Many policy and academic debates focus on the extent to which Russia is a revisionist power challenging the ‘liberal world order’. However, there is little agreement on the primary motives explaining the behaviour of Russia, some pointing to her unsatisfied great power ambitions and neo-imperial ideologies, and others to genuine security concerns. Adjudicating those claims is important because of their policy implications for engagement and/or deterrence towards Russia. This article contributes to this debate through a theoretical contribution to practice-based approaches to International Relations. Using De Certeau’s understanding of practices, it analyses Russian diplomatic practices in multilateral security organisations and illustrates how this helps infer foreign policy motives, contrary to the field-specific relationalism of Bourdieu-inspired practice approaches. Empirically, it builds on 126 interviews and participant observation in three multilateral security organisations (the United Nations, the NATO–Russia Council and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe). The article shows that at least since 2014, Russian diplomats in the three organisations consistently defend policies and use narratives that reveal more interest in status recognition, sometimes at the expense of security concerns.
- Security Council
- diplomatic practices