ARENA Working Papers
WP 99/2



Institutional Dynamics in Collapsing Empires: Domestic Structural Change in the USSR, Post-Soviet Russia and Independent Ukraine*

Jeffrey T. Checkel**
ARENA, University of Oslo


This chapter explores the sources, dynamics and consequences of domestic structural change in the former Soviet Union. I consider such changes in well-established (USSR), successor (post-Soviet Russia) and new states (independent Ukraine), and do so in two different policy arenas: foreign/security-policy; and human-rights/citizenship. Triggers of change include traditional realist variables (shifting external power balances), as well as constructivist ones (international institutions as promoters of norms). Given the authoritarian legacy in the former USSR, individual agency, not surprisingly, plays a central role in bringing about domestic structural change; however, that same legacy has severely limited political leaders’ ability to carry through such change in new structural contexts. The central problem is weak state capacity. At the level of agents, the chapter demonstrates that strategic calculation by knowledgeable actors is but one possible engine of change; uncertainty and social learning are equally important. This suggests the methodological individualist understanding of agency advanced in the volume=s first chapter needs to be supplemented with insights drawn from social constructivist theorizing.


A collapsing empire might seem a most likely case for far-reaching domestic structural change. After all, in the former Soviet area, not one but two empires collapsed almost simultaneously: an outer one (Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe) and, more important for this chapter’s purposes, an inner one (the former USSR). Yet, 10 years after these epochal events, the case for extensive domestic structural change appears less compelling than many analysts originally argued. Change there has indeed been; yet, despite numerous and looming windows of opportunity, one is struck by the slow pace of it. [1]

This essay explains this paradoxical state of affairs, and does so in two parts. I begin with a brief discussion of agents’ role in promoting domestic structural change, highlighting two quite different views of it: the agent as strategic calculator; and as cognitive puzzler. Next, this multi-faceted agency/structure dynamic is illustrated with reference to three cases: foreign and security policy in the late Soviet period; foreign policy in post-Soviet Russia; and human rights in independent Ukraine.

Agency and Domestic Structural Change

Much of the literature, including this volume’s introductory chapter, ascribes -- correctly -- a central role to agency in the process of domestic structural change. These agents, often called “policy entrepreneurs,” exploit open “policy windows” to promote change. The dominant, albeit usually implicit, view of agency is one of knowledgeable, calculating humans: A window opens and the agent/entrepreneur reacts strategically, exploiting it to advance his/her given policy agenda. This is certainly part of the story, as my case studies demonstrate. [2]

Yet, the implicit ontology (methodological individualism) and theory of action (rational choice) on offer unduly circumscribe our understanding of agency. There are other instances where agents do not calculate and “power,” but instead “puzzle” (due to high cognitive uncertainty). In these cases, they do not so much react to an open policy window; rather, through a process of interaction with it, they learn new interests and preferences -- for example, when that window promotes normative understandings. Here, the ontology (mutual constitution or, better said, relational) and theory of action (social learning) are quite different. Of course, these comments point to the utility of a more constructivist understanding of agency’s role. [3]

My point is not to dismiss rationalist analyses, but to note their limitations. As the case studies below suggest, both rationalist and constructivist approaches are needed to understand fully the process of domestic structural change. Rational choice, or, more formally, rational choice institutionalism, is an essential tool for explaining one part of the change process: Existing institutional structures provide agents with incentives and signals for choosing a strategy of domestic structural change. This initial choice of strategy can have far-reaching consequences for the sustainability of such changes. On the other hand, constructivist and sociological approaches are needed to explain the content of agent preferences when they promote domestic structural change at its deepest -- normative -- level.

Foreign and Security Policy: The USSR & Post-Soviet Russia

The Soviet/post-Soviet transition of the early 1990s is interesting for my purposes as one has a seemingly dramatic change in the domestic structure in the midst of a prolonged effort at reform first begun in 1985-86 by Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Below, I highlight and document this structural change, its ambiguous legacy and the multiple -- calculating, puzzling -- roles played by agents in it. [4]

The USSR. In terms of the two institutional parameters employed in this volume (organization of decisionmaking authority, relation between state and society), the Soviet state was centralized and autonomous. While few scholars discussed Soviet political institutions in such terms, they did indeed allow for a considerable consolidation of power, and were not terribly permeable to broader societal influences. In addition, foreign policymaking was centralized in the "executive branch" -- primarily the apparatus of the Communist Party Central Committee and Politburo. [5]

This particular set of institutional parameters influenced the process of domestic structural change in important ways. Certain beliefs about international politics, for example, had become embedded in influential and insulated agencies. This was particularly true of the Ministry of Defense and the Central Committee's International Department. The Ministry, which had a very important role in the formation of national-security policy, saw international politics primarily as a zero-sum affair and emphasized a narrow definition of national security giving primacy to military instruments. It had, in other words, a pessimistic, Hobbesian vision of the world. [6]

The International Department, which oversaw key aspects of Soviet Third World policy, also viewed politics in starkly zero-sum terms and, in addition, placed extraordinary emphasis on the class-based nature of the international system. Two true believers in Soviet ideology -- Mikhail Suslov and Boris Ponomarev -- had overseen this unit since the early 1960s and deeply influenced its development. [7]

The point to emphasize is that key avenues for bringing change to Soviet politics were blocked by these dominant institutions. Soviet state interests, as articulated by top political leaders, seemed heavily influenced by this balance-of-power, Soviet Marxist vision of the international arena. If these institutions were so powerfully entrenched, then an obvious question needs to be answered: How could change ever come about? After all, both in the late 1960s and, especially, in the mid-1980s, elite preferences and foreign policy did change in important ways. The answer, as documented below, is that political leaders reached out and around these powerful organizations. This “end-around” strategy, as it might be called, was successful precisely because of the broader structure of Soviet politics -- most importantly, the centralized nature of foreign-policy decisionmaking. While this made it difficult for change to occur, its implementation -- once decided upon -- was easier because elites controlled key instruments for managing this process.

In sum, the structure of Soviet political institutions provided incentives for leaders to adopt a particular strategy when they sought large-scale policy change. At the same time, the existing domestic structure tells one nothing about the content of the interests that those agents held.

Triggers of Change. By the late spring of 1984, Mikhail Gorbachev was the clear heir apparent to a faltering Konstantin Chernenko, and was overseeing international affairs within the Central Committee Secretariat. Thus, anything he had to say from that time forward on foreign policy should be accorded special attention. [8]

As it turns out, through most of the year Gorbachev did little more than reiterate the need for an improvement in Soviet-American relations, as had Chernenko. He combined calls for an improvement in East-West relations with a reiteration of many of the assumptions that had informed Soviet policy for decades.

