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Mercantilist Development in Russia: The Legitimacy of State Power, State Identity, and the Energy Charter Regime (1990 - 2010)


This dissertation investigates the creation, adaptation, and demise of international regimes. Specifically, I ask why international regimes sometimes fail to fulfill their original purpose. Empirically, I examine the evolution and eventual failure of the Energy Charter (ECH), a multilateral regime that governs the Eurasian energy economy. Modeled after the European Steel and Coal Community, the original goal of the regime was to capitalize on economic complementarities in energy to integrate Gorbachev's reforming USSR (later Russia) with Europe and promote pan-European cooperation and peace. By 2010, integration had failed, and the regime itself had become a source of conflict. To understand this outcome, I focus on the foreign energy policy of Russia, a central state within the ECH, which actively participated in designing the regime in the 1990s but two decades later decided that it was no longer in its interest.

Using data collected from interviews and archival searches during field research in Russia, Brussels, and Paris, I find that under President Yeltsin, low domestic sovereignty meant the state could not integrate key domestic players into ECH policy-making. This led Russia to conclude a bargain that it could not implement domestically. Under President Putin, high domestic sovereignty meant the state had sufficient capacity to corral these recalcitrant actors. However, the new policy that emerged compelled Russia to attempt to modify the ECH in ways that violated previously accepted norms, thereby alienating its European partners and undermining the regime.

This study supports Hegemonic Stability theory which suggests that we can expect regime failure after major shifts in the distribution of power produce changes in the interests and policies of key states. I extend this finding by showing that Russian state power increased due to changes in elite conceptions about the legitimacy of state power. I demonstrate this by using over time comparisons between most similar cases, tracing the process through which ECH policy evolved, and examining intervening variables - state building strategies and elite identities vis-à-vis the state - that changed over time in unexpected ways. The shift in elite beliefs had a transformative effect on the structure of domestic politics, generating new patterns of authority, a higher level of state domestic sovereignty, and enhanced state power. Finally, state domestic sovereignty was associated with state capacity to organize domestic groups, behave as a unitary actor, and follow through on international commitments.

To capture these developments, I use the concept of state identity which combines the level of domestic sovereignty (high or low) with elite beliefs about the state's role in the international system (regime maker or regime taker). This generates a typology of four state identities - master, pretender, disciple, and apprentice - that can be used to understand regime outcomes more generally. In political economy, I use the term mercantilist instead of master to connect my research with realist insights about the role of power in international political economy. I propose the term "mercantilist development" which refers to a state that attempts to fundamentally change the structure of the international economy in order to accumulate capital. Thus, mercantilist development helps us understand the micro-mechanisms through which the structure of the international system changes. Finally, I explore the factors associated with successful regime adaptation to accommodate rising powers, an especially pressing contemporary concern given that the balance of power is expected to shift considerably in the twenty-first century.

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