No issue has more vexed recent U.S.-Russian relations than the tension over military interventions, such as those launched or backed by Washington in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya and the one carried out by Russia in Georgia. Analysts have paid too little attention to the roots of this tension, which lie in the conflicting normative and legal standards each side has used to justify its actions. It takes a scholar as meticulous and thorough as Allison to properly chronicle the remarkably complex debate between proponents of traditional norms of state sovereignty and advocates for new norms of humanitarian interventionism. In this clash, the Russians -- like the Chinese, the Indians, and many others -- align themselves with the conservative, pro-sovereignty side of the argument, a position that owes as much to self-interest as to principle. Yet the Russians have struggled to be consistent. Although doing so is not his overt purpose, Allison demonstrates how if U.S. and western European analysts ignore or discount this dimension of Russian thinking, their explanations of Russian behavior in controversies over intervention (including in the Syrian civil war) will be shallow.
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