September 2, 2010

English summary

The summer issue of Diplomaatia focuses largely on topics related to Russia. In the opening article, Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law at Tartu University, analyses Russia’s understanding of international law.

The summer issue of Diplomaatia focuses largely on topics related to Russia. In the opening article, Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law at Tartu University, analyses Russia’s understanding of international law.

English summary

The summer issue of Diplomaatia focuses largely on topics related to Russia. In the opening article, Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law at Tartu University, analyses Russia’s understanding of international law.
“Russia sees itself as a country that values international law very highly; whereas it sees elsewhere, particularly in the US, alarming signs of unilateralism and of violations of international law,” writes Mälksoo. But, he asks, “When Russia refers to international law then what exactly does it refer to?”
According to his analysis, “the more conspicuously Russia’s foreign policy documents emphasise ‘international law’, the less they put emphasis on ‘human rights’ (as a special part of international law). If the documents do mention ‘human rights’, they usually also criticise ‘double standards’ in their application, which is a way to say defensively that those who feel like criticising Russia should first look in their own backyards.”
Consequently, “when Russia emphatically refers to international law, it refers to international law as crystallised in 1945. The approach is strictly textual-formalistic and clearly prioritises sovereignty over human rights interventionism. In raising the shield of international law (of 1945), Russia is also, in a way, making a point against codifying the results of the Eastern European democratic revolutions of 1989/1991 into future international law. Russia’s argument is that whatever the West or Europe (minus Russia) may value politically is not necessarily universal. Most importantly, it has not become new international law, which binds everyone.”
Russia’s foreign policy is also discussed in Diplomaatia’s interview with Sergei Stepashin, the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber. Stepashin acknowledges that Russia’s foreign political style has undergone a substantial change within the last two years -since the 2008 war with Georgia. “Evidently life demanded a change – and it’s always better to live if one has good relations with neighbours,” he says. He also gives several reasons for the change: first, the shift in the understanding of the reasons for the war in Georgia; second, the new US administration and the good personal relationship between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev; and third, the changed attitudes towards Russia in the neighbouring states themselves. But he hints also at economic necessities: “Medvedev, Putin and Lavrov are all sensible people, they all understand what is more expensive – friendship or quarrels.”
According to Stepashin, the upcoming elections will not necessarily change the course of Russia’s foreign policy: “Russia will not need an enemy figure (as an instrument in an election campaign). First, our political elite is sufficiently unanimous and behaves in a predictable manner. Also, let’s be honest: the election result of 2012 is predictable as well. I will not name any names, but it is evident that someone from the current ruling team will be president.”
Having been active in the first war in Chechnya, Stepashin views current developments there as mainly positive – the two biggest problems being unemployment and the exodus of Russians. However, tensions are simmering in some other North Caucasus republics, such as Dagestan, Ingushetia and Karachay-Cherkessia.
The Chircassians are also the focus of an article by Andres Herkel, Estonian MP and Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Herkel predicts that the world will hear a lot about that small nation before the 2012 Sochi Olympic Games, as the Circassians were driven from their ancient home in the Sochi area by Czarist policies and genocide. Demands to recognise (and apologise for) the genocide are likely to be heard ever more loudly during the next two years.
In other articles, Vladimir Jushkin, the head of the Baltic Center for Russian Studies, examines the recently uncovered Russian spy network in the United States, while Sven Mikser, the Chairman of the Estonian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee gives an extensive overview of the origins and developments of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coming to the conclusion that the two-state solution would be the only possible one. “Neither Jews nor the Palestinians are going to go away. But are likely to see many innocent victims before both sides will be ready to acknowledge that reality.”
Finally, historian Marek Tamm writes about the life, work and illness of the late Tony Judt.

Filed under: Paper issueTagged with:

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment