Rules-Based Order

United Nations Headquarters, Geneva
United Nations Headquarters, Geneva // John Samuel, CC BY-SA 4.0 via WikiCommons

Rules-Based Order is a concept promoted by the Western countries under the hegemony of the United States, designed to reflect their desirable world order and the essence of modern international relations.[1] According to this concept, there are some rules of conduct that are not the norms of international law, but are considered legally binding on all states. This concept is actually aimed at the abolition of the generally recognized principle of the supremacy of international law in the regulation of international (interstate) relations.[2]

Table of Contents

Origins of the concept

As explained by Doctor of Law B. Nefyodov, the concept of "international order based on rules" appeared in wide diplomatic circulation in the mid-1990s.[3]

Ben Scott, a former Australian diplomat, argues that the concept itself emerged in the early 1990s and comes from the concept of a liberal world order that characterized the relationship between liberal states. The notion of a "rules-based world order" arose from the assumption that after the collapse of the world socialist system, all countries would accept the "Washington Consensus", and the liberal world order would spread to the whole world.

In 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asked China to respect "rule based order." In the US administration, Hillary Clinton became the first adherent of the "rules-based order". According to Google Books Ngram Viewer, the term "rule-based order" has been widely used since 2014. Russia (for reunification with Crimea) and China (for the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea) were declared "violators" of the "rules-based order".[4]

Use of the concept

The concept is used by the Western powers as an argument for blaming their strategic competitors and, first of all, Russia.[5] As soon as any country acts contrary to the will of the "collective West", Western politicians instantly declare a "violation of the rules" (without explaining the content and origin of these "rules") and announce their "right to punish the violator."[6]

Concept features

B. Nefyodov notes the following features of the concept of "rules-based order":

  • the concept is extremely politicized;
  • the absence in modern science and international political practice of a unified idea of what the very notorious "rules" are, on which this "order", in the opinion of its supporters, should be based[5] (the latter fact was recognized even by the veteran of American diplomacy Henry Kissinger[7]). Supporters of this concept use this term without any explanation. The West diligently avoids deciphering its "rules";[7][6]
  • none of the supporters of the concept gives an answer to the question of what should be the mechanism for developing and approving these "rules", what should be the forms of ensuring their implementation, and most importantly, what is the difference between the "rules-based international order" and the world order based on the law;[8]
  • no answer is given to the question of who ultimately sets these rules and determines their content.[9]


The head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, compares the completely vague and uncodified "rules" of the Western world with the so-called "thieves' concepts" that were in force in Russia in the "dashing 1990s", a period of social instability, when crime has greatly increased. Also, "rules-based order" is the embodiment of "double standards".[6]


  1.  Мировой порядок, основанный на правилах («Rules-Based Order»)
  2.  Нефедов (Nefyodov), 2021, с. 6.
  3.  Нефёдов (Nefyodov), 2021, с. 7.
  4.  Скотт, 2021.
  5. ↑ 5,0 5,1 Нефёдов (Nefyodov), 2021, с. 8.
  6. ↑ 6,0 6,1 6,2 Лавров (Lavrov), 2021.
  7. ↑ 7,0 7,1 Нефёдов (Nefyodov), 2021, с. 14.
  8.  Нефёдов (Nefyodov), 2021, с. 16.
  9.  Нефёдов (Nefyodov), 2021, с. 17.


You can read this article in Russian.