Carr Goes East: Reconsidering Power and Inequality in a Post-Liberal Eurasia

Kevork Oskanian*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper analyses Western policies towards Russia from the realist perspective of E.H. Carr. His critique of inter-war liberal ‘utopianism’ pointed to the tendency of liberal states to disregard the role of power in shaping an international normative order of their making; their discounting of contingency in favour of a progressive, teleological view of history; and their insensitivity to the structural inequalities reproduced by that order. These predispositions can also be observed in the liberal West’s policies towards Russia since the end of the Cold War. A teleologically expanding ‘Kantian zone of peace’ centred on the EU and NATO – and based on the liberal tripod of institutions, democracy, and free trade – became the core of Europe’s de facto security regime. Uncovering the power-political behind the normative, a Carrian perspective explains the gradual deterioration in relations between the West and Russia through the latter’s exclusion from institutions shaped at a time of its acute weakness, its inability to counter the symbolic power of democracy through political reforms, and its structural consignation to the semi-periphery of the globalised economic system. The article concludes by proposing a realist alternative for future engagement with Moscow.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-189
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Politics and Society
Issue number2
Early online date9 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Russia
  • realism
  • NATO
  • EU
  • democracy
  • E.H. Carr


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