Impact, relevance, applications
The previous literature on Romania’s foreign policy emphasized from an objectivist perceptive the role of the external environment in shaping the Romanian foreign policy. This study argues that not only the external factors determined in Romania’s foreign policy idealist or realist approach, but rather the way in which decision makers perceived and internalized the external environment. While it is a truism that people act on the basis of their perceptions or views of reality, the subject has received no systemic analysis with regard to the foreign policy of Romania.
Until the decision-making approach has been introduced into the IR discipline in the mid-1950s, researchers refrained from approaching foreign policy in terms of perceptions. In 1959, Kenneth E. Boulding argued that decision-makers do not respond, when decide on a matter, to the ‘objective’ facts of the situation, but to their image of the situation. ‘It is what we think the world is like, not what it is really like, what determines our behaviour’, Boulding contended (Kenneth E. Boulding, ‘National images and international systems’, in Journal of conflict resolutions, 3-2/1959, 120). In 1961, Harold and Margaret Sprout made an important contribution to the perceptual study of foreign policy distinguishing between the psychological environment and the operational environment (Harold Sprout, Margaret Sprout, ‘Environmental factors in the study in the study of international politics’, in J.N.Rosenau (ed.), International politics and foreign policy: a reader in research and theory, New York: The Free Press, 1961). During the 1970s and the 1980s, Ole Holsti, Robert Jervis, Stephen Walker, Deborah Welsh Larson or Erik Beukel made important contributions to these studies. During the last two decades important developments in perceptual approaches of the international relations and foreign policy occurred with the works of William C. Wohlforth, Thomas J. Christensen or K.P. O’Reilly.
Usually, the scientific literature treats the actors’ perceptions as one variable amongst other variables and argues that the main question is how perceptions could be linked to the political decision. The research method usually used to examine the linkage between actors’ perceptions of the world on the one hand and the adoption of a certain foreign policy decision on the other is process tracing. However, according to Henrik Larsen’s thesis, the actors’ beliefs should be treated not as one variable among others, but rather as ‘necessary meaningful references for the actors, the means by which they make sense of the world’.
This study identifies the realist and idealist approaches in Romania’s foreign policy, from two directions doctrine and practice, but in the same time it addresses the question of the reasons that determined their alternation. Thus, the past changes in Romania’s foreign policy have a great relevance for both practical political implication and for purposes of academic illumination, but, in spite of this relevance, the subject has received relatively little systemic analysis by now. Answering the question as to why, how and when the Romanian decision makers replaced idealist approaches with realist approaches and vice versa in Romania’s foreign policy, or why the change occurred could offer guidelines for Romania’s present foreign policy. Within the process of structuring or restructuring Romania’s foreign policy and foreign relations, it seems logical to return for guidelines to past cases of transformations or evolution.