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What Factors Contribute to the Aggressive Foreign Policy of Russian Leaders?

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This paper explores the correlates of Russia’s aggressive international policy and argues that rising oil revenues increase the aggressiveness of presidential foreign-policy rhetoric. Using content analysis and machine-learning techniques, I generate a measure of aggressive discourse as the share of anti-Western sentences in Russian presidential speeches delivered between 2000 and 2016. These are analyzed using OLS regression with lagged dependent variables. I conclude that the aggressiveness of foreign-policy rhetoric in Russian presidential speeches positively correlates to oil prices. I also find no support for alternative explanations linking hawkish foreign policy to NATO expansion or domestic legitimacy concerns.

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