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Political Communication in the Making of Foreign Policy

Kerstin Schulz
Freie Universität Berlin
Kerstin Schulz
Freie Universität Berlin
Open Panel

Abstract

Communication is essential for the legitimacy of foreign policy making. In democratic societies public (Öffentlichkeit) takes up a constitutive significance for the democratic quality, whereas the media become its infrastructure and most important forum. There is a broad consensus that the media are the central mediating instance and primary conduit between political decision-makers and the public. Their influence on foreign policy though remains contingent throughout various processes and phases of foreign policy making. Analyzing framing-effects and in specific assessing generic and issue-specific frames in the German media and political elite discourse on Russia, the aim of the research project is to trace the mutual influence of the media and foreign policy actors in the discourses on the German foreign policy towards Russia. Secondly, a taxonomy of diverse media roles throughout various processes and phases of foreign policy making shall be developed on the basis of the empirical findings. Thereby the research project will combine qualitative content analysis and expert interviews for analyzing framing and agenda-setting effects. Newspaper articles as well as official political documents, speeches and press releases of political decision-makers are examined. The (I) Georgian-Russian conflict in 2008, (II) energy disputes between Russia and its neighbor states in 2006 and 2009 and the (III) discourse on the Nordstream pipeline serve as case studies, representing the latest impacts in German-Russian relations. The difficulty in tracing the impact on foreign policy making results from conceptualizing its actors with regard to cause and effect. Since foreign policy making remains a complex process with numerous intervening variables, the paper is based on the premise that influences are multidirectional and dynamic. The project thus contributes to the research of the mass media and foreign policy analysis, while combining communication and international relations theories.