At War with the West: Russian Realism and the Conflict in Ukraine,

Andrei P Tsygankov, professor of International Relations and Political Science, San Francisco State University

Realist thinking in International Relations stresses the importance of preserving state sovereignty, national security, international stability, and great power status. In the world of Westphalia-founded sovereign states, realism is a system of ideas upon which nations base their unity and survival even as they engage in complex international and global transactions. In a Russia that, over the last century, has gone from autocracy to communism, liberalism, and back to semi-autocratic ideas, realism has served to navigate the state through an increasingly unstable international environment and has remained an important part of the country’s national identity. Understanding where Russian realistsstand with respect to the war in Ukraine is essential for understanding Russia’s future relations with the outside world, both western and non-western.

In this paper, I present several arguments about Russian realism. First, most realist-minded experts and scholars support the Kremlin by viewing the war as a global confrontation with the West rather than merely a regional conflict. While NATO avoids being perceived as in direct military conflict with Russia, Russian realistsassess the potential of such escalation as relatively high. Second, Russian realistsare largely committed to the idea of preserving state sovereignty and security in the face of the West’s pressures rather than building a new empire at the expense of the Ukrainian ethnicity and statehood, let alone other states and nationalities. Building an empire is not in their system of values if it undermines rather than increases the state security in the international system. Läs artikel