(East European Politics) (Co-authored with Martin Mölder) This article focuses on prominent recent episodes where Russia has put sovereignty, the obligation to refrain (O2R) from using force, and self-determination to the test. Most recently in the Crimean context, we see that Russia’s systematic instrumental use of these norms does not contest the norms as such, but as their application becomes more contingent and arbitrary, their meaning is nevertheless blurred. We additionally explore how other justifications were applied alongside self-determination, which were all linked to interference in the internal political processes of another state, facilitating secession and incorporating part of the territory of the latter. We introduce the concept of blurring and show how the production of floating signifiers has become Russia’s preferred strategy in the international war of interpretations. This politics of unpredictability has led Russia to act in self-defence unilaterally and outside of the framework of the United Nations (UN), going against not only some of its own declared principles while following others, but also further strengthening the discursive gap with the West.
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