Is Russia great again? : Overcoming the role-conflict from a Russian perspective

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Title: Is Russia great again? : Overcoming the role-conflict from a Russian perspective
Author: Welsch, Regina
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Yleinen valtio-oppi, politiikan tutkimus
Political Science, Politics
Allmän statslära, politologi
Abstract: In light of Russia’s recent more proactive foreign security policy, this paper attempts to explore how role theory can help explain embedded patterns of Russia’s policy performance in relation to the international system. Based on the role theory I construct two role-conceptions that I assume have been predominantly alter- and self-ascribed to and by Russia until the end of the Cold War – superpower and US-rival. I trace in how far these role-conceptions have changed from the perspective of Russia and NATO. For the purpose of defining reliable indicators and categories to identify and measure perception, this paper offers and indepth theoretical analysis of the concepts of superpower, great power and rival. Using several methodological approaches in the argumentative framework of role theory, such as historical reconstruction, interpretative research, case study- and discourse analysis as well as a mixture of qualitative and quantitative content analysis, I find that Russia struggled through a role-conflict in the long-term aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union: While Russian elites continued to perceive Russia as a superpower and US-rival, NATO’s role transformed and turned its focus away from Russia, which led to an ambivalent foreign policy performance vis-à-vis NATO in the case of Ballistic Missile Defense negotiations. However, I find that the gap between self- and alter-expectations has slowly narrowed and reached its narrowest stage in the course of the Crimea-annexation. Not only have Russian elites increasingly adapted their self-perception on the post-Soviet circumstances and developed a more coherent and self-confident narrative as a counteracting great power vis-à-vis NATO, they also partly succeeded in convincing NATO of the percieved roles. By qualitative and quantitative content analysis of NATO-Summit communiqués from 2005 to 2016 this paper shows how NATO’s Russia-perception changed radically after the Crimea-annexation in 2014. The analysis clearly indicates that NTO started to ascribe a more powerful and more conflictive role to Russia in 2014 and 2016. This led to a ‘rapprochement’ of self- and alter-perception, toward an eventual resolution of Russia’s role-conflict and thus, to a more coherent and self-confident foreign security policy on the part of Russia, in contradistinction to NATO.

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