in which the West has tended to view Russia. The final part explains why these conceptions of international thinking in Russia have evolved over the years, and speculate as to how they could affect the future character of international order. Merlen's paper takes issue with an essentialist reading of Russian history and politics, arguing that at least three Russian approaches to sovereignty can be distinguished. The first is absolutist, emphasising absolute authority internally and sovereign equality externally. The second is imperial and stresses the role of power and spheres of influence. The third can be termed cosmopolitan and allows for a greater role for international law and international courts. Everett focuses on the economic dimension of sovereignty, noting that Western neo-liberal economic advisors urged Russia create a Central Bank that was completely independent of the government. She finds that autonomy is irrelevant to the Central Bank of Russia’s performance in the 1990s, and that subordinating it to the government would not have yielded different results. This is because arguments over central bank independence ignore the institutional capacities of central banks in transition economies. Finally, Kuhrt's paper notes that Russia and China have asserted strong commitments to a global set of norms that promotes state sovereignty, opposes secessionist movements, and constrains external interference within state boundaries. Within their respective regions, however, each state has frequently violated these norms. Her paper discusses these divergent policies, as well as possible areas of convergence, and asks whether norm violations in a regional context will eventually have an impact on global norms as these states become more influential in global governance.