Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Edward Haley

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© 2014 Hillary E. Lundberg


The 1648 Peace of Westphalia created an understanding of state sovereignty free from external interference that remained largely unaltered until the last century. The horrors of the Holocaust and the significant humanitarian crises of the 20th century have presented the international community with a new type of threat to international peace and security and have sparked an ongoing conversation about the limitations of traditional sovereignty. Russia has positioned itself as a firm supporter of a strict adherence to the Westphalian concept of sovereignty, but my thesis argues that Russians do not value this interpretation as much as they claim to, and that in fact Moscow recognizes that this definition is a thing of the past. I examine Russian actions surrounding the 2011 UN-sanctioned intervention in Libya and the ongoing conflict in Syria, particularly focusing on the major differences between Russian decision-making in the two cases. I analyze transcripts of Security Council meetings in order to demonstrate that there is far more to Russian actions in Syria than Moscow’s public position suggests, and I subsequently offer a number of alternative explanations for Russian decision-making surrounding Syria. These alternative explanations demonstrate that even the Russians, who have portrayed themselves as the great defenders of traditional state sovereignty, recognize the modern limitations to strict Westphalian sovereignty and understand that this traditional definition is a thing of the past. This conclusion is significant because in demonstrating that traditional sovereignty’s greatest champion acknowledges the modern shift in the concept, I prove that the departure from strict Westphalian sovereignty is not merely a theory, but a reality.