In two important speeches given in December, 1984, however, Gorbachev publicly broke with the prevailing Leninist orthodoxy on foreign policy. The first speech was to an ideology conference and was devoted mainly to domestic matters. The foreign-policy section of Gorbachev's report introduced an important nuance. In particular, he argued that "if life requires it" the CPSU should "in a timely way introduce one or another corrective to our views and practice." Indeed, earlier in the speech Gorbachev noted that a more thorough study of the processes of world development was needed and that the social sciences should undertake this task. [9]

The second speech, given a little over a week later, was before the British Parliament. The context is important here. This was Gorbachev's first trip to the West after it had become clear he was a leading candidate for the top position in the Soviet Union; it received extensive coverage in the Soviet media. The speech itself was a synthesis of old verities and new assumptions, with his description of the international system marking an important departure from the prevailing orthodoxy. Most notable was Gorbachev's claim that the world was "constantly changing [according] to its own laws." This statement neatly undercut the assertion -- long a staple of Soviet pronouncements -- that the main moving force in the international arena was the class contradiction between capitalism and socialism, and gave legitimacy to his later discussion of such non-class notions as global problems and the "interconnected" nature of the contemporary world. In the address, Gorbachev also used, for the first time, the phrase "new political thinking" -- although he was vague on what it meant. The clear strength of the speech was precisely its conceptual innovation; at the level of concrete policy prescriptions, it had little new to offer. [10]

In beginning to articulate an agenda for foreign policy reform, Gorbachev had started from what a physicist would call first principles -- the basic beliefs and assumptions underlying policy and behavior. What explains this shift in Gorbachev's beliefs and preferences? Politics is certainly not the answer. If anything, political factors should have made him more prone to accentuate the verities of Soviet ideology. Given the overwhelmingly conservative nature of the then-ruling elite, it would have been risky for a new leader to portray himself as an ideological heretic. The shift is also not explicable by reference to the power of particular domestic interests. These interests -- from the Ministry of Defense to the defense-industrial sector -- had a great deal vested in the prevailing conflictual, balance-of-power world view, for it gave them priority access to increasingly scarce resources.

Perhaps, finally, the shift was in response to demands made by a broader cross-section of societal actors; after all, such demands are often portrayed as a central trigger of domestic structural change -- for example, in chapter 1 of this volume. Yet for this dynamic to work, a pluralist political context is essential; no such context existed in the USSR of the mid-1980s.

Rather, this shift was a result of cognitive change, with Gorbachev modifying his foreign policy preferences as he acquired new knowledge. My interest, however, is less in analyzing the cognitive mechanisms underlying such learning, than in exploring the political processes through which it occurred. This process, we know, started in late 1983, when Gorbachev began consulting with individuals and institutes on foreign-policy issues. [11]

The learning process, however, cannot be understood in isolation from the pressures and circumstances that defined the international context of Soviet foreign policy in the early 1980s. These realities -- triggers -- were daunting, and included: a foreign adventure (the invasion of Afghanistan) that had gone badly wrong and brought the Soviets an extraordinary amount of international condemnation; destabilization in Poland that created the greatest threat to Soviet interests in Eastern Europe since the 1968 Prague Spring; and a new Republican administration in the US that backed its confrontational policy toward the USSR with programs such as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

In addition to this impressive array of problems, the last months of 1983 saw a noticeable worsening of the USSR's international position. In particular, the destruction of a Korean commercial airliner by Soviet fighter jets and the deployment of new American nuclear weapons in Europe led the Soviet leadership to sharpen its attacks on the US, while concern mounted in Moscow that international tension had reached a dangerous level. On the key issue of nuclear weapons, Soviet efforts to mobilize West European publics against the new deployments had failed miserably. The Soviets had left themselves little choice except to break off all arms-control talks -- which they did in late November, 1983. The pattern of elite commentary and Soviet behavior suggests a policy immobilized. [12]

In sum, by 1984 Soviet foreign policy had reached a low point perhaps of the entire post-WWII period, and at least one top elite -- Gorbachev -- had indicated an openness to new sorts of solutions to address these problems. An extraordinary array of international pressures, many of the sort stressed by realist theories, had combined to create uncertainty and flux in the foreign policy beliefs and preferences of Gorbachev. The cognitive search this stimulated and the learning that followed are key parts of the story of the Cold War endgame; however, they need not concern us here. Suffice it to say that, through processes of arguing and persuasion, Gorbachev acquired a qualitatively new -- in the Soviet context -- set of foreign policy beliefs and preferences. [13]

What does concern me are the strategies that Gorbachev and his allies employed to act upon these newly acquired beliefs. As argued above, the institutional structure of the Soviet state constrained these leaders in particular ways: Any large-scale policy change required an end-around strategy to circumvent extant and strong domestic actors with a stake in old policies. Not surprisingly, then, Gorbachev and his allies, in promoting their foreign-policy reforms, utilized a number of tried and true mechanisms of Soviet politics. These included centrally guided press campaigns to promote the new policy in its formative years (1986-87), a very clear effort to mobilize the Soviet academic community in support of it, and the use of appointment powers to place supporters of the new approach in key Party/State positions (Dobrynin as International Department head, Shevardnadze as Foreign Minister, Yakovlev and Primakov as key foreign policy advisors -- to name just a few). [14]

This strategy of “reform from above” was perfectly logical given the domestic structural context in which Soviet leaders were operating. Indeed, during the early Gorbachev years, it worked. The foreign-policy reforms had a far-reaching impact on Soviet international behavior, and did much to insure that the Cold War came to an unexpected and peaceful end.

Yet, by 1990-91, and especially in the post-Soviet period, such a strategy became increasingly problematic as the institutional logic behind it changed. In the centralized Soviet state with numerous resources and controls at their disposal, Gorbachev and his allies had few incentives to build state capacity or to institutionalize this new approach to foreign affairs. Yet these measures are necessary if policy change is to endure and remain influential after its initial sponsors leave office.

More specifically, in the near term, the emphasis should be on building capacity -- by creating new organizations and agencies or reforming existing ones. While the latter is difficult, it is possible and often occurs through a combination of enlightened leadership, changes in hiring and promotion practices, and the inculcation of a new organizational ethos or ideology. Over the longer term, the goal must be institutionalization, which denotes a process whereby earlier changes influence the very terms of political debate and the normative/legal context of policymaking. [15]

In Gorbachev's USSR, the Foreign Ministry under Shevardnadze was the most likely target for a near-term strategy of capacity building and, later, of institutionalization. Yet, there is little evidence that Gorbachev or Shevardnadze attempted to translate the latter's personal authority as an advocate of radical foreign-policy reform into an enduring institutional ethos. Shevardnadze did not implement the personnel or structural reforms at the Ministry that would have made it a forceful advocate of the new policy; this lack of a bureaucratic home meant it fared increasingly poorly as time progressed. [16]

Not surprisingly, then, once the centralized institutions of the Soviet state and the personal advocates of radical change in foreign policy were both swept aside in December, 1991, the new thinking would become only one of several competing foreign policy doctrines for the new Russia.

Post-Soviet Russia. As the 1990s progressed, the liberal foreign policy of the Gorbachev era came under sustained and withering attack within Russia. In explaining this shift, I highlight how institutional change fundamentally altered the role of agency, as well as the dynamics of policymaking, in the new Russia. My main contention is that a qualitatively new foreign policy failed to take hold and decisively shape elite preferences and state interests primarily because of fundamental changes in the structure of politics in post-Soviet Russia. Put bluntly, these changes, along with the weakly institutionalized basis of Gorbachev-era reforms and inattention to capacity building, combined to stack the deck against a continuing liberal foreign policy in Russia.

Imperial Collapse and Its Consequences. The years after the USSR's demise saw significant evolution in Russian political institutions -- in particular, they became less autonomous and centralized. In turn, these new institutional parameters led to three important changes for agency’s role in the process of domestic structural change. First, in this more decentralized environment, it became easier for foreign-policy reform proposals advanced by particular agents (bureaucrats or social groups, say) to reach state decisionmakers; however, their eventual implementation was less likely. Second, policy entrepreneurs found their comparative advantage diminishing relative to their position in a more centralized state. Finally, politics mattered more in the making of foreign policy as top elites became less insulated from various societal pressures and other parts of the state apparatus.

With this brief overview in hand, I turn to the details of the Russian case, beginning with the uncertainty felt by decisionmakers and the policy windows this created for entrepreneurs. I next consider institutional change -- its effects on foreign policymaking and the role of agency, as well as its interaction with Soviet-era “non-decisions” to build state capacity in the foreign-policy issue area.

Triggers of Change. In the wake of the USSR's collapse, the Russian Federation found itself in a strikingly new international environment. There is abundant evidence that decisionmakers were acutely aware of this fact and felt themselves to be in quite new and uncertain surroundings. Thus, a critical condition -- cognitive uncertainty -- was in place for Russian decisionmakers to consider new policy proposals as they redefined preferences and state interests.

Indeed, uncertainty and crisis were prominent themes in speeches, personal conversations and newspaper articles of the early post-Soviet years. Policymakers such as President Yeltsin and former Foreign Minister Kozyrev talked of a fundamentally new international environment facing Russia. It was an international context defined by the lack of a superpower enemy, a militarily strong and independent Ukraine, and Russian ethnic minority populations in many of the countries formerly a part of the USSR. [17]

The sense of uncertainty was manifested in other ways as well. The Foreign Ministry spent much of 1992-93 drafting a concept for Russian foreign policy that was intended to give general guidelines for addressing this new and turbulent international environment. Moreover, early in 1992, top scholars at the main international affairs think tank (IMEMO - Institute of the World Economy and International Relations) even thought it necessary to hold a press conference at which they discussed the contemporary international challenges facing post-Soviet Russia. Finally, throughout 1992-93, government officials often expressed bewilderment at how to analyze and get information on a significant new foreign-policy problem: independent Ukraine. Indeed, when one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official was asked how Russia obtained good intelligence on Ukraine, he shrugged and declared "We, too, have CNN." [18]

One clear result of all this uncertainty was to open large policy windows. However, the manner in which they might be exploited would depend crucially on the continuing process of institutional change within the country.

Institutional Change. The post-Soviet period witnessed two significant changes in Russian political institutions. First, access to foreign policy decisionmakers increased as the gap between state and society narrowed. Indeed, a complaint one heard in the Moscow policy community was that too many people and lobbies had access to decisionmakers such as Yeltsin and foreign ministers Kozyrev (1991-96) and Primakov (1996-98), as well as to their respective staffs. Personal ties, then, were still key; however, there were many more of them.

This state of affairs angered some of those privileged by their access under the Soviet system. Georgiy Arbatov, one of those with direct ties to top decisionmakers under Brezhnev as well as Gorbachev, complained of the confusion resulting from this enhanced access. However, younger researchers at Moscow research institutes -- who were not privileged under the old system -- marvelled at the access they had to policymakers. Of course, access does not automatically translate into influence. While the former has increased, the direct influence of individual academics on policy has decreased as their proposals compete with many others in a more decentralized environment. [19]

Second, the foreign policy process became less centralized. This was seen most dramatically in the significant role the Supreme Soviet created for itself during 1992-93. It regularly demanded that Kozyrev report to it on various issues, sent fact-finding missions to Serbia among other places, and attempted to subject the defense and foreign ministers to parliamentary confirmation. Of course, this assertiveness by the Supreme Soviet on questions of foreign policy was just one manifestation of a much larger debate over the division of powers between the executive and legislative branches. [20]

This new institutional context had profound implications for the role played by entrepreneurs. Consider the behavior of former Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev. In 1991-93, he was a man with a "solution looking for a problem" -- that is, an entrepreneur. With a policy window created by the break up of the USSR, Kozyrev was motivated to advance a set of neo-liberal ideas he had long held. In particular, he argued that post-Soviet Russia could best protect its state interests by closely aligning itself with the institutions and policies of the industrialized democracies. Throughout the first half of 1992, he aggressively promoted these beliefs and clearly influenced Yeltsin's thinking and preferences. [21]

Beginning in the summer of 1992, however, other entrepreneurs and organizations began a quite open competition with Kozyrev over defining state interests. Their policy window was created by a new feature of Russia's international political environment: the former Soviet republics and Russia's increasingly troubled relations with them. Pointing to this threatening environment, they argued for a definition of state interests that paid much greater attention to traditional geopolitics.

Both Yeltsin's later (post-1992) commentary as well as the official statement of Russian national interests -- the revised Foreign Policy Concept released in early 1993 -- reflected the influence of ideas from these various sources. Thus, in post-Soviet Russia the difficulty faced by promoters of policy change is not getting access to the top, as it was in the USSR; rather, it is to insure that their proposals, once they reach elites, have some lasting influence on policy. [22]

These broader institutional changes also made the coordination of foreign policymaking much more difficult. Yeltsin and Kozyrev bemoaned this fact, and the Russian press carried a number of articles on the topic. Russian policymaking, it would appear, was becoming more like that found in America -- where there are multiple access points to the process and power is dispersed. [23]

Such a comparison may have been valid as of late 1992, but events since then paint a somewhat different picture. Indeed, a trend toward partial recentralization was evident throughout 1993-94. In particular, Yeltsin sought more direct, personal control over foreign policy by vesting the newly created Russian Security Council with the coordinating role previously accorded the Foreign Ministry. Events in the fall of 1993 and early 1994 furthered this move toward recentralization. The violent dissolution of the Supreme Soviet, its replacement by a considerably weakened legislature, and the promulgation and adoption of a new, executive-centered constitution all pointed to a clear desire for a more centralized policy process. [24]

The early post-Soviet years thus reveal a contradictory picture of Russian institutional development. The pattern of decentralization-recentralization described above suggests the stickiness of historically constructed institutions. However, if the Soviet era is chosen as the unit of comparison, then it is clear that the Russian state is a considerably less powerful set of institutions and practices than its authoritarian predecessor. Its coercive abilities have declined dramatically, it is less centralized, and policymaking elites are vastly more susceptible to pressure from a broad range of societal forces (powerful energy and agricultural lobbies, say) and other parts of the state apparatus. While such trends are more evident in the domestic socio-economic realm, the analysis here suggests similar ones are at work in the foreign policy sphere. [25]

A Policy Adrift. These institutional changes have had two additional effects on agency’s role in the process of domestic structural change in contemporary Russia. First, the reality of semi-pluralist politics has short-circuited the learning dynamics seen under Gorbachev. There is virtually no evidence that key state decisionmakers have puzzled and learned as policy windows opened; instead, they have reacted to such openings by pursuing given preferences (Kozyrev) or simply by doing nothing (Yeltsin, on many occasions). These windows, in other words, were simply a constraint -- consistent with their portrayal in the policy-entrepreneur literature that implicitly assumes a functioning pluralist polity to be at work.

There is in fact an extensive theoretical/experimental body of research that gives analytic backing to this empirical finding. Work in learning theory suggests that as the friction of politics and the circle of actors grow, the likelihood of individual-level learning declines. From the standpoint of democratic theory, the somewhat paradoxical result is that higher degrees of centralization and autonomy -- often found in more authoritarian polities -- enhance the possibilities of learning. [26]

Second, political agents, in comparison to Soviet times, need to adopt a broader set of strategies to implement and carry out domestic structural change. I purposely use the phrase “need to adopt” instead of “have adopted,” because the latter has not happened. Both the legacy of earlier Soviet attempts at domestic structural change and the inability of key political agents to shed past habits have contributed to this result. On the former, I have already noted that late-Soviet era leaders (Gorbachev, Shevardnadze) had few incentives to increase state capacity in foreign/security-policy -- given the institutional context in which they operated.

This “bad hand” dealt to Russian foreign policymakers has only been worsened by their own seeming ineptitude. In the fluid and less insulated institutional environment of post-Soviet Russia, elites and their policy preferences are susceptible to greater political pressures. Responding to and managing such pressures requires effective leadership -- a skill notably lacking in the Yeltsin government. In turn, political leadership in the foreign policy sphere requires: bureaucratic skills to engage in the give and take necessary in a more decentralized environment; a commitment to building state capacity so the government has the instruments needed to implement policy; and the articulation of a coherent foreign policy vision by top elites to mobilize political support. On all three accounts, Yeltsin and his allies have failed.

Foreign Minister Kozyrev clearly exemplifies the bureaucratic problem. In Russia's decentralized decisionmaking arena, bureaucratic leadership means the ability to engage in political give and take with other influential competitors (the legislature or Ministry of Defense). On this point, Kozyrev's record during the early post-Soviet years was nothing short of abysmal. Interviewees at the Foreign Ministry praise his vision while simultaneously criticizing his lack of political acuity. He is not a political animal by nature and all too often let his emotions get the better of him. In a speech given at the Foreign Ministry in late 1992, Yeltsin hinted at this problem -- strongly urging Kozyrev to improve relations with various parts of the government and keep his emotions in check. [27]

The second element of political leadership -- a commitment to building state capacity in foreign policy -- has also been lacking. As noted earlier, capacity refers to the administrative and coercive abilities of the state apparatus to implement official goals. Such abilities are increased by the existence of career officials who are relatively insulated from ties to dominant socio-economic interests; a promotion and tenure system based on some sort of merit review; and a large and coherent bureaucratic machine.

Given the logic of the changed institutional structure in which they were operating, one would expect the Yeltsin leadership to have adopted new strategies -- such as an emphasis on building capacity. After all, this would be the rational response as it would help them promote policy in this newly politicized setting. Now, clearly, the development of state capacity is a long-term process, and one cannot fault the Yeltsin government for failing to create it in the relatively brief time since the USSR's collapse. However, the Yeltsin team can be criticized for not articulating any coherent plan in this area. Observing the actions of the government, one can only conclude there is no long-term plan; rather, there have been a series of ad hoc measures. During 1992, the emphasis was on building bureaucratic infrastructure around a reinvigorated and professionalized Foreign Ministry. [28]

Since late 1992, however, a different plan seems to have been at work. Yeltsin and his close advisors decided that the best strategy for building state capacity was to recentralize foreign policy decisionmaking and strengthen the bureaucratic structures associated with the office of the president. Hence, one had the creation of the Security Council and a significant increase in the size of that part of the presidential apparatus devoted to foreign affairs. [29]

This lack of direction has clearly hampered the ability of the Russian government to build a cadre of professional foreign policy expertise -- a critically important goal given the highly politicized apparatus bequeathed to it by the USSR. Moreover, this confusion alienated parts of the Moscow foreign policy establishment who should -- given their views -- be allies of the Yeltsin team. [30]

The lack of political leadership along these first two dimensions was overshadowed and perhaps caused by the inability of the Yeltsin government to articulate a coherent foreign policy vision for Russia in the post-Soviet, post-Cold War world. Here, the blame must be laid directly at Yeltsin's doorstep. There are both empirical and theoretical reasons for arguing that his role is central. Empirically, there is the Tsarist-Soviet context. Tsars and, more recently, CPSU general secretaries have played a central role in foreign policymaking. Their preferences and beliefs have mattered -- a point dramatically demonstrated during the Gorbachev years.

A second reason for according a central role in foreign policy to somebody in Yeltsin's position is more theoretically grounded. In Russia today, there is a missing link in its evolving set of institutions -- something comparativists call intermediate associations. These are the political parties and interest groups that link government and society. When such links are weakly developed, elite decisionmakers -- their beliefs and preferences -- can play an enhanced role in shaping change. Some might dispute my assertion, arguing that Russia has a growing number of political parties. This is true; however, one must not mistake form for substance. With very few exceptions, these parties are in reality loose groupings, with little discipline and poorly articulated foreign policy platforms. [31]

Thus, Yeltsin and his foreign policy beliefs should play an important role in policymaking. Does he have a vision? Does he know what sort of international role Russia should play in the post-Soviet world? All the evidence indicates the answer is "no." Whether one is interviewing policymakers and specialists in Moscow or reviewing Yeltsin's own commentary, the conclusion is inescapable: He is uncertain. His foreign policy vision is defined primarily by negatives: Yeltsin does not want a return to Soviet era diplomacy, nor will he countenance the forceful, militarized foreign policy of the radical nationalists. Beyond this, however, things are very unclear. [32]

This lack of vision had two important political ramifications in the early post-Soviet years. For one, it made it difficult for the government to mobilize support for the moderate-centrist foreign policy it seemingly wanted. Equally important, Yeltsin's lack of conviction made him more susceptible to the political pressures that are a central feature of politics in contemporary Russia. [33] The absence of vision, in combination with continuing inattention to capacity building, led, through the mid-1990s, to a largely reactive and often incoherent Russian foreign policy.

To sum up, domestic structural change in post-Soviet Russia has effected both the manner in which top political agents form preferences and the strategies they employ to act upon them, with the end result being that a qualitatively new foreign-policy course failed to take hold. Leadership failures also played a role, but their influence was mediated by this broader structural context. These institutional changes, along with the poorly developed foreign-policy infrastructure (capacity) bequeathed to Russia by the USSR, combined to work against a continuing liberal foreign policy. The strategic partnership with the West envisioned by Yeltsin and many other Russians in the early 1990s has given way to a post-Cold War "cold peace" in more recent years.

Citizenship and Minorities: Independent Ukraine

My Ukrainian study differs in two ways from the Soviet/Russian cases. First, Ukraine was and is a genuinely new state, whereas Russia was in many crucial -- institutional -- respects simply the successor state to the USSR. Second, the triggers of change include a very active component: an international organization (IO) seeking to promote certain policies in Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian case shares one crucial similarity with the others: an inattention to the development of state capacity, which flows all too logically from the institutional context in which decisionmakers were operating.

I devote greater space to the Ukrainian study, both because its politics and institutional dynamics have received less attention in scholarly analyses and because it has the theoretically interesting IO - domestic politics connection. As before, I begin by highlighting the triggers of change. Next, I consider institutional dynamics within Ukraine, examining how these have structured and partly undermined the process of change and how they have effected agency’s role.

