“Test the West”: Reimagining Sovereignties in the Post-Soviet Space

In: Review of Central and East European Law
Author: Cindy Wittke
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  • Germany

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With the incorporation of the Crimean Peninsula into Russian territory, the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the temporary formation of the confederation of Novorossiia (New Russia), the international community of states has been witness to complex processes of reimagining territories, boundaries, citizenship, and fragmented sovereignties in the post-Soviet space. In its foreign policy agenda, Russia conceptualizes all former Soviet republics as the ‘Near Abroad’, a special sphere of its interests and influence. This paper explores Russia’s use of the vocabulary of international law to legitimize its interventions in the Near Abroad, which is connected to the ‘Russkii Mir’ (Russian World), another foreign policy concept that resonates with ideas of Neo-Eurasianism and the Fourth Political Theory and with the creation of a Eurasian space as a counter-concept to the West. Russia and its conceptualized antagonist, the West, take positions on public international (legal) front lines, evoking counter-narratives concerning their understandings of the meaning of the vocabulary of international law and politics, the regulation of international relations, and the foundations of world order. These clashes leave observers wondering: Russia may instrumentalize and manipulate the vocabulary of geopolitics, international law, and politics, but what if these clashes are also rooted in different imaginaries of international law and politics? Against this background, this article aims to develop conceptual approaches to further investigate and gain a better understanding of the complex dimensions of the clashes between Russian and Western counter-narratives and discourses concerning the meanings and functions of basic principles of international law and politics as powerful societal regulative imaginaries.