On March 18, 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, the first coercive transformation of a European border since 1945. The liberal dream of a post-conflict Europe is over, a dream ignited by the remarkable transformation of Europe’s international relations (IR) after 1945. The Cold War nuclear balance and European institutions appeared to end what had appeared endemic, the use of violent conflict to advance national interests. Of all the world’s regions, the one that had been so war-prone had become peaceful. Even in the aftermath of the Cold War and the horrors of the Yugoslav conflict, the liberally inclined could comfort themselves that it was ultimately a civil conflict in which a federal state broke apart into its constituent republics. States using military muscle to change the map appeared to have been banished. Some thought that Europe represented proof that laws, institutions and norms, whether those of the European Union (EU) or the United Nations (UN), could fundamentally change the way states behave. The gloomy realist who insisted that no amount of well-intentioned legalese could change the primacy of power was said to be proven definitively wrong. Some, evidently unaware of the constantly transformative nature of modern social life, thought that history, understood as the struggle of ideas over the optimum way of organizing political and economic affairs, had come to an end (e.g. Fukuyama 1992).
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