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The panelists presented a diversity of views on the question at hand. Steve Fish argued that Russia has emerged as a full blown ideological revisionist set on challenging Western liberalism at home and abroad. Andrei Sushentsov disagreed, arguing that Russia is in fact a status quo power more concerned with maintaining international order and stability and a peaceful environment for Russia’s internal development and modernization. In his analysis of the Russian foreign policy discourse, Andrei Tsygankov finds that more moderate and status-quo voices have actually won out against those advocating a more radical and revisionist approach. Richard Sakwa maintains that Russia’s “neo-revisionism” is simply a reaction to much more radical revisionist behavior of Western powers that has given Russia no choice but to fight back. John Mearsheimer also sees Russia essentially being a status quo power, arguing that the US’ obsession with liberalism and democracy has set it on a confrontational path with Russia that is against the US’ own interests.
In his paper, Professor Krickovic argues that, contrary to the views of many of his colleagues, Russia is indeed a revisionist power and challenger to the liberal international order. However, Russia is not the kind of rising revisionist challenger envisioned by the traditional power transitions paradigm nor is its revisionism driven by anti-liberal ideological zeal, as is often claimed by Western critics. Russia does not seek to replace the US as hegemon nor does it want to rewrite the global “rules of the game”. Rather, it is concerned about the way the rules are changing under US stewardship and it fiercely resists these changes. Russia is best understood as a reactionary revisionist trying to retain its great power status as it struggles with the prospects of decline. It is reactionary not in the pejorative sense of the term, but according to its literal definition: advocating a return to the status-quo ante. Instead of US unipolar dominance Russia advocates the return to a Concert system where great powers enjoy the rights of inviolable sovereignty and are free to pursue their traditional spheres of influence. From Russia’s perspective such a system would not only be more stable, it would also institutionalize Russia’s future status – even as its material capabilities continue to decline.