Betcy Jose, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado Denver

January 2019 until April 2019

In cooperation with Prof. Dr. Nicole Deitlehoff

Funded by Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”, Goethe University Frankfurt in cooperation with Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften

Betcy Jose is an associate professor in the political science department at the University of Colorado Denver. Relying on her law degree and PhD, she studies human security, global norms, and international humanitarian law. Her current projects explore how civilians protect themselves in war, the emergence of illiberal norms and their suppression using the practice of targeted killings as a case study, and contestation in the norm of humanitarian intervention.

Research project title:
Russia as a Norm Contester and Norm Entrepreneur (Project Expose Betcy Jose and Christoph Stefes)

A recent version of humanitarian intervention is the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. It sanctions nonintervention norm violations if military force is a measure of last resort and the United Nations Security Council approves the intervention.  However, with the 2014 Crimea episode, Russia seemingly not only challenged R2P but also offered an alternative framework to permissibly engage in a country’s domestic affairs.  This project scrutinizes these endeavors in two ways.  First, it will explore how the international community reacted to Russia’s justifications for its Crimean intervention, inquiring into who rejected them, who accepted them, and why.  Second, it will theorize why Russia embarked on this effort to challenge this global norm.  In doing so, the project will investigate the role of ideas and values in contributing to a country’s overall power status.
Through these endeavors, this project strives to advance our understanding of how global norms are created and modified.  By investigating the impact of Russian humanitarian arguments on the international rules permitting violations of sovereignty norms, this project contributes to a wide array of literatures such as the literatures on the international dimension of authoritarian regimes, post-Soviet area studies, and global norms.  It advances the debate about the various measures that powerful authoritarian regimes undertake to promote their foreign policy goals and what those goals may be. Recent studies of the foreign policies of powerful authoritarian regimes assume that these regimes largely support authoritarian elites and undermine democratic rule in their surrounding countries. In pursuing these rather narrow foreign policy goals, scholars claim large authoritarian regimes rely primarily on material resources (economic and military assets) to either topple unfriendly regimes or support friendly authoritarian leaders.  However, this project suggests that authoritarian regimes may also have more ambitious agendas such as determining the rules governing the entire community of states.  And they may pursue these goals via the use of argumentation and at great material costs. Yet much of this literature claims that if powerful authoritarian countries do proffer any normative rhetoric for their actions, these are a cynical means to further material interests. Students of authoritarian regimes therefore neglect the possibility that these regimes might advance normative goals in addition to their economic and security agendas.
As far as the IR field is concerned, the project speaks to the burgeoning literature on norm contestation. First, by investigating whether Russia is acting as a norm advocate, this project expands our understandings of which actors can play this role and how they comparatively function. Much of the existing research on norms typically explores how non-state actors (i.e., organizations like Human Rights Watch) introduce and promote new normative ideas.  How do state norm entrepreneurs compare to their better-studied non-state counterparts?  Second, this project contributes to the norms literature by inquiring into the promotion of norms under-examined by norms scholars: normative content that does not reflect liberal values.  For instance, the norms literature typically focuses on norms that promote civil and political rights and democracy.  Yet, the concept of norms does not require a particular valence, but a sense of “oughtness” for whatever behavior they regulate.  Thus, the type of humanitarian intervention promoted by Russia could qualify as a norm.  Third, much of the extant norms literature tends to have a directional bias: norms originate in the West and from there, diffuse to the rest of the international community.  By examining Russia has a potential normative source, this project attempts to partially remedy this bias by offering a more inclusive perspective to the study of norms.  It also expands our understanding of the sources of power that enable states to shape global relations.  Much important research has been conducted on how military strength and wealth provide some countries more global influence than others.  Less is known about how accumulating the power to persuade rhetorically for non-material goals correlates with the amount of influence a state has on this stage.
This project’s significance is not limited to scholars in an array of different fields.  This project’s findings will also be of great interest to policymakers.  By exploring how Russia tries to shape global norms, the project offers policymakers a more nuanced understanding of an important actor in the international arena.  Russia is often portrayed in caricature in foreign policy circles: a bewildering country whose primary motivation is to be a thorn in the side of Western powers.  Like many caricatures, there is some truth to this image.  However, by revealing new dimensions to Russia’s motivations and modus operandi, this project offers decision-makers additional insights and tools with which to interact with Russia.
The phase of the research project to be undertaken at PRIF will further scrutinize an original dataset my collaborator, Dr. Christoph Stefes, and I created during the project’s first phase.  This dataset contains over 600 news articles capturing Russian justifications for its Ukrainian intervention and global reactions to them. We also coded the articles using Atlas.ti software.  Additionally, we examined the toll this intervention took on Russia’s material interests, namely its economy and security.  Our analysis (to be published as a working paper by the German Institute for Global and Area studies) indicates that the Crimea intervention hurt these interests and that Russia foresaw these effects.  We thus concluded that Russia’s humanitarian justifications were aimed not to advance its material interests but to further its normative goals of contesting the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine.  The next phase of the project will more deeply examine why some states accepted this Russian challenge to R2P and why others rejected it via two steps. First, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with various countries’ decision-makers and experts.  Due to time and budget constraints, we will focus on respondents from just four countries identified from the project’s first phase: the United Kingdom (which opposed Russia), Kazakhstan (which supported Russia), and Germany (mixed)  The specific respondents will be determined via a snowball sampling technique. Second, we will analyze these interview data, along with relevant portions of our news-article dataset, with the Atlas.ti software.  Atlas.ti will enable us to determine patterns between the codes applied to the data that will help us shed light on this project’s research questions.  For instance, it allows us to determine co-occurrence rates.  These statistics tell us how often multiple codes appear together, providing us some interpretive guidance when examining different countries’ positions regarding Russia’s normative contestation.  In this way, our project employs both quantitative and qualitative approaches.  We will also use this data to help us theorize Russia’s possible broader motivation for its Crimean action: the pursuit of a source of power that differs from hard and soft power, namely a type of normative power.

To get to the blog post "What’s a War Crime Gotta Do To Get Some Attention?" by Betcy Jose and Alessa Sänger click here...

To get to the article "What Game of Thrones Can Tell Us About Russia’s Foreign Policy" by Betcy Jose and Christoph Stefes click here...

To get to the article "Course Format and Student Learning Styles: A Comparison of Political Science Courses" click here...

Publications (selection):

2018: “Russian Norm Entrepreneurship in Crimea – Serious Contestation or Cheap Talk?” with Christoph Stefes.  German Institute for Global and Area Studies Working Paper Series.

2018: Norm Contestation: Insights into Non-Conformity within Armed Conflict Norms: Springer Publishing.

2017: “Not Completely the New Normal: How Human Rights Watch Tried to Suppress the Targeted Killing Norm.” Contemporary Security Policy. Winner of the 2018 Bernard Brodie Prize.
2017: “Bin Laden’s Targeted Killing and Emerging Norms.”  Critical Studies on Terrorism, 10:1, 44-66.
2016:  “Civilian Self-Protection and Civilian Targeting in Armed Conflicts: Who Protects Civilians?” with Peace Medie. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (


Russia as a Norm Contester and Norm Entrepreneur
28 February 2019, 11 am. For further information: Click here...


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