Triggers of Change I - Emerging European Norms of Citizenship/Membership. Questions of citizenship and membership have become central to the construction of identity in post-Soviet successor states. Laws on citizenship and national minorities create fundamental categories and distinctions. Is the membership principle jus sanguinis (citizenship passed along blood lines) or jus soli (citizenship accorded to anyone born on state territory)? How are national minorities treated? Are they urged to assimilate or is their separateness recognized? All these issues are matters of public debate in a wide range of former Soviet and East European countries. [34]

To explore these questions in Ukraine, both theory and contemporary reality led me to an initial focus on the role of European institutions. Theoretically, post-Cold War Europe, with its institutionally thick environment, is a likely setting for international institutions, and the norms they promote, to play key causal roles at the national level. Empirically, the last decade has seen a significant increase in European institutional, non-governmental organization (NGO) and scholarly interest in citizenship and minority rights. These discussions have advanced to the point where specific propositions -- for example, on the legitimacy of specific rights for national minorities, or on the desirability of so-called dual citizenship -- have gained wide backing. [35]

Proponents of such arguments have linked them to the norms of the European human rights regime centered on the Council of Europe (CE), a Strasbourg-based international organization. Far from being a passive player in this process, the Council has actively influenced it, seeking to create shared understandings of citizenship and the rights of minorities in East European and former Soviet countries. Indeed, the European rights framework and the Council are considered to be one of the clearest examples of an effective international regime. [36]

In the post-Soviet era, the Council has devoted increasing attention to a particular subset of human rights: minority rights and citizenship. In December, 1994, it adopted a Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; in November 1997, the Council approved a European Convention on Nationality that addresses issues of citizenship and immigrant naturalization. [37]

The treaty on national minorities promotes norms on the legitimacy of minority rights and identities; until now, such a consensus had never existed at the European level. Council officials see the Framework Convention's most important function precisely as a tool for exerting normative pressure. As one put it, the "important thing is that countries accepting it, promise to implement its principles -- and know the spotlight will be turned on them if they fail to do so." [38]

The European Convention on Nationality revises norms on citizenship that were embodied in a 1963 Council-sponsored treaty. On the question of multiple nationality (often referred to as dual citizenship), this earlier treaty had taken an explicitly negative view: Dual citizenship was something to be prevented. It thus privileged state interests; from the vantage point of the state, dual citizenship was bad news, leading to split loyalties and complicating military service obligations. [39]

Seeking to exploit a growing awareness among scholars, NGOs and European governments that multiple nationality is often necessary and desirable, the new convention takes a neutral view on dual citizenship. In reality, however, this neutrality, by removing the earlier explicit negative sanction, is designed to pressure states to be much more open to it. [40]

While it is too early to speak of new and consensual European norms favoring, say, political autonomy for national minorities or full-fledged dual nationality, the mid-1990s have witnessed an accelerating period of normative change. Older, restrictive (ethnic) European understandings of national membership are now competing with norms promoting more inclusive conceptions (civic) -- and, it is important to add, these norms are largely targeted at transition states such as Ukraine. [41]

Triggers of Change II - A New Country in Search of a National Identity. A central legacy of the Soviet period is Ukraine’s lack of a developed sense of national identity. More accurately, one should speak of a combined Soviet and Tsarist Russian legacy: It has been over 300 years since Ukraine had anything approaching an independent existence. Given these facts, it is not surprising that one finds elites -- governmental, as well as non-governmental -- genuinely puzzling over what it means to be Ukrainian. It is easy for them to define what Ukrainian identity is not: It is not Russian or, even less, Soviet.

Moreover, this historical legacy, along with the simple fact that ethnic Russians comprise nearly a quarter of the population, have made it difficult to define Ukrainian identity in narrow or ethnic terms. One result has been a greater willingness by elites and other actors (the Rukh independence movement, for example) to recognize the complexity and multi-ethnic roots of Ukrainian nationhood, derived from both the Tsarist and Soviet experiences. [42]

Without a doubt, this complex historical legacy helped generate an open policy window in independent Ukraine. Yet, the story recounted below suggests less that policymakers “exploit[ed] the opening ... to achieve their preferences”; instead, deep cognitive uncertainty along with a facilitating institutional context allowed them to discover what their preferences were in the first place. [43]

Institutional Dynamics. To describe developments in Ukraine over the past 8 years as a process of institutional change would be misleading; it is better to talk of the institutional inheritance bequeathed to the country by the USSR. During the Soviet period, several union republics, including Ukraine, were more centralized in terms of decisionmaking authority and more autonomous from societal actors than even the main state structures in Moscow.

Not surprisingly, this legacy has had lasting implications for institutional developments in independent Ukraine. Next to the increasing pluralism of contemporary Russian politics, Ukraine appears authoritarian. More specifically, in many policy areas, decisionmaking remains highly centralized, with a large gap separating state and society. In institutional terms, Ukraine more resembles Gorbachev’s USSR than a country on the road to pluralist democracy. At the agency/state-decisionmaker level, this means a higher likelihood that agents may puzzle and learn, while paying little attention to the subsequent development of state capacity.

In what follows, I consider agency at both the state and societal level. This might seem odd: I have just described the large gap that separates state and society in contemporary Ukraine. Yet, for theoretical reasons, the dual focus makes sense. Studies of the spread of human-rights norms have been nearly unanimous in asserting that such diffusion occurs through what might be called a “bottom-up”process, whereby norms promoted by IOs or international NGOs mobilize domestic societal actors (NGOs, trade unions, professional organizations), who then pressure recalcitrant state elites to change policy. I argue that such a picture is both incomplete and misleading. [44]

Indeed, in Ukraine -- contrary to the many studies just cited -- one is immediately struck by the small role played by societal actors; norms promoted by the Council of Europe have mattered most at the elite/state level. Due primarily to the efforts of a small number of individuals and units within the state, Ukrainian discourse and law on citizenship and rights issues has changed in ways consistent with emerging CE norms on national membership. [45]

In contrast to many other post-Soviet states, Ukraine has moved to create a civic definition of citizenship. This inclusive conception of national identity has helped policymakers craft one of the more liberal minority-rights regimes in the former Soviet area. A decree and a law on national minorities that permit a high degree of cultural autonomy have been promulgated. In addition, civic conceptions of citizenship and minority rights are explicitly embraced in the new constitution adopted in June 1996. [46]

Three factors were key in promoting this process of domestic structural change at its deepest -- normative -- level. First, there was the establishment in June, 1993, of an Interdepartmental Commission for Questions of Ukraine's Admission to the Council of Europe. It was based at the Foreign Ministry and headed by then First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk. The Commission came to play a major role on citizenship and rights issues; within it, Tarasyuk was a progressive force. Those who dealt with Tarasyuk described a creative thinker who encouraged subordinates to seek out new ideas and approaches. His own unclear preferences led him to use the Commission as a vehicle for soliciting a wide range of advice on rights issues within Ukraine as well as from the international community. [47]

Second, the head of the Citizenship Division within the Presidential Administration, turned out, largely by chance, to be a liberal-minded former academic: Petro Chaliy. Chaliy and those he gathered around him were very open to regional norms and experience. Their learning mattered because in the top-heavy Ukrainian state, the presidential administration -- even more so than post-Soviet Russia -- plays a dominant role in policymaking. [48]

