A strongman at home is a strongman abroad? Investigating operational codes of Aliaksandr Lukašenka and Donald Trump
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With the decline of democracy in the world and accompanying rise of political strongmen, the demand for studies which would uncover peculiarities of the illiberal ruling has increased. While more researches indeed started to investigate different types of regimes and autocratic leaders, the level of their sophistication yet remains low. This thesis aims to contribute— within the extent of available resources—to the emerging literature on strongman rule and considers the belief systems of two well-known strongmen: Aliaksandr Lukašenka and Donald Trump. This research adopts the operational code analysis and hence focuses on the leaders’ foreign policy decisions. It argues that while the incumbent presidents of Belarus and the United States might indeed be strongmen at home, they are not ones abroad. This study discovers that the considered leaders possess low strongmen tendencies when dealing with their major international counterparts—Russia and China, hypothetically for the same reason. Lukašenka aims to sustain friendly and cooperative relations with these two due to the dependence of his regime on the external financial assistance, while Trump is also interested in maintaining favourable economic ties between world’s major economies. Overall, however, Lukašenka is more consistent in his beliefs across time, counterparts and speech genres, supposedly as the authoritarian system he operates in allows to disregard any domestic constrains to his foreign policy. Trump, on the other hand, manifests higher beliefs fluctuation as probably aims to satisfy internal political demands without abandoning his genuine opinion. There is hope that the findings of this study will help developing strategies for the struggle against illiberalism which rapidly consolidates across the globe.
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