Disputed democracy: the instrumentalisation of the concept of democracy in US-Russia relations during the George W. Bush and Putin presidencies

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Abstract

The conflict over the idea of democracy was a key factor in the deterioration of US-Russia bilateral relations during the second term of the George W. Bush presidency (2005-2009). US governmental and non-governmental support for democratisation in the post-Soviet region was viewed by Russia as a cover for the advancement of US national interests in the region, at the expense of those of Russia. In response, Russia developed practical and discursive strategies to counter it. Debates about the status of Russian democracy, about the idea of “sovereign democracy”, and of the democratic (or otherwise) conduct of US foreign affairs, all emerged in this period as sites – and evidence – of dispute between the two states. This article argues that pro-active US democracy promotion rhetoric combined with a clear pattern of instrumentalisation of the concept of democracy encouraged – in the contexts of a more broadly assertive US foreign policy and the “Colour Revolutions” – an answering instrumentalisation of the idea and use of “democracy” by Russian political elites, who utilised the concept as the basis for a discursive challenge to the US’s global dominance. In consequence, not only is the content of the term “democracy” a source of dispute but, critically, that dispute became tied to questions of state identity, state security, and conceptions of international relations. “Democracy” is thus likely to remain both a source of, and a means of articulating, discontent in the US’s relationship with Russia and the states of Central Asia for the foreseeable future
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-43
Number of pages16
JournalComillas Journal of International Relations
Volume3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

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