According to Ukrainian participants in the work of both Tarasyuk’s Commission and Chaliy’s Division, Council of Europe expertise and the norms it promotes were central to shaping nationality laws and policies. Several components of the minorities law, for example, are modelled on the Council's European Convention on Human Rights. Process tracing of this sort allows me to move beyond correlations and establish a causal role for Council norms. More important, it reveals the mechanism empowering norms in the Ukrainian domestic arena: learning. Indeed, Tarasyuk and Chaliy are examples of moral entrepreneurs -- individuals open to learning from new norms and willing to promote them. [49]

Third, institutional structure played a central, causal role in promoting the success of this domestic-structural/normative change, and did so in two ways. For one, the autonomous nature of Ukrainian state institutions, which lessoned the amount of political friction to which administrative elites were exposed, gave agents like Tarasyuk and Chaliy the possibility of learning new preferences on citizenship and minority rights. However, a crucial question -- from both an empirical and theoretical perspective -- is why this possibility turned into a reality. What motivated these agents to learn? One factor, readily admitted in interviews was a simple combination of Western coercion and Ukrainian strategic interest. Given its large and unpredictable neighbour to the east (Russia), Ukraine had a clear interest in joining “Euro-Atlantic structures,” as Ukrainian policymakers never tire of declaring. To join required membership in Western Europe’s key institutions -- most notably, for my purposes, the Council of Europe. Yet, this membership was withheld for several years (1991-93), in a direct attempt to coerce Ukraine into adopting and implementing CE principles.

At the same time, this strategic adaptation argument fails to capture important parts of the story. Much of the elite learning occurred in 1993 and early 1994; it thus predates Kuchma's election as president in July, 1994, when Ukraine made a strategic decision to seek closer ties with various Western institutions. Relatedly, the years 1993-94 saw an extensive debate in Ukraine over the "neutrality option" -- seeking a position independent of both West Europe and Russia. At that point, there was thus no consensus on a balancing strategy against Russia, which clearly would have made it in Ukraine's self interest to instrumentally adopt Council norms. Thus, it is empirically incorrect to assert that rationalist arguments alone are adequate for explaining the outcome. [50]

Instead, an additional factor driving the learning process was cognitive uncertainty, with underlying preferences in flux. Consider Dr. Chaliy in the Presidential Administration. Before taking this position, he was a researcher at the Institute of State and Law of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; his scholarly work focused on constitutional law and local self-governance. Thus, like many other new elites in post-communist states, Chaliy found himself in an unfamiliar position, dealing with issues of first principle: the fundamental normative guidelines for Ukraine’s conception of citizenship and membership. This context helps one appreciate why a strictly rationalist account is incomplete; in fact, testimony from those who observed Chaliy in various meetings/workshops makes clear that persuasion and argumentation, based on prescriptions embodied in regional norms, promoted learning. [51]

A comparison with post-Soviet Russia is instructive. Here, many “new” elites are holdovers from the Soviet era, a fact explained by the massive size of the Soviet/Russian apparatus. In contrast, the USSR bequeathed Ukraine a vastly smaller personnel inheritance, as most key decisions during the Soviet period were taken in Moscow. Thus, in relative terms, Ukraine was forced to recruit more outsiders (“novices”) for positions such as Chaliy’s, which, in turn, has increased the probability of agent learning. [52]

Institutional structure was causally important in a second way as well: As in Gorbachev’s USSR, the importance of learning by state agents was heightened by the centralized structure in which they operated. This allowed individual learning to have a wider impact on overall state policy. More specifically, people like Chaliy and Tarasyuk (and staffers in their respective offices) were in positions that allowed them to influence the content of new laws on citizenship and minority rights, as well as the staffing of key administrative agencies -- for example, the Ministry of Justice. [53]

In sum, Ukrainian policy agents learned preferences for change and did do at least in part by interaction with, not “exploitation of,” policy windows -- in this case, norms promoted by an international institution. Moreover, this occurred in the absence of the societal demands accorded an important causal role by Cortell and Peterson in this volume’s introductory chapter. [54]

Again, institutional factors and legacies explain this puzzling state of affairs; here, I highlight three. First, the Ukrainian NGO community, when compared to its Western, Asian or even Russian counterparts, is extraordinarily young, with most such oganizations only 4-5 years old. One often encounters NGOs that are basically one individual; moreover, even for genuine NGOs, lack of experience and poor networking with like-minded organizations have resulted in many false starts and weakened their ability to mobilize public pressure. Compounding these internal problems is the poorly developed state of the Ukrainian press: Even when NGOs do orchestrate pressure campaigns, the media, due to inexperience, often fails to cover them. [55]

Second, NGOs in Ukraine are operating in a fiscal and political environment that is inhospitable -- to say the least. The taxation and incorporation laws currently in effect make it virtually impossible for them to survive -- unless they engage in other, commercial activities that consume valuable time and energy. The political setting as well has worsened in recent years, with many activists complaining of a growing gap that separates governmental structures from civil society. The legislature (Rada), in particular, reacts very negatively to any overt NGO pressure campaigns. [56]

Third, given the recent recruitment of so many state decisionmakers, Ukrainian NGOs have a structural disincentive to engage in mobilizational, pressure-type campaigning. Why? With good ties to individuals newly installed in state institutions, it simply makes strategic sense to exploit these personal contacts, seeking to exert behind-the-scenes influence. Unfortunately, this is an unreliable mechanism through which to pursue policy change, given the rapid personnel turnover in so many government departments. Indeed, NGOs were ecstatic when Serhiy Holovaty, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the Ukrainian civil-society movement, was appointed Minister of Justice in September 1995; yet, he was removed from this post less than two years later in a government reshuffle. [57]

A final, institutional, point about my Ukrainian case addresses the development of state capacity in the human-rights/citizenship area. From the perspective of an outside observer, the same agents who had learned new preferences in this policy area and had helped get progressive laws on the books were surprisingly unmotivated to insure that proper policy machinery was in place to implement new human-rights practices. However, as in the late Soviet period, they had few strategic incentives, given the centralization of state structures and their autonomy from key societal actors, to worry about such matters.

Not surprisingly then, as the 1990s progressed, Ukraine went from being one of the Council of Europe’s “star pupils” to something more akin to a “problem child.” Serious problems arose in the areas of citizenship (situation of Crimean Tartars), minority rights (status of Russian language) and human rights (serious difficulties in implementing penal reform; continuing use of death penalty). The argument here is not that Ukrainian policymakers had become bad or “unlearned” their new preferences; rather, incentives flowing from the institutional context led them, unintentionally, to undercut their laudable efforts at domestic structural change at this deepest normative level. As rationalists would correctly predict, the structure of the game had logically led to the selection of certain -- flawed, in this case -- strategies. [58]


As the last comments suggest, these accounts of Soviet, Russian and Ukrainian domestic structural change do not deny the role of rational, strategic calculation by agents. At the same time, my results point to the clear limitations of rationalist analyses of institutional change, which argue that institutions affect politics only by constraining the behavior of actors with fixed preferences. Something else is occurring at the agent level -- a process of social learning that attests to the constitutive power of institutions.

