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Russia and the ‘Domestication’ of International Politics

sawka090409.jpgRichard Sakwa, a professor at Kent University and a fellow at Chatham House, has a new interview with RIA Novosti.  Sakwa recent published a book on the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Yukos.

“Russia historically has had a problematical relationship with the hegemonic international system of particular eras, and this continues to this day. In part this is derived from structural factors, notably Russia’s typical tangential position in the dominant system. With very rare exceptions this relationship has been at the minimum strained, degenerating at times into outright hostility.  It is also derived from identity factors, in particular Russia’s civilisational self-identification as a putative system creator as well as its implicit claim to equality in hegemonic orders. Thus ‘the international’ in Russian thinking has been both constitutive of its civilisational identity while at the same time the source of systemic conflict.

This double-sided appreciation of the international remains predominant in Russian thinking and policy today, and shapes its interactions with the world at large. As long as certain principles derived from international politics are seen by Russian elites as alien and imposed, they will remain instrumental and lifeless. The fundamental challenge thus is to ‘domesticate’ these principles and to make them a genuine Russian cause. For example, as long as the abolition of the death penalty is seen as something imposed from outside, it will not become a genuine national issue.”