Instead of digging up the details about this decade-and-a-half-old incident, it’s more pertinent in the present day to analyze the significance of the ECHR’s ruling and Russia’s refusal to comply with it.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia should pay former spy Alexander Litvinenko’s widow €100,000 for moral damages that it claims Moscow is responsible for as a result of its alleged complicity in his untimely death in 2006. President Putin’s spokesman responded by decrying their decision as unfounded and declaring that “We are not ready to listen to such decisions.” Russia’s in the legal right too after its Constitutional Court ruled in 2015 that Russian law is above international law and President Putin signed a relevant law later that same year allowing them to overrule the ECHR and other international bodies’ decisions.
Instead of digging up the details about this decade-and-a-half-old incident, it’s more pertinent in the present day to analyze the significance of the ECHR’s ruling and Russia’s refusal to comply with it. All countries surrender a portion of their sovereignty by agreeing to participate in international structures such as that one. Russia joined the ECHR in order to get closer to the West, which was regarded as sufficient enough of a reward for compromising on aspects of its sovereignty. Nowadays, however, the Kremlin has reconsidered the wisdom of doing so after credible concerns that the body is being exploited as a weapon of “lawfare” against it.
This concept refers to the weaponization of legal means to achieve strategic ends. In the current context, the ECHR is reviving an old scandal and thus contributing to the West’s US-led information war against Russia. The purpose of this campaign is to discredit the country on the international arena, though the Eurasian Great Power’s reputation in the West is already terrible as it is after the past 7 years of incessant infowar against it so this particular decision won’t change much of anything. It also isn’t expected to carry any normative weight outside the West.
This second observation is especially important because Russia no longer takes much of what the West says seriously after it proved that it’s an unreliable partner. It’s no longer all that important to the Kremlin what those countries’ leaders think. Russia wishes that their people had a more accurate perception of it but regrettably understands that this probably won’t change anytime soon. It therefore isn’t a priority for Russia to compromise on its national interests in a desperate attempt to generate a single positive headline in the Western Mainstream Media that might never even be written by paying Litvinenko’s widow like the ECHR ruled.
Rather, Russia realized that it has much more to gain from the soft power perspective by holding firm to its national sovereignty, condemning the ECHR’s lawfare against it, and therefore setting an example for other states that are victimized by similar means. Safeguarding its sovereignty is now Russia’s top priority, after which follows expanding cooperation with like-minded countries that truly respect its interests unlike the West does. These new non-Western partners include China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which are also rising powers in the emerging Multipolar World Order.
They’re all fiercely opposed to lawfare too and won’t pay any heed to the ECHR’s politicized ruling. To the contrary, they’re expected to respect Russia more than ever after it showed how confident it is in standing up to the West’s bullying. Considering this inadvertently positive soft power outcome, it can be concluded that this latest lawfare provocation against Russia has backfired. Far from pressuring the Eurasian Great Power to compromise on its sovereignty, the ECHR’s ruling inspired it to reaffirm its national interests and proudly show the rest of the world that modern-day Russia won’t slavishly do whatever the West demands of it.