In an international system currently facing the challenges of transnational terrorism, insurgencies and failing states, it is crucial to understand the causes of contemporary conflict. This project undertakes the first systematic empirical test of new war theory: the notion that processes of globalization are increasingly reshaping war. It utilizes a potent case study the war in Chechnya that represents an ongoing conflict with potential causes at the local, national, transnational and global levels of analysis. The violence in Chechnya also encompasses many potential triggers for war, including terrorism, nationalism, ethnic identity struggles, and conflict over natural resources. Thus we seek to discover the nature of the war in Chechnya, and to what extent warfare since 9/11 has altered the dynamics of international security. The projects applied aims are then to identify how war can be prevented, managed, or resolved, both in Chechnya and in other new wars. The project evolves from our previous work on transition in Russia, international relations theory, and international security. It brings together Australian and leading overseas experts to accomplish its objectives.
Our project is also timely, since both conceptual and applied strands of International Relations (IR) are currently in flux. In the 1990s IR theory was criticized for getting the Cold War wrong, and past work by members of our research team has demonstrated that this was due to a misunderstanding of the nature of Soviet communism, and the internal structure of what was essentially a Russian empire. IR theory is now struggling to explain post-Cold War and post-9/11 asymmetrical conflicts, in what many anticipated would be a new and potentially more peaceful world order. Some still offer traditional statist explanations (Waltz 2000), but they cannot adequately account for contemporary civil, intrastate conflicts, as witnessed in Chechnya, that have global dimensions independent of states. In the 1990s the US was unsure about how to employ its predominant power, and until 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq it did not construct a new architecture to deal with contemporary globalized problems. Major states in the immediate post-Cold War period, including Russia as the inheritor of the USSRs seat on the UN Security Council, based their security policies on the assumption that they faced clear challenges from other states in an anarchic international system, rather than fluid threats from terrorists.
To address this uncertainty in theory and practice, we develop contrasting hypotheses based on (i) relational power and domestic factors; and (ii) theorizing on new wars by Kaldor (1998, 1999), Shaw (1991) and others (see E4). It then tests them against key variables: the goals, norms, types of actors, and economics of the Chechen conflict. For this has, on the face of it, all the attributes of a new war. Well before the 2004 Beslan school siege, Russian President Vladimir Putin had called the Chechen conflict a war on international terrorism (Sakwa 2003). This discourse reflects many assumptions in the literature after 9/11, and now informs the strategic posture of the US, Australia, and others. Our findings will thus have important relevance for states dealing with these new threats. Our research teams extensive expertise and high-level access to influential players in the conflict enables us to make such a contribution.
Contact: Matthew Sussex
Authorised by the Interim Head of School, Social Sciences
16 August, 2011