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‘Mimicking’ the West? Russia's Legitimization Discourse from Georgia War to the Annexation of Crimea (2018-2019)


The 2008 Georgia war represented a turning point in Russian foreign policy. It was for the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union when Moscow invaded an independent country and for the first time when two members of the Council of Europe fought against each other. A premiere for post‑Soviet Russian foreign policy was also registered in 2014. The annexation of Crimea represented the first incorporation of foreign territories by Moscow since the WWII. These two events determined the West to protest and blatantly contradict Russia’s foreign policy discourse centered around the respect for states’ sovereignty and equality of actors in the international system. Starting from the assertion that the formulation of Russia’s foreign policy is determined by the West’s international behavior – Moscow looking whether to emulate or to find alternatives to it, the present paper will compare Russia’s legitimization arguments for the 2008 war and the 2014 annexation of Crimea trying to assess how Moscow positions itself towards the criticism of the West and whether there is a continuity in Russian official legimization narratives.

Keywords: legitimization, Russian foreign policy, annexation of Crimea, 2008 Georgia war, emulation

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