This volume’s opening chapter argues that if we are better to understand domestic structural change, then the agent-structure relation must be revisited. In fact, Cortell and Peterson do an excellent job of demonstrating that, as the discipline has come more and more to emphasize the agency-centered view favored by rational choice, it has simultaneously downplayed the role of institutions and neglected their interaction effects with agents in the process of institutional transformation. I agree wholeheartedly.

My case studies suggest, however, that the editors may have stopped too soon. At a meta-theoretical level, I have argued that the rather strict form of methodological individualism adhered to in the opening chapter unduly narrows our understanding of agency’s role in institutional transformation; a more relational ontology, which is the sort favored by social constructivists, is needed. Making this move sheds new light on one of this book’s central research questions: When does institutional change occur? Cortell and Peterson argue that a key role is played by knowledgeable, calculating agents, with fixed preferences, who exploit triggers and open policy windows. This is not wrong, but incomplete: At other times, an equally important role is played by uncertain agents who puzzle and learn. Thus, to fully understand the role of agency in the process of institutional transformation, one needs an alternative/supplementary theory of action to rational choice; here, I have suggested one -- social learning.

The argument, then, is that the study of institutional transformation needs to move beyond the policy entrepreneurship, policy windows literatures, with their implicit rationalist biases. Is such a call unrealistic? I think not. After all, nearly a quarter century ago, Heclo argued -- correctly -- that political agents do not simply or always power; they also puzzle. Moreover, the past decade has seen international relations (IR) theory uncover, or, better said, rediscover, similar insights, with work on epistemic communities followed by the so-called constructivist turn. While this IR work is young, varied and still has many deficiencies, it has nonetheless reminded us, and empirically demonstrated, that social interaction between agents or between agents and structures cannot be reduced -- at all times and under all circumstances -- to the language of calculation, optimizing behavior and constraint. [59]

While this chapter has demonstrated that strategic calculation by knowledgeable agents is not the only path to institutional transformation, it has skirted a more challenging and cutting-edge issue. When and under what conditions are agents, in a particular institutional setting, more likely to engage in strategic calculation to advance given interests (“exploit” a trigger or policy window), as opposed to learning what, exactly, their interests are in the first place (“interaction” with a trigger). I have suggested one such scope condition. When agents are puzzling and uncertain, and when their institutional setting minimizes the friction and tumult of politics, learning is more likely. However, this is only a start. [60]


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* Draft chapter prepared for Andrew Cortell and Susan Peterson, Editors, Transforming Political Institutions: A Comparative Study of the Sources and Consequences of Domestic Structural Change (under review at University of Michigan Press). Checkel gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Norwegian Research Council.

** ARENA/University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1143 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway. E-mail:

[1]. In chapter 1, Cortell and Peterson refer to this type of extensive, far-reaching domestic structural change as “episodic.”

[2]. On policy entrepreneurship and policy windows, see, especially, Kingdon’s seminal work: Kingdon 1984. Also see the literature surveyed in chapter 1 above, and in Checkel 1997a, chapter 1.

[3]. Useful introductions to constructivism and its distinctive ontology are Adler 1997; Ruggie 1998, Introduction; and Checkel 1998a. To date, constructivists have been less clear about the particular theories of action informing their analyses; however, see Risse 1998; and Checkel 1999a.

[4]. For full details on the following, see Checkel 1997a, chapters 2, 5 and 6.

[5]. On the nature of Soviet institutions, also see Evangelista 1988.

[6]. On the Ministry, see Rice 1987.

[7]. On the International Department, see Kramer 1990.

[8]. Vadim Pechenev, "Kremlevskiye tayny: Vverkh po lestnitse, vedushchey vniz," Literaturnaya gazeta, January 30, 1991, p.3.

[9]. Gorbachev 1984, 40, 11.

[10]. M. S. Gorbachev, "Vystupleniye M.S. Gorbacheva v Britanskom parlamente," Pravda, December 19, 1984, pp.4-5.

[11]. Interviews, Georgiy Arbatov and Aleksandr Yakovlev. Also see Arbatov 1991, 335-36; Mendelson 1993, 342; and Stein 1994.

[12]. On these points, see Yuriy Andropov, "Otvety Yu. V. Andropova na voprosy gazety 'Pravda'," Kommunist No.16 (November 1983); and Hedlin 1984, 20, 24-25.

[13]. I appreciate this is a controversial claim to make; however, by now, it is well documented. See Robert Herman, "Identity, Norms and National Security: The Soviet Foreign Policy Revolution and the End of the Cold War," in Katzenstein 1996, chapter 8; Checkel 1997a, chapter 5; and Mendelson 1998, passim. On the critical importance of the international context in creating uncertainty in Gorbachev's foreign policy preferences, also see Wohlforth 1994/95, 109-115; and the remarks of Andrey Grachev (a former Gorbachev adviser) in John Lloyd, "Gorbachev Shivers in his Own Shadow," Financial Times, April 24, 1995.

[14]. Checkel 1997a, chapter 5, provides extensive documentation on these points.

[15]. On capacity building, see chapter 1 above, as well as Sikkink 1991, chapter 5. On institutionalization and its importance for consolidating policy change, see Weir 1992; and Goldstein 1993, passim.

[16]. My analysis of Shevardnadze and the Foreign Ministry is based on interviews with 10 former officials at the Ministry, as well as a reading of Vestnik Ministerstva inostrannykh del SSSR, the journal of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[17]. For example, see "Vystupleniye Prezidenta Rossii Borisa Yeltsina," Rossiyskaya gazeta, February 14, 1992; "Doklad Prezidenta Rossiyskoy Federatsii B.N. Yeltsina," Rossiyskaya gazeta, April 8, 1992; Andrey Kozyrev, "My vykhodim na novuyu sistemu tsennostey," Krasnaya zvezda, December 20, 1991; and Idem, APreobrazhennaya Rossiya v novom mire," Izvestiya, January 2, 1992.

[18]. This statement was made to the author in July, 1992, by the official heading all Foreign Ministry negotiations with Ukraine. For the IMEMO report, see "Rossiya i vyzovy sovremennosti," Memo No.4 (April 1992).

[19]. Interviews with Arbatov, Vladimir Benevolenskiy, scientific secretary at the Institute of the USA and Canada, and Sergey Blagovolin, senior researcher and department head at IMEMO.

[20]. See Huber and Savelyev 1993.

[21]. Checkel 1992.

[22]. Also see Evangelista 1995. This is a proposition familiar to students of American politics, where the challenge is not so much to get a hearing for one's proposal, but to insure that, once adopted, it has some enduring impact on policy. For the theoretical rationale behind such arguments, see Margaret Weir, "Ideas and Politics: The Acceptance of Keynesianism in Britain and the United States," in Hall 1989, chapter 3.

[23]. See "Doklad Prezidenta Rossiyskoy Federatsii B.N. Yeltsina," Rossiyskaya gazeta, April 8, 1992; and Andrey Kozyrev, "Voyna i MID," Komsomolskaya pravda, June 9, 1992. On the fragmentation of decisionmaking authority in the US, see Krasner 1978, Chapter III, for example.

[24]. For details, see Checkel 1997a, chapter 6.

