Doctoral defence: Pierre Thévenin “Soviet and Russian approach to the law of the sea: liberalism and local resistance”

On 9 December at 10:00 Pierre Thévenin will defend his doctoral thesis “Soviet and Russian approach to the law of the sea: liberalism and local resistance” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Law). 

Supervisor:
Professor Lauri Mälksoo, University of Tartu

Opponent:
Professor Erik Franckx, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)

Summary
The object of this PhD thesis is the analysis of the specificities of the Soviet and Russian approach to the law of the sea. More precisely, it seeks to elucidate how the law of the sea is used and understood by contemporary Russia and how it was used and understood by its state-predecessor, the Soviet Union. Spanning from late 1960s, when the Soviet Union became a maritime power until 2022, this dissertation analyses the Soviet and Russian and Russian approach to the law of the sea both through the prism of time and space. The main conclusions of this research project are the following and reveal Moscow’s complex and at times ambiguous approach to the law of the sea. The first finding of this doctoral dissertation is that during the period examined, the Soviet Union has become and Russia remains a maritime power defending a liberal approach to the law of the sea centred around the defence of high seas’ freedoms and free access to the sea’s resources. This finding is supported by Moscow’s attitude during the negotiations of the Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 and the ongoing negotiations of the international legally binding instrument on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. Furthermore, the analysis of Russia’s joint regimes at its maritime borders confirms Moscow’s liberal tendencies. The second finding of this dissertation nuances the first. It demonstrates that the Soviet and Russian approach to the law of the sea is not consistently liberal. In seas that the Soviet Union and Russia have historically considered its own – namely in the Arctic and more recently in the Azov Sea – Moscow attempts to circumvent the Law of the Sea Convention in order to obtain more rights. To do so, using historical arguments, the Russian State or its doctrine try to promote exceptional regimes built on historical arguments. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Moscow’s contestation of the Law of the Sea Convention has so far been circumscribed to these two regions and is unlikely to significantly increase and become generalized. The 1982 Law of the Sea Convention’s liberal ethos, which Moscow helped shape throughout the 1960s and 1970s, still satisfies Russia’s interests at sea.

The defence can be also followed in Zoom: https://ut-ee.zoom.us/j/98526841625?pwd=cnIzVEJjajUrdHRwQldGeHNZRlJBdz09 (Meeting ID: 985 2684 1625; Passcode: 706480).

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