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Russia and the secession of Kosovo: power, norms and the failure of multilateralism

Hughes, James (2013) Russia and the secession of Kosovo: power, norms and the failure of multilateralism. Europe-Asia Studies, 66 (5). pp. 992-1016. ISSN 0966-8136

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Identification Number: 10.1080/09668136.2013.792448


Theoretical debates about multilateralism positively juxtapose it to unilateralism or bilateralism, because it is seen as a natural ideational fit with the growth of global governance. The major schism on the concept is between normativists who emphasise shared values and the realists' concerns with strategic interactions and power asymmetries. The Kosovo crisis beginning in 1999 could be seen as the first major crisis of multilateralism in the international system after the end of the Cold War. It was a crisis about the role and interests of a hegemonic USA and a weakened Russia. As a case, Kosovo demonstrates the paradoxes and limitations of multilateralism in the field of international security, when there are different types and levels of multilateralism interacting. The US and EU leaderships saw Kosovo as essentially a regional problem which could be manipulated to rejuvenate and enhance Western multilateral cooperation in NATO. This view found support among an upper echelon of officials in the UN, surrounding Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which favoured a multilateral intervention in Kosovo as proof of commitment to the developing norm of ‘right to protect’. Russia, however, saw its multilateral engagement over Kosovo as a strategic interaction to counterbalance and compensate for its weakness vis-à-vis NATO. The multilateral interactions by these three parties appear to have deepened mistrust as the process failed to resolve the final status of Kosovo, leading to its unilateral declaration of independence in 2008. The case demonstrates the importance of shared interests for successful multilateral interactions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 University of Glasgow
Divisions: Government
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
D History General and Old World > DR Balkan Peninsula
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 29 May 2013 08:33
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2024 16:24

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