[25]. For an excellent discussion of Russian institutional change as it pertains to economic policymaking, see McFaul 1995.

[26]. For full details, see Checkel 1999a. Specifically on the learning/politics connection, see Pierson 1993, 617-18; and Levy 1994.

[27]. Kozyrev's lack of political savvy is especially evident in "Partiya voyny nastupayet: i v Moldove, i v Gruzii, i v Rossii," Izvestiya, June 30, 1992 -- an article that earned the Foreign Minister a public reprimand from Yeltsin. On Yeltsin's speech, see Gennadiy Charodeyev, "Yeltsin gotov otbit' ocherednuyu ataku," Izvestiya, October 27, 1992. Kozyrev’s successor at the Foreign Ministry, Yevgeniy Primakov, did a better job at managing these new political realities during his tenure there (1996-98). See Checkel 1998b.

[28]. Interviews at the Foreign Ministry; and Checkel 1992, passim.

[29]. The pattern described here of a lack of attention to capacity building is evident in other (domestic) issue areas as well. See McFaul 1995. If nothing else, the economic/financial collapse of August 1998 highlighted the near non-existent capacity of the Russian state in a variety of socio-economic realms.

[30]. See, for example, the scathing criticism in Arbatov 1993, passim.

[31]. On the last point, see Fedor Shelov-Kovedyayev, "Nam nuzhna sil'naya, no ne imperskaya Rossiya," Literaturnaya gazeta, December 8, 1993.

[32]. For an example of Yeltsin's lack of clarity on foreign policy, see his address to the first session of the Federation Council. "Vystupleniye Prezidenta RF na otkrytii zasedaniya verkhney palaty parlamenta," Rossiyskiye vesti, January 12, 1994.

[33]. On this point more generally, see Haggard 1990, chapter 2.

[34]. See Hayden 1992; and Verdery 1993, for example. Useful background and introductions to these issues are Jones 1994; and Brubaker 1989.

[35]. For background, see Brubaker 1989; Miller 1989; Hammar 1989; Hannum 1991; Bauboeck and Cinar 1994; and Bauboeck 1994, Preface. On the theoretical logic linking international institutional density to normative diffusion, see Weber 1994; and Risse-Kappen 1995, chapter 1. Below, I focus on one particular European institution: the Council of Europe. However, both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), through its High Commissioner for National Minorities, and the European Union (EU), through declarations to the effect that East European applicants for EU membership must guarantee minority rights, have also been active in these areas.

[36]. See Donnelly 1986, 620-24; Sikkink 1993; and Moravcsik 1995.

[37]. On the historical development of the Council's rights protections and guarantees, see Robertson 1956; Donnelly 1986; Council of Europe 1993; and Hill 1993.

[38]. Council of Europe, Forum (December 1994), p.34. For the treaty, see Council of Europe 1994.

[39]. On the 1963 treaty, see Council of Europe 1996, Appendix II -- especially pp.209-210.

[40]. For the treaty, see Council of Europe 1997. On the changing views regarding dual citizenship, see the explanatory report attached to the treaty -- especially pp.15-17.

[41]. Elsewhere, I have documented the evolution of these new European norms. See Checkel 1999a, 13-15, which is based on three rounds of field work in Strasbourg.

[42]. On the historical development of civic, inclusive, conceptions of Ukrainian identity, see Laba 1996, 12-13. On the Tsarist/Soviet legacy in Ukraine, see Von Hagen 1995. Wilson 1997 provides an excellent treatment of developments in Ukrainian nationality/identity during the post-Soviet period.

[43]. The quote comes from Cortell and Peterson’s introductory chapter to this volume (p.11).

[44]. The literature on the diffusion of human rights norms is vast and growing rapidly. Important studies include Brysk 1993; Klotz 1995a, b; Hawkins 1997; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Price 1998; and, for the state of the art, Risse and Sikkink 1999. For more on the bottom-up dynamic favored in this work, see Checkel 1999a.

[45]. My Ukrainian fieldwork was conducted in two rounds: May 1994; June 1997. Below, for purposes of space, I provide only illustrative reference and interview citations.

[46]. Markus 1996a, 1996b; and "Ukraine: Founding Father," Economist, July 6, 1996.

[47]. Interviews, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Kyiv, May 1994. In April 1998, Tarasyuk was appointed to the post of Foreign Minister.

[48]. Interviews: Petro Chaliy, Head, Citizenship Department, Presidential Administration, Kyiv, June 1997; Valeriy Hrebenyuk, Chief Advisor for International Law and Organizations, Directorate of Foreign Policy, Presidential Administration, Kyiv, June 1997.

[49]. Interviews, as in two preceding notes; and Halyna Freeland, Counsel to the Chairman, Ukrainian Legal Foundation, Kyiv, June 1997. On moral entrepreneurs, see Finnemore 1996; Florini 1996, 375; and Finnemore and Sikkink 1998.

[50]. Interview, Nikolay Kulinich, Ukrainian Institute of International Relations, Kyiv, May 1994.

[51]. Interviews, as in notes 47, 48, 49.

[52]. For the theoretical logic linking “noviceness” to a higher likelihood of learning, see Johnston 1998. On the linkage between personnel changes and normative learning, also see Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 26.

[53]. On the linkages between agent learning, state structure and policy change, also see Stein 1994.

[54]. See chapter 1 above, at pp.16-17 and passim.

[55]. For the analysis here and below, see Interviews: Natalie Belitser, Coordinator, Center for Pluralism, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, Kyiv, June 1997; Halyna Freeland and Natalia Kravets, Counsel to the Chairman and Executive Director, respectively, Ukrainian Legal Foundation, Kyiv, June 1997; Olga Kornienko, Program Coordinator, Ukrainian Center for Human Rights, Kyiv, June 1997; Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Director, Center for Information and Documentation of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, Kyiv, June 1997; and Serhiy Holovatiy, Ukrainian Minister of Justice, Kyiv, June 1997.

[56]. Also see "Human Rights Organization Officially Registered," Kiev UNIAN, August 15, 1994, as reported in FBIS-SOV-94-157, August 15, 1994, which documents the prolonged efforts of one human rights NGO simply to gain recognition from the Ukrainian state.

[57]. Chrystia Freeland, “Ukraine Justice Minister Sacked,” Financial Times, August 22, 1997.

[58]. My comments on more recent developments in Ukraine draw upon numerous interviews. See Note 55 above; as well as Interviews, Council of Europe Secretariat, April 1997, November 1998.

[59]. See Heclo 1974. On epistemic communities, see Haas 1990; and Idem 1992. On constructivism, see Katzenstein 1996; and the essays by Ruggie, Finnemore/Sikkink and March/Olsen in the special 50th anniversary issue of International Organization (Autumn 1998).

[60]. To date, the best efforts to specify such institutional scope conditions in the rationalist/constructivist debate are Risse 1998; and Johnston 1998. Checkel 1997b; and Idem 1999b represent my own attempts in this area. The argument here thus disputes the division of labor thesis, where constructivism, by endogenizing interests, does the “front-end work” that is then plugged into a standard strategic exchange model. See Katzenstein, Keohane and Krasner 1998, for example.

[Date of publication in the ARENA Working Paper series: 15.01.1999]