"The subjective dimension of Russia’s partnership with the West."

Russia continues to be an important partner for the West: the country is an essential pillar of the European political and security architecture, a key international player and is also of growing importance as an economic partner. For the West, it is crucial to understand Russia’s interests and motivations as an actor in this relationship as well as Russian behavior as a respondent to demands, interests and actions from the West. Such an understanding is, however, often lacking, particularly because the micro-foundations of Russian foreign policy behavior are not always clear.

Together with its partners from the University of Frankfurt and Tampere University (Finland) IFSH conducted a workshop entitled „The subjective dimension of Russia’s partnership with the West. Filling theoretical and empirical voids“. The two-day workshop (15 and 16 September 2011) brought together 20 researchers from Russia, the EU and the U.S. and from different disciplines (political science, sociology,history, psychology) in order to discuss the micro-foundations of Russian foreign policy and its repercussions on the dynamic and quality on the Russian-Western partnership. Because what looks like contradictory, ambivalent, costly and sometimes even risky political behavior in the relations with the West, can in many instances be understood as a consequence of a subjective rationality. Such a subjective rationality can analytically be captured with psychologically inspired research approaches.

Since a coherent or single theoretical or analytical framework does not yet exist, it has been the aim of the workshop to identify the empirical and theoretical voids in key assumptions of the established approaches, to fill these voids by offering alternative concepts and to develop more tailored explanations, particularly with the help of psychological thinking. Issues discussed throughout the workshop included the role of emotions, social identity, status, respect claims and perceptions in Russian foreign policy, as well as the influence of collective memories and the function of “history politics”. In the final roundtable, such well-respected researchers like the Russia expert Richard Sakwa (UK), Finnish political advisor Hiski Haukkala, and the Political Psychologists Mark Urnov (Russia) assessed the importance of subjectivity for analyzing Russian Foreign policy. Finally, Deborah Welch Larson (U.S.) commented on the value of the papers and presentations for developing further a political psychology of international relations.