Understanding Global Governance in Russia

The concept of global governance is, generally speaking, not a particularly popular one in Russia, since the dominant discourses are being built around a framework of traditional 'real politics' and neo-realism in international relations studies. This pays less credence to conceptions of global governance, in favour of theories based on the relations between states, which, in sum, constitute the world order. In accordance with the realist theoretical perspective on international relations, the central notion is one of a sovereign nation state, which has its own national interests and pursues them in the international arena in all possible ways, where the other states also behave and build their strategies in correspondence with their own national interests and available resources. In the framework of this paradigm, all states act in the global arena, in relation with other states and within the international organizations that they are members of. They not only act in accordance with their interests, but also in order to increase their power and spheres of influence. In this framework, the global governance concept is not so relevant, since 'this includes the analytical difference and new qualities of global versus more traditional understandings of international or transnational governance' (Triandafyllidou, Chapter 1 in this volume). Moreover, the global governance concept emphases 'the organizations and institutions involved in global governance . . . , the networks and processes, notably the set of formal and informal actors and agencies' (ibid.), which, in the framework of the realist perspective are regarded as acting in the national interests of the most influential member states or states supporting non-governmental networks behind the scenes. This realist paradigm interprets the global governance paradigm in a simplified way and does not recognize its specific rules, norms, and additional value that it can offer.

In the Russian political and even academic discourse the realist paradigm has been dominant for many years (Tsygankov and Tsygankov 2005). For example, Russia underestimated the development of European integration, paying insufficient attention to it over several years. As a result, especially in the 1990s, but also in many cases in the 2000s, and even to the present day, Russian foreign policy has been built on bilateral relations with individual members of the EU, mainly by working with the national interests of each one individually, but not with the EU as a whole (Kortunov 2016). Now, the extent of European integration is recognized, and the EU is seen in Russia as an important level of governance, including in the foreign policy field. Nevertheless, Russian media routinely undermines the significance of the EU, instead emphasizing the differences among member states within the EU. Moreover, in the years of worsening relations with the EU after the 2014 Ukrainian crisis, the dominant discourse in Russia characterizes the fragility and instability of the EU as such that it poses challenges so serious that the whole project European integration can be called into question (Entin 2016). In foreign policy, bilateral relations with different EU member states are particularly important, and Russia has a number of different relations with the various EU member states. This phenomenon can be explained by the important role of EU member states in EU foreign policy, which was called by some scholars as a tripartite pattern of external relations. It describes the simultaneous availability of three modes and corresponding levels and actors involved in EU external relations: the member states, the supranational EU level, and a mixture of the two. This makes any relations between the EU and other countries very problematic in general, and for Russia, it furthers the view that bilateral relations with the separate member states remains a valid object of foreign policy.

In the academic discourse, there are different positions and understandings of various IR and global paradigms, yet, in the mainstream research literature, and especially in the political elite vision, one can easily find that the realist predominates in judgements about global affairs.

This dichotomy became especially obvious during the Ukrainian crisis and after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, because it was accompanied by an active discourse that built on the changing world order and new role of Russia. Thus, according to dominant Russian discourse, this was the point when the Maidan in Kiev was organized and supported by the United States and EU countries in order to pursue their national interests in Ukraine. It is argued that Russia, in its turn, responded by protecting its national interests in the Crimea and the Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine. In sum, the political crisis in Ukraine is seen in Russia as a war for 'spheres of influence' between the biggest superpowers: the United States and Russia. According to this logic, Ukraine is seen as a weak and even 'failed' state, which became the arena in which these conflicts between Russia and the West, and especially the United States, were expressed. In this picture, global governance structures, integration processes, and international law are disregarded, and the domination of states, their national interests, and powers is underscored. Thus, the chief editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, which represents the mainstream discourse on Russia's external policy, writes about the strengths and weaknesses of different states and about 'global aikido' surrounding the Ukrainian crisis (Lukyanov 2014).

