【Report】Russia and the World in Global International Relations

Summary of the public lecture delivered by Dr Kazushige Kobayashi
1 June 2023
Title: Russia and the World in Global International Relations

In the lecture, Dr Kobayashi introduces the Global International Relations (Global IR) approach and applies it to understand the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. The Global IR approach, Dr Kobayashi argues, allows scholars to possess a better understanding of international affairs, especially from the view of non-Western states.

Global IR was pioneered by Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan as a means of thinking critically about Western biases and experiences built into mainstream International Relations (IR) theory. The approach argues that mainstream IR theory often marginalises the experiences of non-Western states in the Global South. As a result, mainstream IR theories often fall short in explaining international phenomena which do not fit within its particular assumptions. The goal of Global IR is not about rejecting conventional IR theories, but to initiate inclusive dialogue from diverse sources and experiences. In addition, Global IR also benefits policymakers by encouraging them to think outside of their comfort zones.

Dr Kobayashi applies the Global IR approach to the Russia-Ukraine War by first questioning the notion of “international community”: who represents the international community? He illustrates this by noting that only around 50 states, out of the 193 member states of the United Nations, have enacted economic sanctions on Russia. In spite of these sanctions, the Russian economy only contracted by 5 percent in 2022. This raises questions of the effectiveness of sanctions, and whose interests are represented in the enactment of economic sanctions.

Dr Kobayashi then moves towards the role International Criminal Court (ICC), South Africa, and Russia in the conflict. The ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, for war crimes, however, South Africa has issued changes to its domestic legislation which would allow South Africa to not arrest Putin if he arrives in South Africa. Understanding this dynamic requires a deeper look of historical ties between South Africa and Russia. Dr Kobayashi notes Western countries, particularly the United States, have had undue influence on the proceedings of the ICC, especially in the investigation of war crimes. This has been perceived as unfair by Global South countries, particularly South Africa.

Dr Kobayashi concluded the lecture with two observations. First, countries in the Global South may not really support Russia explicitly, but they do harbour concerns over Western hegemony. Global IR allows us to understand these embedded power dynamics to better understand International Relations. Second, in order to gain support from the Global South, the Western countries would need to reform their own inconsistent behaviours and narratives.

In the following discussion session, participants and Dr Kobyashi further discussed the concerns of the Global South of United States hegemony. Furthermore, participants also discussed Russia’s goals in the war, which sparked a lively debate on differences in strategic thinking between the United States and Russia. The discussion concluded with a reflection on the implications of the war on international order, with a focus on Japan and China.

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(Written by I Gusti Bagus Dharma AGASTIA, a PhD student at Ritsumeikan University)