“OK, realist?” A critical scrutiny of rationalization in Western commentary on Russia and Eastern Europe
GPS & RUCARR seminar with Dr Aliaksei Kazharski, Charles University in Prague, Comenius University in Bratislava and visiting researcher at RUCARR/GPS, Faculty of Culture and Society, Malmö University.
When: September 7, 13-15
Where: Seminar room 9th floor, Niagara and Zoom (link https://mau-se.zoom.us/s/63723147663)
There is an established tradition of realist-inspired commentary and policy advice on Russia in the West, which traditionally argues for recognition of Russia’s “legitimate interests” and “security concerns.” This commentary hinges on (uncritical) assumptions of the inevitability of anarchy and the security dilemma, as well as on a “structural” logic in virtue of conflict inevitably stems from major shifts in the international distribution of power. This form of realist reductionism tends to ignore or downplay domestic political, organizational, emotional, and ideational factors that drive state behavior. In Russia’s case these factors certainly happen to play a central role, as recognition claims and emotional attachment to former imperial territories as well as siege mentality operating as a regime-survival strategy trump the security or economic-oriented (perception of) interests that rational-choice explanatory models assume to be central to state behavior. By framing the issue in terms of rational choice models, realist commentary ex post facto rationalizes and legitimizes Russia’s transgressive behavior for the international audiences. This discursive industry of non-peer reviewed op-eds on Russia and Eastern Europe, which appear in leading Western media outlets, thus calls for academic scrutiny for both methodological and normative reasons.