CEJISS issues do not usually include editorials. However, we wish to use an editorial this time to draw our readers’ attention to the first thematic section ever to appear in the Journal. Thematic sections shall be irregular but recurring features of the Journal. Their purpose is to address topical events, processes or phenomena that define the character of our times or help develop existing or emerging academic debates of critical importance to the discipline of International Relations or to the social scientific understanding of the world in general.
Thematic sections have several unique attributes. Its topics will be defined by the CEJISS Editorial Team. As such, thematic sections represent our (editorial) tool for advancing the Journal’s contribution and profile, but we will always look for external contributors to address our call for thematic section pieces. Thematic section texts will generally be shorter, within the suggested range of 4,000 – 8,000 words. They are expected to meet our research article criteria, yet may be more polemic and essayistic in their character, and should directly address the particular topic of a given thematic section. Particularly encouraged are papers with a strong narrative and sophisticated academic essays (op-eds) that develop or build on the existing theoretical repertoire of International Relations (or closely related disciplines), offer a clear argument and contribute to academic debates. The double-blind review policy will be applied, but our editorial commitment is to ensure timely publication so that CEJISS and its authors can more readily react to issues of critical importance.
Our decision to launch the new format coincided with the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022; hence, there was not much doubt about the choice of the first topic. Despite hoping for a quick resolution, we were (and still are) unaware of how long the conflict may last and what its future course may be. Consequently, we have decided to pose a direct question that could be examined independently on the twists and turns of the ongoing conflict. Hence, the central question of the thematic section, found in this issue of CEJISS, is why the conflict was not prevented. In the call for contributions, we invited texts inspired by different theoretical perspectives and focusing on different actors. We believe the final set of texts satisfies our ambition to offer our readers a plural(ist) discussion of what preceded the war.
Half of the thematic section contributions approach the question from the perspective of hard power, its application or the strategic debates related to it. Vojtěch Bahenský (Charles University) focuses on discussions between Western ‘realists’ and ‘hawks’. Alongside that, he considers the mismatch between strategic goals and resources to explain why the war could not be prevented. Jonas Driedger (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt) develops a similar theme and analyses how German foreign policy contributed to the failure to deter Russia. Emmet Foley (UCC Cork & Dublin City University) and Christian Kaunert (Dublin City University & University of South Wales) inquire into the role of Russian private military companies that, as they argue, contributed to the creation and the perpetuation of insecurities and instabilities in (Eastern) Ukraine.
The other three papers lean on the side of identitarian perspectives. Alexander Bendix (University of Edinburgh) analyses changes in Russia’s national role conceptions and the Western responses to them and points to a change when comparing the 2022 war and Russia’s previous military actions against its neighbours. Maryna Shevtsova (University of Ljubljana) and Oksana Myshlovska (University of Bern) focus on the narratives and identities of Russia and Ukraine. Shevtsova uncovers changes in Ukrainian nationalism and sees them as the driver of Ukraine’s further separation from Russia, while Myshlovska meticulously analyses narrative escalation of the conflict taking into account Russia, Ukraine and also the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine as an international actor.
The thematic section is organised as follows. Bahenský’s article opens the thematic section as it covers a large chunk of the Western strategic debate on how to approach Russia. It is followed by a detailed examination of narrative escalation of the conflict provided in the article by Myshlovska. Then, the pieces by Bendix, Shevtsova and Driedger elucidate the role of Russia, Ukraine and Germany, respectively. The paper by Foley and Kaunert on Russian private military companies is the last one in the thematic section.
On behalf of the CEJISS Editorial Team
Aleš Karmazin (Editor-in-Chief) and Martina Varkočková (Deputy Editor-in-Chief)