This article examines the emotion-based status-seeking logic in Russia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the West, presenting the example of Russia’s reactions to NATO’s military campaign against Serbia in 1999. It is argued that Russian assertiveness in combination with expressive rhetoric must be understood as a result of the ruling elite’s need to have Russia’s identity and self-defined social status as an equal great power in world politics respected by its Western interaction partners. Russia’s reactions to NATO’s intervention, which was not authorized by the UN Security Council, must be read as a strategy coping with the emotion anger about the perceived humiliation and provocation of status denial and ignorance by the West. We find various elements of such a coping strategy, among them the verbalization of the feeling of anger among Russian political circles and the media; uttering retaliation threats, but no ‘real’ aggressive, retaliatory action; minor and temporary activities aimed at restoring Russia’s image and status as an influential an equal power. On the surface, the Kosovo episode did not result in any visible break or rift in the RussianeWestern relationship. However, emotionally it has lead to a significant loss of trust in the respective partner on both sides.
The importance of status concerns on Russia’s foreign policy agenda has been increasingly observed. This preoccupation with status is particularly visible in Russia’s relations with the West. Although strong claims about status in Russian foreign policy are frequently made in public and private by researchers, journalists, politicians, diplomats and other commentators, such claims often lack any closer theoretical or empirical justification. The aim of this introductory article is, therefore, to outline the basic components that form the research agenda on status. Status, if properly examined, helps us understand not only Russian foreign policy, put also present-day international politics and its transformation in a broader sense. In a first part, we identify the theoretical voids concerning the study of international status. In a second part we outline the drivers and logic of status concerns, considering in particular identity theories, psychological approaches and existing research regarding emotions. The presented research agenda on status, derived from International Relations and related theories, provides a well-structured tool-box for investigating the link between status, identity and emotions in Russian foreign policy vis-à-vis the West. In a third part we present the key questions rose by the contributors to this Special Issue and summarize their main findings.