Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Democratization and War: The Chechen Wars' Contribution to Failing Democratization in Russia

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Democratization and War: The Chechen Wars' Contribution to Failing Democratization in Russia

Article excerpt

This article argues that the effect of the two Chechen wars, 1994-1996 and 1999-2002, has been devastating to the Russian democratization process. Both wars were the product of a regime moving from authoritarian to more democratic government but, the wars themselves helped block Russia's democratic transition and reinforced the semi-authoritarian nature of the state.

This argument proceeds using the framework of the theory about democratization and war developed by Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder. The article analyzes how this theory and its implications fit Russia's case, and whether the case of Russia and particularly Russia's wars in Chechnya support the theory. In addition, the article extends the original Mansfield and Snyder analysis by showing how the wars slowed the democratization process.

The article only examines the case of Russia through empirical observations and does not touch upon the methodology that has been used by Mansfield and Snyder and others to find statistical evidence for the theory. The two Chechen wars are examined and some conclusions are drawn from them, as to how small but continuous wars have both been the product of elite competition under conditions of partial democratization, and have undermined Russia's democratization process. The article thus extends the analysis of the problem identified by the theory by showing how, in the Russian case, war is not just a product of incomplete democratization, but itself contributes to weakening democratization. Thus, under some circumstances, there may be a vicious circle whereby incomplete democratization makes war more likely, but war then slows down or reverses democratization, making further wars a strong possibility. While this article does not discuss the Russia-Georgia war of 2008 or Russian military action in Ukraine in 2014, the analysis suggests that these conflicts may have been linked to the earlier Chechen wars.

Democratization and War

Since at least 1994 the Kantian proposition that democratic countries do not fight each other has been under scrutiny by academics and analysts. Although it is not a new notion, this idea has been incorporated more into the Western world's foreign policy doctrines since the end of the Cold War and has greatly affected how countries become involved in the politics of other countries. Mansfield and Snyder's starting point was that before full democracy is achieved, there is a process of democratization.1 Their theory has elicited a lot of responses and has also resulted in a book, Electing to Fight - Why Emerging Democracies Go to Wa , 10 years after the first two articles were first published.2

The central argument in this theory is that countries experiencing the process of democratization are more war prone, especially when their domestic institutions are too weak to effectively regulate increases in mass political participation that accompany democratic transition. This central argument has been continuously argued by Mansfield and Snyder for over a decade, even if some critics have claimed that regimes that begin to move toward or away from greater democracy do not necessarily possess a short-term window of heightened vulnerability to war participation, and so regime change and war involvement are independent of one another.3

The theory does support the notion that mature democracies are less likely to go to war against each other, if they ever do. The theory focuses on great powers, although it also involves research on the cases of smaller countries. Mansfield and Snyder argue that "The pattern of the democratizing great power suggests that the problem lies in the nature of domestic political competition after the breakup of the autocratic regime."4 The two significant great powers in world politics that are still in the process of democratization are Russia and, to some extent, China. This was evident in the 1990s and during the 2000s as well: "Pushing nuclear-armed great powers like Russia or China towards democratization is like spinning a roulette wheel: many outcomes are undesirable. …

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