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Russia as a Legalistic Country

Just one excerpt from a thoroughly excellent piece by Kadri Liik at the European Council on Foreign Relations:

It was actually surprising to see the jubilation in Moscow when Donald Trump was elected US president. The Kremlin assumed that Trump would deprioritise the American-led global order, which would inevitably open the door to a Russian version of international order. Hardly anyone in Moscow stopped to think what would happen if Trump got rid not only of the Western liberal order, but almost of any order whatsoever. That would definitely not be in Russia’s interests.

Despite its occasional appetite for risk-taking, Russia would not flourish in a Hobbesian world, in the sense of an anarchic, “all against all” global struggle. Nor would Russia choose a Huntingtonian world, a clash of civilisations, the contours of which are occasionally detectable in Trump’s tweets. Russia wants to be a great power among great powers – if no longer in a bipolar world, then in a multipolar one. It wants to claim the great-power prerogative to break laws every now and then – but for that, it needs laws that can be broken, and partners whose reactions are predictable. In its struggle with the West, Putin’s Russia has sometimes made a travesty of rules, using the letter of the law to violate its spirit – but that does not change the fact that deep down, Russia remains a deeply legalistic country in its approach to foreign policy.