Jonas Gejl Pedersen

The Russian Quest for Ontological Security

Why did Russia see military intervention as a meaningful response to events unfolding in Kosovo (1999) and Ukraine (2014) despite major security risks and predictable negative consequences for Russia’s economy and international reputation? The dissertation applies ontological security to answer these questions by shedding light on the important—yet overlooked—mutually constitutive relation between the Russian quest for a secure sense of post-Soviet Self and its foreign policy. It argues that conventional material and ideational perspectives alone cannot explain Russia’s risky and costly interventions—stressing gains/threats to Russian military and economic security, international status and recognition. Based on a rich body of primary sources from contemporary central Russian newspapers, radio, television, official foreign policy documents and speeches, the dissertation demonstrates how military intervention in Kosovo and Ukraine emerged as meaningful Russian responses to heightened senses of ontological insecurity through inner dialogues among Russian custodians. Importantly, it shows how the post-Soviet Russian Self developed from being reconstructed along a vision of future greatness, because of the Western Other before intervening in Kosovo to despite of after Kosovo and, finally, in opposition to after Ukraine. Finally, it illustrates how the reconstructed Russian Self translated into an increasingly disruptive Russian foreign policy after the interventions. A special contribution is the two-dimensional understanding of foreign policy crisis as simultaneously holding the potential for breakdown of existing senses of Russian Self and breakthrough of a more ontological secure Russian Self. The dissertation will appeal to anyone interested in ontological security, interpretivism and the nexus between national identity and foreign policy, and to scholars and practitioners interested in Russian foreign policy.

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