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Responsibility to Protect: Russia's Approaches


Russia’s predominantly suspicious and even negative attitudes toward R2P are closely related to its traditional attachment to the notion of sovereignty, but its reluctance to ‘bless’ the use of force with R2P also serves as a pretext to cover various instrumental goals. Russia’s more assertive foreign policy has exacerbated this trend. Disagreements stem from differences between Russia and the West both in their conceptual approaches to security and in their assessments of specific cases. In particular, Russia has an existential concern over possible application of R2P by extra-regional actors in its immediate post-Soviet vicinity. However, in the conflicts around South Ossetia (2008) and Crimea / Southeastern Ukraine (2014-), there was a noticeable trend to refocus R2P-related arguments in support of Russia’s own actions. By and large, R2P continues to be perceived as a Western attempt to establish certain rules of behaviour which require caution and prudence. Nevertheless, more positive attitudes do not seem impossible. To play a prominent role in the evolving international system, Russia will have to make the R2P segment of its foreign policy more salient and overcome the lag in promoting this concept as a working tool indispensable for cooperative and responsible leadership.
Keywords: R2P; Russia’s foreign policy; sovereignty; use of force; security; post-Soviet space