Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

David Goetze


David Goetze


Veronica Ward


Shawn Clybor


The conflicts in Chechnya and Georgia are for Russia the seminal policy events of the turbulent post-­‐Soviet era. Learning about Russian conflict policy thinking with respect to these cases should help to illuminate broader Russian foreign policy objectives and tendencies. Even though the Chechen Wars were by nature domestic conflicts, I believe that trends and patterns from that case, combined with insights from the Georgian conflict, can help identify strengths and weaknesses of major Russian foreign policy theories.

Though there are many such theories, I see that most fall into one of two broad categories. While there is some overlap, I believe that the major theories of Russian foreign policy ascribe policy decisions either to historical narratives and trends or current events and context. Within the framework of past events, I will consider two theories of Russian foreign policy: the historical continuity theory and the imposed insecurity theory. When looking at policy decisions stemming more from current happenings, I will also look at two important theories, the diversionary tension theory and the economic enabling theory. Information from my two cases can help us assess the general validity of each of the theories, or alternately, help us grasp the contingent applicability of the theories. No one theory may be able to adequately fit or explain all important events. What features of foreign policy events invoke one or the other distinctive patterns of foreign policy practice? I begin by considering these theories of Russian foreign policy, and then consider how well each theory fits each conflict. Then I explore whether conditions exist in the two cases that invoke distinctive foreign policy patterns.

One caveat: these theories often imply a unitary actor assumption for Russian foreign policy goals, strategy, and implementation. This assumption can dangerously simplify a theory if it is taken too far. Foreign policy decisions in Russia have traditionally fallen to the executive branch, but today, the division between the duties of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin is not always clear. There are other interested parties in play as well. Competing factions, opinions, and goals make it unwise to make such bold statements as “Russia wants” as if there is a monolithic, unified entity in charge of policy. Statements of “Russia’s” desires or goals in this paper should be understood under the unitary actor framework that these theories often include or imply, with all the attendant limitations. This approach serves a useful purpose in making each theory manageable for study and discussion within the scope of the paper.


This work made publicly available electronically on May 13, 2011.