, Volume 91, Number 4

Derek Averre and Lance Davies
Western analysis perceives Russian approaches to issues of humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as running counter to westerninspired international norms. This debate has surfaced with some vigour over Russia’s policy in the Syria conflict where, in order to protect its strategic interests in Syria, an obstructionist Moscow has been accused of ignoring humanitarian considerations and allowing time for the Assad regime to crush the opposition by vetoing a resolution threatening to impose sanctions. While Russian approaches are undoubtedly explained by a desire to maximize its growing political influence and trade advantages to serve its legitimate foreign policy interests, and while Moscow’s attitudes to intervention and R2P exhibit important differences from those of the major western liberal democracies, its arguments are in fact framed within a largely rational argument rooted in ‘traditional’ state-centred international law. This article first highlights key arguments in the scholarly literature on intervention and R2P before going on to examine the evolution of Russian views on these issues. The analysis then focuses on the extent to which Moscow’s arguments impact on international legal debates on the Libya and Syria conflicts. The article then seeks to explore how Russian approaches to intervention/R2P reflect fundamental trends in its foreign policy thinking and its quest for legitimacy in a negotiated international order. Finally, it attempts to raise some important questions regarding Russia’s role in the future direction of the intervention/ R2P debates.

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