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The idea of this book is inspired by the widely spread assessment of the conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions as marking a radical departure from ‘normal’ post-Cold War relations to a drastically new type of international (dis)order. The military conflict in Ukraine, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for militant separatists in the so-called Novorossiya, has indeed undoubtedly been a game changer for policy makers and military planners in the whole of Europe and far beyond. Many policy analysts admit an unexpected character of the conflict and a sudden proliferation of its negative reverberations all across the globe – something very close to what in the political theory of Alain Badiou could have been called an ‘event’, a rupture with the established order of things that brings structurally transformative effects. There are strong voices that predict a long-lasting period of global turbulence and uncertainty, with the de-legitimation of many international institutions and a declining role for global norms and rules. Yet did all this bring substantial correctives and modifications to the extant

conceptualization of international relations? Did the conflict significantly alter any of the previous assumptions and foster a new academic vocabulary, or, vice versa, confirm the validity of well-established schools of thought in international relations? Has the crisis in Ukraine confirmed the vitality and academic vigour of conventional concepts, or do these concepts need reconsideration and reassessment? It is these uneasy and understudied questions that became the starting points

for this book project. Its idea was largely influenced by the tragic developments on the ground in Ukraine that fuelled professional debates stretching – both geographically and conceptually – far beyond this country and touching upon many structural issues constitutive of the world political scene. Concepts are backbones of the language of communication between Russia

and the West. This book covers an ample variety of conceptualizations – from rationalist to reflectivist, and from quantitative to qualitative. Most of the authors would agree that many of the old concepts – such as multipolarity, spheres of influence, sovereignty, or even containment – are still cognitively valid, yet with the eruption of the crisis in Russia-Ukraine relations they are used in different contexts and thus infused with different meanings. It is

exactly these multiple conceptual languages that this volume puts at the centre of analysis. This divergence can be illustrated by a long conceptual distance between

rationalist and reflectivist interpretations.Mikhail Alexseev in his contribution to this edited volume applies game theory as a tool to study cases of expansionist behaviour. Surprisingly, using the vocabulary of this theory he comes to conclusions that can be formulated in constructivist terms as well. A predatory state, Alexseev writes, may evoke ‘international norms – such as humanitarian aid or minority rights – to uphold separatist entities and justify military support for border revisions’, thus applying a strategy that he dubs ‘reversed liberalism’. He reaches another trans-theoretical conclusion saying that Russia’s policy in Ukraine ‘has so far succeeded in a sense that the United States and most EU governments refused to call Russian military invasion since February 2014 ‘an invasion’. Using the term ‘invasion’ would have enhanced the legal and normative justification for NATO to provide Ukraine with significant lethal military assistance. Failure to provide such assistance reduces the cost to the Kremlin of further territorial expansion. This is a good example of a seemingly linguistic analysis that is included as a key factor in rational choice calculus. There are other examples of different theories meeting each other at certain

points. As Alexseev argues, during the 1990s, Lezgin-populated areas in the territory of Azerbaijan became de facto Russia’s enclaves: ‘as citizens of Russia, their residents voted in Russia’s elections, received their pensions and social security payments from Russia, studied in Russian schools, and served in the Russian armed forces’. This element of the whole picture of Russia’s transborder policies in its neighbourhood can be conceptualized in the language of biopolitics as a type of power based, along the lines of Michel Foucault, on taking care of certain groups of population and including them in a body of the Collective Self. This biopower was largely used in other cases as well, including Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Crimea, and potentially can be brought into being in other areas of the ‘Russian world’. Gulnaz Sharafutdinova’s chapter in many respects challenges rationalist

accounts of Russia’s foreign policy and uses valuable insights from social psychology to point at the growing salience of emotions as a key component of foreign policy analysis. Again, the case of Ukraine seems one of the most illustrative in this respect. Emotions indeed have to be introduced not only as an important means of producing foreign policy discourses and imageries. Beyond that, emotions play a momentous role of fixing identities that are seen as endangered, menaced or threatened from an unfriendly outside. This is very much applicable to Russia whose fabulous proclivity to adopt various conspiracy theories can be explained by the placing of the concept of sovereignty, one of the most changeable, transfigured and mutated in the twenty-first century, at the very ground of its ontological security. The predilection to something that is gradually moving away from the hands of the state explicates the saturation of Russian domestic and foreign policy narratives with symbols and myths that need huge emotional investments in order to stabilize the

inherently unfixed and dispersed meanings of such nodal points of the Kremlin discourse as Russia’s civilizational specificity, spiritual bonds, Russia’s mission in the world, etc. The emotional incandescence of Russia’s policy towards the EU indeed

waits for its deep analysis. The chapter by Andrey Makarychev starts with claiming that Russia-EU relations have reached an emotionally charged point of disarray. This stretches far beyond a more or less conventional situation of conflict of interests, which could be analysed from the lens of political realism, and embraces an important performative element of symbolism. A perfect example of this emotional spiral of alienation is the demonstrative and widely publicized liquidation of EU food products at Russia’s borders that started in summer 2015. Europe is widely portrayed in Kremlin’s narratives not only as an economic competitor or political rival, but mainly as a normatively inacceptable civilization against which Russia needs to undertake measures of political hygiene. Yet Russia’s policies are not confined to distancing from the EU: Moscow wishes to dethrone Europe from its normative pedestal, which is the key driving force for a new discord in the continent. The chapter is intended to contribute to the current debate and untangle the most controversial parts of EU-Russia relations, pointing at the growing importance of political elements in the bilateral agenda and their preponderance over economic, financial and legal issues. Alexandra Yatsyk in her chapter offers an innovative outlook at the concept

of governmentality that is mainly known within a circle of Foucault scholars. She extends this concept to a research area of sports mega-events that is positioned beyond political analysis and international relations. Yatsyk begs a question of whether governmentality as a concept works beyond the realm of the West where it originally comes from. It turns out that it is through the lens of this theory that some important social and cultural differences between Russia and Ukraine can be discerned. The author takes us to a sub-national level of analysis and concludes that the idea of normalization, one of key drivers for social change in both countries, resonates quite differently: in Ukraine it is widely perceived as a gradual improvement of people’s everyday lives with their inclusive participation and co-managing projects of vital social and cultural importance, while in Russia it is implemented as a series of technical upgrades promoted by largely technocratic elites. Another chapter of the book asks a similar question of how (though more

traditional) concepts of Western academic origin operate beyond the West. Irina Busygina in her contribution to this volume focuses on the analysis of the so-called rising powers – a group of countries that alternatively can be dubbed emergent markets. Yet BRICS as an organization is not at the centre of her query, which might be explained by its quite modest institutional performance and low political profile at the international scene. In its stead, Busygina touched upon an important issue of certain similarities between the EU and Russia that fall into her characterization of rising powers, though, of course, with drastically dissimilar models of their ascendance.