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Strategic Narratives of Russia’s War in Ukraine: A Comparative Study of the United States and the European Union

Narratives play an important role in shaping and expressing political identity, perspective, and ideology as well as ways in which international order is imaged and constructed. More specifically, in Political Communication and International Relations literature, it is widely believed that international actors’ strategic narratives serve not only to represent sequence of events and identities but are also used as important communicative tools by political actors to project their values and interests in order to manage expectations and also change the discursive environments in which they operate. Strategic narratives go beyond expressions of material interests, they shape an actor’s self-conception and set expectations about an actor’s role in the world and how it should be recognized. They serve to achieve political objectives and influence the behaviors of others towards particular outcomes. Understanding different strategic narratives about key global events provides valuable insights not only into how international actors perceive these events but also helps researchers make scientifically informed predictions about how foreign policy decisions are made.

Despite the obvious importance of strategic narratives on conflict and global security, there has been a remarkable lack of comparative studies examining different international actors’ strategic narratives on security-related issues. To mitigate this gap, this project seeks to draw on digital humanities methodological tools to compare and contrast the United States’ and the European Union’s strategic narratives on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Given the fact that the US and EU have different interests in Ukraine and that such divergence is visibly seen from the actions on the ground and statements by the political leadership, a comparison between the EU and the US in terms of their positions in the Ukraine crisis is particularly needed. Against these premises, this project addresses the following research questions: (1) What strategic narratives have the United States’ and the European Union’s sources of foreign policy disseminated about Russia’s war in Ukraine? (2) To what extent are these strategic narratives consistent and or competitive? (3) What are the key policy areas that the US and the EU prioritized when narrating Russia’s war in Ukraine? (4) Do strategic narratives affect foreign policy decisions in the US and the EU?

Principal Investigator

Xuechen Chen, Faculty, London, Politics and International Relations

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