Second year MPhil student researching foreign policy decision-making in Russia and the role of elites
I conducted fieldwork in Moscow, Russia, spending several weeks there in September 2019 thanks to the financial support of the REES program. I interviewed about a dozen experts, including think tank analysts, academics, and journalists, on the subject of my MPhil dissertation: foreign policy decision-making in Russia and the role of elites.
I prioritized interviewees who had written on the aforementioned subject, such as a contributor to a special double issue of Post-Soviet Affairs on elites and Russian foreign policy, but generally sought to meet with those knowledgeable about Russian foreign policy, especially under President Vladimir Putin.
The interviews, conducted at a preliminary stage of my research, were useful in highlighting what aspects of elite involvement in foreign policy decision-making those ‘on the ground’ felt were worth focusing on, and what cases (elites who lack a formal role in foreign policy or its making yet are known to be involved in it) they believed were worth studying. Taking into account local perspectives on the subject and what elements they deemed salient was important, I felt, and consistent with the spirit of area studies. My selection of cases is certain to reflect the responses of my interviewees.
Finally, my interviewees’ framing of the phenomenon under investigation informed its contextualization in my work, with their emphasis on the domestic context of foreign policy-making leading me to incorporate concepts concerning informal and patronal politics, not just international relations theory.