How Are “Bad Guys” Possible? The Agency-Structure Gap in Russian Foreign Policy Analysis

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Hayk Smbatyan


In the light of the ongoing geopolitical tensions and the situation in Ukraine specifically, Russian foreign policy constitutes a puzzling area of social science research, particularly central to international relations (IR) scholarship. However, the academic discourse within the IR field often focuses too much on the rather visible layers of Russian politics, at times reducing Russian studies to solely “Putin studies.” Overlooking the structural factors that have made it possible for Vladimir Putin to come to power predominantly invites a channeled agency-led perspective into Russian foreign policy. This review essay sheds light on the gap between agency and structure within Russian foreign policy analysis. Building on a focused review of three recent scholarly contributions on Russian political leadership, foreign policy, and national identity, it suggests that Russia can barely be understood unless looked upon through the intertwined lenses of agency and structure.

Text in English


Russian Foreign Policy, Politics of Emotions, Agency and Structure, National Identity, Ontological Security

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