Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Reviews

From Soviet to Russian International Law. George Ginsburgs. The Hague, The Netherlands; Kluwer Law International, 1998. 420 pp.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has made significant changes in many parts of its society, including its application of international law. Over the past two decades, there has been an emergence of doctrines and practices seeking to replace old Soviet ones. Ginsburgs takes on topics such the relationship between domestic and international law; citizenship and state succession; and cooperation with its neighbors in From Soviet to Russian International Law.

The author takes on a complex and broad topic first in addressing the doctrinal and practical issues associated with incorporating international law into Russia's domestic laws. He collaborates three parts of the process: 1993 Constitution and its references to international norms; the application of the references in the Constitution; and debate among legal scholars in the region, particularly on the language of the Constitution. Ginsburgs does a good job application and incorporation of international law in the Duma, administrative agencies, and by the courts. He also lays out a helpful outline of how treaties are negotiated and formulated. Regardless, the evidence he cites seems questionable. He speaks on how the aspirations of the courts and legislature have not met their aspirations, and states that the future does not look promising. However, his conclusions are based on happenings outside of the law, such as Russia's declining economy, and insufficient training of police and private attorneys, examples which would likely not have direct relationship with international law.

In the next part of the book, Ginsburgs addresses questions of citizenship after the break of the Soviet Union, and whether there needs to be some legal protection to ethnic Russians that reside in former Soviet Republics. He examines Russia's effort to have dual-citizenship with other successor states of the Soviet Union, and concludes that these align with international law. However, he points to the liberal extension of Russian citizenship, and how it led to an ineffective implementation. In this chapter, he primarily points on problems, and lacks any clear solution.

The next two chapters deal with Sino-Russia relations, and the implications of their joint efforts. He commends both nations on their legal arrangements being with international law, but is concerned with the vulnerability of the relationship because of geopolitical factors, as well as both nations domestic rule of law. Despite his words on the relationship, Ginsburgs speaks on agreements but never states the names, which confused me on what he was referring to during his analysis.

Although Ginsburgs' book is tailored for Russian legal specialists, it does a great job of defining the state of Russian law at the turn of the century. Of course, much has changed since its release, but some questions still linger such as how will Russia deal with ethnic Russians placed in former Soviet republics. It brings up a number of questions of the goals of international law in Russia and its suitability, while keeping in mind its long history and repeated unsuccessful attempts of "top-down" reform. In the end, I see this as a thought provoking piece on the study of international and constitutional law in Russia, particularly the formulation and implementation of policy and doctrine.

The Sanctions Paradox: Economic Statecraft and International Relations. Daniel Drezner. Cambridge, United Kingdom; Cambridge Studies in International Relations, 1999. 342 pp.

Most people say that economic sanctions do not work in international affairs. Then why has the United Nations Security Council, and many nations, continued to rely on sanctions as a tool? Daniel Drezner in his book The Sanctions Paradox: Economic Statecraft and International Relations argues that the UN and countries are eager to use sanctions when they may produce the feeblest results.

Drezner develops a "conflict expectations model" to determine the results, in which sanctions are viewed as policy gains that can be used as an advantage in future conflicts. He uses a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to test this. He uses Russia is us as a case study as he shows that its coercion of former Soviet republics, as well as Western sanctions on North Korea and Iran to prohibit nuclear proliferation. He states that the sanctions are established on the expectation of conflict, thus why they are applied to adversaries rather than allies, though allies are more susceptible to pressure. Because allies anticipate such conflict, sanctioned states will likely not concede to pressure despite the cost. Drezner explains that adversaries are less concerned to avoid conflict with governments and institutions that impose sanctions because they expect.

However, this book is not an easy read - it has a heavy use of mathematical modeling. But I found the book to be quire interesting, particularly because of the case studies concerning Russia and its neighbors, which seems to be valuable.

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