Polar Partner or Poles Apart? How two US think tanks represent Russia

Leonhardt Van Efferink

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This study investigates representations of Russia’s territorial claim in the Arctic produced by a liberal (Brookings) and neoconservative US think tank (Heritage). The former promotes international cooperation, while the second considers the world as a source of potential threats to the US. How do their representations of Russia link their institutional context to their policy advice? Brookings portrays Russia as a “normal” Arctic country (i.e. non-exotic) and downplays the risk of Russian militarization of the region. Heritage however represents Russia as a threat owing to its perceived aggressiveness and greed, depicting the country as ‘non-Western’. Regarding representational practices, Brookings uses twice a Cold War analogy. Nevertheless, the analogy does not create impressions that the current government shares qualities with those of the USSR. Contrarily, Heritage uses many representational practices to depict Russia as a threat, including analogies (references to the Cold War and the totalitarian regime of Stalin), labels (“aggressive”) and metaphors (“Russian bear”). Its discourse further contains ‘geopolitical othering,’ which implies that Russia is a non-Western, semi-civilised and unfriendly country. Moreover, the authors employ the practice of narrative closure. For example, only Russia’s interest in the natural resources of the Arctic is mentioned, and in a disapproving way. Nonetheless, the other circumpolar countries would also like to benefit, if possible, from resource exploration in the Arctic. The use of all these representational practices tends to depict Russia as a threat to the US. Wrapping up, Russia´s Arctic policy seems to be informed by international law, a preference for diplomacy, the use of military force and strong language. Brookings stresses the first two foreign policy characteristics, while Heritage emphasises the last two characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Publication statusUnpublished - Dec 2010
EventPolitical Studies Association PG Conference 2010 - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Mar 20101 Apr 2010


ConferencePolitical Studies Association PG Conference 2010
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Arctic
  • Russia
  • think tanks
  • United States
  • critical discourse analysis

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