In Defense of Sovereignty: An Analysis of Russian Voting Behavior in the United Nations Security Council (1995-2012)

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CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal
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Security Council
United Nations
International Security
Foreign Policy
Social Sciences
Political Science
Alex Weisiger
Political Science
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This paper explores the motivations for Russian voting behavior in the United Nations Security Council from 1995-2012. Specifically, why does Russia vote with the West in many situations, but not in others? What motivated Russia to veto three Western-backed resolutions in the ongoing Syrian conflict? These are not arbitrary votes—Russia invests considerable energy in both explaining and justifying its voting decisions in the Security Council. Thus, even if one believes that Security Council resolutions do not significantly affect state behavior (a claim that international relations research increasingly disputes), such voting decisions still matter because Russia deems them important. I contend that Russia’s concern for 1) international stability and 2) state sovereignty norms drives Russia’s voting patterns in the Security Council. The evidence for the subsequent analysis comes from 1095 Security Council resolutions and vetoed draft resolutions as well as their accompanying United Nations press releases. Both the statistical analysis and the qualitative case analyses found that a consistently conservative interpretation of Security Council jurisdiction and the promotion of state sovereignty norms influenced Russian voting. I also find that Russia views the entirety of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) making up the former Soviet Union as part of Russia’s sovereign sphere. I test these hypotheses against hypotheses predicting an expansion-motivated Russia and a status-seeking Russia, but neither alternative viewpoint receives the same empirical support that a defensive Russia receives. Finally, the findings in this paper have a number of implications. First, the paper finds that Russia has internalized a strict legalist approach to Security Council affairs. Therefore, the Western diplomatic approach for compromise should not focus on Russian interests, but should rather engage Russia through the compatibility of legal principles. Second, the paper emphasizes the lack of normative consensus and highlights the importance of further codification of legitimate international legal behavior.

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