Ukrainian foreign policy in the Kuchma era: Domestic and international determinants

Date of Completion

January 1998


History, European|Political Science, General|Political Science, International Law and Relations




This dissertation addresses an issue in international relations theory, that of whether the main determinants of a state's foreign policy are domestic or international factors. Using the example of Ukraine from 1994 to 1997, evidence shows that international factors are more important. The most important factor is antagonistic relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine formed as the result of the separation of the latter from the former in the course of the breakup of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The dissertation challenges the assumption that Ukrainian foreign policy is driven by nationalism or a desire to join the European cultural, military, economic and political space. Instead, a sizable proportion of both the population and the elite desires a close relationship with Russia. Foreign policy, then, is driven by a rational assessment of the distribution of power among states in the Eurasian land mass, and a response to perceived threat to the sovereignty of the country and the legitimacy of its state-bureaucratic elite, mostly holdovers from the previous regime.^ The methodology is to examine in detail the attitudes of the Ukrainian public, elected officials, foreign policy analysts and the elite on existential questions facing the country and foreign policy preferences, using a levels of analysis approach and Ukrainian sources. The purpose is to illustrate how Ukrainians at various levels view the outside world. It is shown that at the mass level, through a study of public opinion, opinion is both amorphous, diverse, and heavily influenced by regional factors. The elite is more in agreement on independence but divided on foreign policy, but tending toward cooperation with Russia.^ Trade and energy dependence is often used as an argument that Ukraine will need a close alliance with Russia; a close examination of trade and energy relations reveals a more complex picture, and more maneuverability on the part of Ukraine than is commonly understood.^ Ukrainian foreign policy is found to be driven by (1) the desire for sovereignty and the legitimacy of the government on the part of the elite; (2) Russia's threat to the country's sovereignty. Once issues related to the breakup are settled, a close relationship is expected. ^