There are different accounts of why Russian external policy discourse is dominated by the realist paradigm, but the most probable is that it is a result of the Soviet vision of international relations, which was mostly based on the dichotomy and power play of the Cold War between the superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States. The international system of this period was characterized by the division of most countries of Europe, Africa, and even some countries of Asia between these two 'worlds' or spheres of influence, which were led either by the capitalist US or by the socialist USSR. These camps were in competition for the position of hegemon and vied for support from other countries, and they competed for a show of military strength, influence, and power in the world. This realist paradigm was also the mainstream of the Soviet understanding of international relations. The most esteemed researchers and politicians of contemporary Russia were socialized during the Soviet era, and they therefore thought in such terms, which led them to explain everything on the basis of the interrelations between states.

The current Russian President Vladimir Putin, was a State Security Service (KGB) officer during Soviet times, who worked in Germany and implemented the foreign policy of the Soviet Union, in the process undergoing a particularly entrenched process of socialization in the realist perspective of international relations. Taking into account the dominant role of the president in the Russian political system, and especially with regard to foreign policy, one can understand the predominant vision of international politics and global governance in contemporary Russia through these Soviet-era experiences of Putin and his contemporaries.

During the 1990s, when the global governance concept was developed, the paradigm of neoliberalism and 'liberal solidarism' dominated both international politics and academic discourse (see Hurrell, Chapter 2 of this volume), however, Russian politics and discourse underestimated the importance of these new concepts and paradigms. Political leaders were preoccupied with the internal politics of the transition to the new political and economic system. With regard to international politics, when Russia lost the Cold War, they were only interested in the international assistance they could obtain to overcome and soften the economic crises and Russia's integration into the West-led international system. As a result, Russia played a rather passive role in the 1990s, and in most cases it was an object of the foreign policies of other countries, firstly of the US and EU member states, and secondly, of international organizations. In such a situation, the majority of politicians were not inclined to believe in liberal solidarism or global governance approaches. As they were not principally involved in the discussions of these times, they did not attach value or significance to these new concepts and paradigms.

Of course, in the academic world it was a little bit different. In the 1990s, many young international relations and political science researchers had opportunities to study or to work in the US and EU universities and research institutes. They learned about all the discussions of this time, and became aware of many new theoretical concepts, including global governance, neoliberalism, constructivism, new regionalism, among others. Several interesting papers and books were written on Russian foreign policy, and this period saw the participation of Russian authors in constructivist and other new theoretical frameworks (for example, Morozov 2002, 2015; Makarychev 2012; Taras 2012, and others). But they could not change the Russian mainstream political discourse, regardless of the fact that these ideas were included in the academic curricula and discussions.

At the beginning of the 2000s, Russian scholars and politicians were in a position to once again play an active role in international relations. Many international scholars started to speak again about the 'return of history' and about the new strengthening of nation states in the international arena (see Hurrell, Chapter 2 of this volume). However, just when Russian scholars and politicians sought to play an active role in global governance, its importance in the international political and academic discourses began to decline.

Another reason that the realist and 'real politics' paradigm is actively used by the current Russian political elite is because it easily allows the states to organize national mobilizations for support of its external and internal policies. These policies focus on the struggle against an enemy, who is believed as 'hidden behind' different international organizations, foreign NGOs, and global governance structures. Moreover, it is even popular to draw on conspiracy theories, such that any oppositional or even critical thinking is attacked as the work of 'spies' and 'foreign agents' dealing in the interests of the foreign enemies (Popovic 2016). It is easy for a population at large to relate to and understand such theories, and this is precisely what makes them so amenable to mass mobilization of public opinion against these so-called 'enemies'. Thus, during the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian population was mobilized in support of Russian foreign policy against the US as the principal enemy. Such political significance of the realist paradigm is another explanation for its popularity in Russian politics, and is one of the reasons why this paradigm is so important for current foreign policy in Russia.

Although in Russia there is no direct discussion of 'global governance' as a concept, the Russian perspective on global governance as a system can be found in its foreign policy and discussions around it. In particular, it is possible to see in Russia's relations with Western countries, concerted attempts to regain its status as a global actor, and to build alternative international networks and structures. These aspects will be analysed in the sections below.

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