Rolling changes in Russian foreign policy: divergent reactions to upheavals in the post-Soviet space and national role conceptions
Despite the increased interest in the analysis of Russian foreign policy (RFP), current approaches leave much unexplained. Many existing studies use either macro-theoretical approaches or are very empirical. Furthermore, discussions about Russia’s international behaviour are often politicised and largely normative. In order to address these gaps the project uses the role theoretical approach which focuses on leaders’ perceptions and the interactions between internal and external factors. Empirically, it examines Russia’s reactions to the 2003-4 colour revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, the 2008 Five-Day War and the Euromaidan revolution. The thesis argues that divergent reactions to these crises result from a profound change in the leadership perceptions of Russia’s international duties. Consequently, a shift in dominant national role conceptions from Western partner to the defender of Russian compatriots resulted in more assertive foreign policy behaviour exemplified by the intervention in South Ossetia and the annexation of Crimea. The research argues that RFP remains largely pragmatic and that foreign policy-making processes in Russia are more complex and include more actors than commonly assumed. It also contributes to role theory, by linking the concepts of strategic use of roles and role change, and analysing contestation processes in a (semi-)authoritarian state. Consequently, it broadens the understanding of foreign policy formation in non-democracies.