Explaining Foreign Policy Change in Transitional States: A Case Study of Ukraine between Two Revolutions.
University of Kansas
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Over the span of a decade, Ukraine saw two revolutions that rocked its political and social life to the very core: the Orange revolution of 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity of 2014. In this work, I investigate the driving forces shaping foreign policymaking in Ukraine between these watershed events. I posit that it was precisely because such policies were shaped in an uncertain post-revolutionary transitional environment that we observe seemingly contradictory vacillation in Ukraine’s policy towards the EU and Russia. To understand how the process of foreign policy making works in a transitional state, I develop a new causal mechanism that combines insights from poliheuristic theory in foreign policy analysis with comparative politics’ scholarship on developing party systems. I argue that leaders in transitional states face a different kind and level of political uncertainty. Transitional uncertainty shortens leaders’ time horizons and prompts them not to seek re-elections, but rather pursue narrower personal and political benefits in the transitioning political system. In such context, transitional leaders rely on ‘party substitutes’ to provide them with a wealth of material, organizational and reputational resources (such as a safe exit, a personal remuneration, a party seat etc.). I show that party substitutes’ interests, such as oligarchic ones in Ukraine, are the key components in understanding how the Ukrainian leaders built their foreign relations with the EU and Russia in the post-revolutionary period. The changes in Ukrainian leadership during this transitional period led to the changes in their oligarchic connections. The new preferences of the oligarchs influenced the corresponding foreign policy changes that would take place. I process trace the empirical data in support of my theoretical argument in a multi-level analysis of documentary sources, historical records and chronicles, and primary data derived from interviews and personal observation, and provide an in-depth investigation of foreign policy making in Ukraine in this historically important period. In this approach, my work aims to be the first systematic and theory-driven English language study of Ukraine’s foreign policy at the turn of the 21st century.
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