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Normative Dependency and the Use of Force: The Declarative Dimension of Russia's Military Operations

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The 2014 annexation of Crimea led to a debate on the fundamental character of Russia's post Soviet foreign policy. Moscow's actions abroad have been roughly characterised as either offensive and expansionist or reactive and fundamentally defensive. This debate has reduced the declarative dimension of Russia's foreign policy to either Kremlin propaganda or statements that are sincere inasmuch they reflect Moscow's worldview. By focusing on the short-term, both perspectives are overly simplistic. This article aims to present a structural explanation of the patterns of argumentation in Russia's foreign policy declarative dimension. Drawing heavily from Viatcheslav Morozov's post-colonial analysis of Russia's foreign policy, I set out to look into Russia's declarative regard for norms governing the use of force as reflected in its rhetorical strategies. My aim is not to present a new theory but to present evidence for Morozov's structural perspective on Russia's foreign policy. A study of selected military operations carried out by post-Soviet Russia at home and abroad reveals that their declarative dimension exhibits a pattern of placing the normative pole outside Russia and into Western-leaning understandings of international norms. Two in-depth cases—the 1992 operation in Ingushetia and the 2015 intervention in Syria—highlight a consistent argumentative pattern that cuts across time, place, and the nature of the military operation. While further research is needed to conclusively characterise Russia's rhetorical strategies regarding the use of force, it can be said that Moscow's patterns of argumentation do not arise exclusively from tactical, short-term necessity; rather, they reflect Russia's enduring condition in the international system.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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