A state’s resources, strength, and policies help define the place it occupies in the world, but so do decisions that others in the international system make about it. These can include political decisions, such as inclusion into international organizations or the imposition of sanctions. States make other less obvious decisions, however, even before extending an invitation to join a club or considering sanctions. Such decisions concern how to treat another state, or which opinions to promote about it. Public opinion about other states is often filled with stereotypes and clichés that no democratic decision-maker can ignore. International relations theorists do not reflect much upon this sphere, subordinating image construction to “hard security” issues. If we apply tools of constructivist methodology to U.S.-Russia relations, however, we can evaluate the current situation in different terms and possibly find a way to improve upon it.
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 262
by Ivan Kurilla