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Russia's Neorevisionist Challenge to the Liberal International Order


A conventional opinion is that Russia is trying to destroy the liberal international order. Russia indeed defies it, but also justifies its foreign policy with the liberal order’s normative frameworks and reproaches the West for not standing up to these norms. Moreover, Moscow does not present any alternative vision. Russia complains about the internal contradictions of the liberal order: sovereignty vs. intervention, pluralism vs. universality, US hegemony vs. equality and democracy, although it also exploits these contradictions. In fact Russia demands an adjustment of the liberal order rather than its eradication and should, therefore, be classified as a neorevisionist power. Two elements underlie Russia’s at times aggressive foreign policy conduct. The first one, its feeling of being ill-accommodated in the present order, predefines the direction of the policy. The second, the prioritisation of foreign policy over domestic reforms, explains the intensity of Russian discontent and its occasional aggressive manifestations. Russia’s domestic consensus regarding its foreign policy, including views on the liberal international order, facilitates this aggressiveness. Three policy conclusions can be drawn: acknowledging that Russia uses the inherent contradictions of the liberal international order opens up possibilities for dialogue and an eventual overcoming of the crisis; the survival and strengthening of the liberal order depends on its embrace of all major players, including Russia, and hence, the need for some adjustments to the order itself; and finally such adjustments presuppose Russia’s readiness to shoulder responsibility for the (reformed) liberal international order.
Keywords: Liberal international order, Russia, Russian foreign policy, multipolarity, neorevisionism, neoclassical realism