Diverging Horizons? How Citizens and Young Elites Narrate Foreign Policy in Ukraine and the Baltic States

Alister Miskimmon, Ben O'Loughlin

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This article analyses the extent to which the EU’s strategic narrative of regionalism and an increasingly global gaze reflect the views of foreign policy actors and citizens in the Baltic states and Ukraine. Based on audience reception analysis in the four states, using the Q-sort method of participant narrative construction, and interviews with young elites in each country, our data shows that young Ukrainians narrate the future direction of their country with a strong focus on the self and Ukraine’s internal problems, paying little attention to international system dynamics beyond their borders. In contrast, young Estonians, Lithuanians and (to a lesser extent) Latvians offer narratives about the international system; their perspective is on a different horizon to their Ukrainian peers. Young people in the Baltic states look to Brussels more than to Ukraine in their foreign policy understandings. A latent solidarity born of shared historical experience between Ukraine and the Baltic states, if replicated in the wider population, may be in decline because of these diverging horizons. This has important implications for the region’s politics, culture and society, and for the EU. Estonians and Lithuanians narrate an uncertain international system but one in which liberal, cooperative action can improve affairs. They place emphasis on meso-level partnership-building as a form of both self- and collective interest. Interview data from young elites across the four states indicates those in the Baltic states are cautious about Ukraine’s European trajectory, seeing their own future aligned with existing EU and NATO member states. We conclude by reflecting on how EU public diplomacy efforts in the neighbourhood may involve the EU crafting variations on its strategic narrative to align with the different horizons against which citizens imagine their futures, and avenues for further research of citizens’ narratives about international relations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDemokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
Issue number4
Early online date6 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2021

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