The Russian Federation and the West: The Problem of International Order

Aleksandar Jankovski Introduction

Drawing on the English School of International Relations Theory (ES), five interrelated axioms constitute the theoretical basis for the arguments advanced in this chapter. First, international society exists to the extent to which states are ‘conscious of certain common interests and common values, [and thereby] form society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of [principles, norms and] rules in their relations with one another, and share in the workings of common institutions’ (Bull 1977, p. 13). Second, international society is a desideratum in its own right. It ‘constitutes a rational political order for humanity taken as a whole.... [A] multiplicity of political authorities - a society of states - is the best arrangement for realizing the good for humanity taken as a whole.... A related but

This chapter draws upon the author’s argument developed in ‘Russia and the United States: On Irritants, Friction, and International Order,’ International Politics, vol. 52, no. 2 (2016). It appears here with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan, the publisher of the journal.

A. Jankovski (*)

Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL, USA

Department of Politics, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, USA e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017

R.E. Kanet (ed.), The Russian Challenge to the European Security Environment, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-50775-0_7

contrasting account... argues that the justification for a society of states is that it allows for the flourishing of different conceptions of the Good’ (Brown 2001, pp. 428-429). Third, ‘states are grossly unequal in power’. Therefore, when ‘certain international issues are... settled, the demands of certain states (weak ones) can in practice be left out of account, the demands of certain other states (strong ones) recognized to be the only ones relevant to the issue in hand’ (Bull 1977, p. 199). The great powers, therefore, are ‘powers recognized by others to have, and conceived by their own leaders and peoples to have, certain special rights and duties. Great powers, for example, assert the right, and are accorded the right, to play a part in determining issues that affect the peace and security of the international system as a whole. They accept the duty, and are thought by others to have the duty’ (Bull 1977, p. 196). Fourth, and given the import of great power management to the maintenance of international society, it is their chancelleries which are charged with identifying points of overlapping interests leading to (i) the conclusion of international accords (Bull 1977, p. 164) and (ii) minimizing ‘the effects of friction in international relations’ (Bull 1977, p. 165). Finally, fifth, it is not always the case that great powers seek to ‘minimize the effect of friction’. Crises can play - at times, to be sure - positive role in the maintenance of international society and international order (Bull 1977, p. 203).

Ifwe accept these five axioms, and there is a theoretical warrant for so doing (see below), then the remarkable chill in the relations between the USA and the Russian Federation (RF) - introduced by the RF’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 - ought to be re-examined. Friction is certainly present. RF and US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) militaries were - noted the New York Times editorial board in mid-2015 - ‘dangerously shadowboxing around their borders’ (New York Times 14 May 2015). Events took a particularly dangerous turn on 24 November 2015, when a Turkish air-force F-16 shot down a Russian SU-24 on the Turkey-Syria border (BBC News 1 December 2015). The New Year did not bring about the cessation of the dangerous ‘shadowboxing’. The ‘US military [decided to] keep three heavy army brigades in Europe on a continuous basis, reversing Barack Obama’s reduction of forces after concluding that Russian aggression poses an enduring threat to continental stability’ (Ackerman 30 March 2016; see also Stewart 30 April 2016). And, on 5 Junes 2016 ‘NATO [states] beg[a]n [the] largest war game[s] in eastern Europe since [the] Cold War’ (Duval Smith 6 June 2016). Anaconda-2016 - as the war games taking place in Poland were styled - amounted to ‘10-day military exercise, involving 31,000 troops and thousands ofvehicles from 24 [states]’ (Duval Smith

6 June 2016). As such Anaconda-2016 was ‘2 У times larger than any previous training in Poland in recent decades’ (Stewart 15 May 2016). Finally, ‘Poland has launched a 50 percent build-up of its own forces while demanding more support from NATO members. It has also formed new military partnerships with Ukraine and Romania as part of an increasing effort to deter Russia’ (Stewart 30 April 2016).

By way of response, ‘two Russian fighters buzzed at very low altitude the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook 11 times as it conducted drills only 70 kilometres off Russian territory’ (Stewart 30 April 2016). President Putin ordered snap drills, taking place between 14 and 22 June 2016. The drill ‘involved all four of Russia’s military districts, with the focus on command and control structures as well as military arsenals. Russia’s Defence Ministry notified the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about the start of the drills, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that the inspections did not “threaten in any way our neighbours”’ (New Delhi Times 28 June 2016). The Ministry of Defence of RF denied a claim, made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, that the drill ‘violated the “mechanism of military transparency” in Europe’ (BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union 15 June 2016).

The received wisdom, then, is that the elements of friction and low- simmering conflict have been the dominant feature of RF-US relations since March 2014 - although, arguably, the downturn began earlier than Crimea. While acknowledging - and not wishing to minimize - the presence of the element of friction, the aim of this chapter is to advance a somewhat contrarian argument. I aim to show - as against the received wisdom - that for all the irritants and points of friction, the relations between the two great powers have continued to be remarkably orderly and constitutive of international society. Namely, the RF and the USA have continued to regard one another as great powers, and therefore indispensable members of international society, and have continued to ‘cooperate in the workings of [the] common institutions’ (Bull 1977, p. 13) of international society.

In the discussion that follows I focus on two international institutions: diplomacy and great powers management. More specifically, I show that the two great powers’ heads of state and government and respective foreign ministries were engaged in constant communication, identifying points where the two states’ interests ‘overlap’ and seeking to ‘minimize the effects of friction’ in RF-US relations. Moreover, I show that, as custodians of international society and international order, the two great powers - as befits their status - managed their relations with a view towards limiting war and ‘assert[ed] the right, and [were] accorded the right, to play a [central] part in determining issues that affect the peace and security of the international system as a whole’.

In view of the above-stated aims, I structure the chapter as follows. In the following section I lay out the theoretical background. I, then, undertake an empirical investigation to demonstrate that RF and the USA continued to ‘cooperate in the workings of [the] common institutions’ of international society: diplomacy and great power management. Finally, I conclude the chapter by engaging in a brief dialogue with some of the other contributors to this volume.

 
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