The Man that Matters: Vladimir Putin’s Personality in Russian Foreign Policy

Alexeeva, Ekaterina [Browse]
Senior thesis
57 pages


Kotkin, Stephen [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
In this thesis work, I focus on sources of Russian foreign policy towards Ukraine. The focus is motivated by the urgency of current crisis. I outline the domestic and international sources of Russian foreign policy, observing that Russian national identity, as a domestic ideational construct is in the mutually influential relations with the Russian national interests. The core argument of my thesis is that Vladimir Putin’s personality is a factor that influences Russian policy towards Ukraine. I conclude by situating Putin’s personality in the context of domestic-foreign diad of sources of Russian foreign policy. The results of this work will contribute to the existing scholarship on the nature of Russian foreign policy, by appending the first-image perspective on international politics to the arguments on the effect of domestic politics, and anarchic system of international politics. Main assumption of my work is that Vladimir Putin is the actor with most power in foreign policy decision making in Russia. Data, analyzed within the leadership trait analysis, is comprised from interviews that Vladimir Putin gave to domestic and foreign media sources since he came to power in 2000. The main finding is that Putin’s leadership style can be described as directive and consultative, denoting that the Russian president relies on his own personal views in foreign policy conduct, but ensures that important other support, or at least do not actively oppose the decisions. The results can be integrated into the view that Russian national identity and national interests are mutually influential factors in foreign policy by claiming that Putin’s perception of national identity is informed by his personal perception of what the other (public and elite) perceive. This perception then inforrms Putin’s interpretation of national interests, which he uses to justify his policy choices. The limitations of current state of this research, is the limited scope of analysis of international, and domestic factors. A more comprehensive view of the sources of foreign policy is needed. Moreover, testing of effect of Putin’s personality on specific policy outcomes can improve the validity of the claim that individual characteristics of Vladimir Putin have influenced the conduct of Russian foreign policy.

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