Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Political Science

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 350 pages) : color illustrations, color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Rey Koslowski

Committee Members

Cheng Chen, David Rousseau


foreign policy, Georgia, nationalism, pragmatism, Russia, Ukraine, South Ossetia War, 2008, Ukraine Conflict, 2014-, Nationalism, Pragmatism

Subject Categories

International Relations | Peace and Conflict Studies | Slavic Languages and Societies


This dissertation examines the ideational background of Russian foreign policy, with a particular focus on ideas relevant to Russia’s conflicts with Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Two broad approaches to Russian foreign policy – nationalism and pragmatism – present distinct views on Russia’s international role. Nationalism incorporates strong anti-Western and neo-imperialistic ideas with emphasis on Russia’s unique international mission and advocates a confrontational stance. Pragmatism conceptualizes Russia as a great world power but proposes a concert-based foreign policy that avoids a direct military confrontation. Both schools of thought are prevalent in Russia’s foreign policy discourse, and their ideas have been adopted in official circles. This dissertation identifies specific nationalistic and pragmatistic ideas in Russian foreign policy discourse and traces their respective role in Russia’s military involvement in Georgia and Ukraine. Sources for this research include publications of nationalistic and pragmatic foreign policy think tanks and official communications from 2000 to 2014. The analysis of pragmatic and nationalistic policy suggestions reveals that Russia’s conflict with Georgia was mostly influenced by pragmatic considerations, but the war in Ukraine was primarily shaped by nationalistic ideas. Due to pragmatism, the Russo-Georgian war was of a restricted nature; Russian foreign policy toward Georgia was guided by a general concert-based approach. In contrast, Russia’s involvement in Ukraine was dominated by more confrontational nationalistic ideas, leading to an extended conflict. During 2000-2014, the pragmatic framework was displaced by increasingly nationalistic ideas, signifying a broad shift in Russian foreign policy from concert to confrontation. By identifying broad concepts and specific ideas important to Russian foreign policy, this dissertation increases our understanding of the complexity of Russian foreign policy. This dissertation contributes to the limited existing research on relations between Russian intellectual foundations and foreign policy and also adds new insights about the role of ideas, identity, and policy changes, thus contributing to the broader fields of international relations and comparative politics.