Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Roger E. Kanet

Second Committee Member

Joaquin Roy

Third Committee Member

Bruce Bagley

Fourth Committee Member

Rebecca Friedman


The traditional notion of security in international relations theory assumes that nation-states have one driving goal in their relations with other states – their own survival. Therefore states should calculate their foreign policy decisions solely with that goal in mind. While physical security is important to states, sometimes, however, states structure their actions in materially costly ways. These actions satisfy the self-identity needs of the states. In case states avoided these actions their sense of self-identity would be radically disrupted, and such a disruption is just as important to the states as threats to their physical integrity. While physical security is important to the states, in some instances ontological security is more important because its fulfillment affirms a state’s self-identity: it affirms not only its physical existence but primarily how a state sees itself and secondarily how it wants to be seen by others. States pursue their needs through social action, not to impress external society so much as to satisfy their internal self-identity needs. Nation states seek ontological security because they want to maintain consistent self-concepts, and the “self” of states is constituted and maintained through a narrative that gives life to routinized foreign policy actions.


Russia; foreign policy; security; Ukraine; Syria; identity; critical security studies; ontological security