The Concept of Power in International Relations: Lessons from the Ukrainian Crisis


Russia’s ongoing political, economic and most disturbingly military involvement in Ukraine’s internal affairs has shaken the world in general and the Eurasian continent in particular. Despite many differences of opinion, most Western scholars tend to agree that Moscow thus demonstrates its adherence to ‘traditional’ concepts of power understood both as status and means of influence projection. The former argument relies on Russia’s remarkably high status-awareness due to its relatively recent superpower experience and fear of perceived American hegemony. The later one underlines its continuous reliance on hard power resources, reminding zero-sum, ‘spheres of influence’ mentality of the late 19th century Europe. Although both these views seem to have much to do with reality, the ‘power discourse’ surrounding the Ukrainian crisis usually mitigates the agency of another side of the conflict. Being one of the largest European countries, Ukraine not only is a potential middle power in its own right, but also presents a new ideational challenge to Putin’s Russia, questioning the Kremlin’s electoral legitimacy, Russia’s European identity, its historical ‘anti-fascist’ credentials, and perhaps most importantly its Russian-ness itself. Thus, although desperately lacking in ‘harder’ (i.e. military and economic) power compared to the huge neighbour, present-day Ukraine contains important ‘softer’ power resources, which might amount to a potentially crippling attack on Moscow’s geopolitical vision and official identity projects with possible repercussions for its future stability. These insights would hopefully allow us to better understand both Russia’s behaviour and the nature of changes within ‘power discourse’ of theoretical and practical world politics.

Author Information
Konstantinas Andrijauskas, Vilnius University, Lithuania

Paper Information
Conference: ACSS2015
Stream: International Relations and Human Rights

This paper is part of the ACSS2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon