Revolutions, counterrevolutions, and (un)making of order in Europe: the case of Ukraine

Muirhead Tower 427
Wednesday 1 November 2023 (12:00-13:30)

The Birmingham Grand Strategy Seminar & the IR and Security Theory working group welcomes Dr. Michael J. Williams from Syracuse University.  

The struggle for international order is usually studied within international relations’ dominant systemic theories as driven by conflict amongst the great powers, with substate actors playing little to no role. This paper argues that international order is not just predicated on concentrations of state power and competition between great powers, but also on revolutions – what Fred Halliday called the “sixth great power”. Revolutions need to be understood not simply as isolated, domestic events but rather as transnational phenomena that have impact far beyond the borders of the state where they occur, thereby influencing the polices of great powers. The historical record is rich with examples of the interplay between revolutions, states and order making. Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine is an illustrative example. The Kremlin’s ongoing illegal war against Kyiv is best understood not as a push-back against NATO expansion, but as a counter-revolutionary intervention to stem the demonstration effect of liberal democracy on Russia’s internal polity, as well as a repudiation of Europe’s emergent post-modern political order. 

Michael John Williams (Ph.D. LSE)  is Director of International Relations and Associate Professor of International Affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York, USA. He is a 2023-24 Fulbright Fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where is conducting research into NATO-Russia Relations and the remaking of order in Europe.