Pragmatism or identity-driven foreign policy? - Russia in Estonian parliamentary foreign policy debates between 2004-2020



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Tartu Ülikool


The objective of this thesis is to analyse Estonian foreign policy discourse on Russia after the accession into the EU, in light of crises in bilateral and multilateral relations. My research questions are, first, how value-driven or pragmatic has the parliamentary discourse on the relations with Russia been, and second, what is the substance of Estonia’s normative foreign policy towards Russia. Additionally, I seek to determine the extent to which Europeanization has penetrated national interests and whether national interests are elevated to the EU level, or vice versa. In my thesis, I used the ontological security theory to explain why Estonia has sought conflictual relations with Russia and how such relations are maintained in the discourse. I used the qualitative content analysis to analyse foreign policy debates held annually in the parliament and developed a coding system based on the debates. In the final analysis, I merged the empirical results with ontological security theory to provide answers for the research questions. The main conclusions of the work are that both pragmatism and values are used to justify the lack of relations with Russia – pragmatism is more common in bilateral relations and values are more common to international crises. The main values that frame Estonia’s relations with Russia are derived from Russia’s breaches of international law that expose Estonia’s own physical insecurity. There also exists a high level of implicitness when it comes to the discourse on Russia and its motivations in bilateral and multilateral relations. Finally, the EU framework is mostly used to pursue national interests in relations with Russia and not for adapting Estonia’s policy to the EU’s policy.