There are plenty of pundits and politicians trying to explain Russia’s behavior in Ukraine, including some who say that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is feeling emboldened.
Jeff Berejikian, an associate professor of international affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs, appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition to talk about a behavioral theory that describes a nation’s aggressive behavior as a signal that the country actually may feel weak.
“If you’re in an eroded security position and you try to upset the status quo, there’s a very good chance that that might make you worse off,” Berejikian said. “But there’s some chance that you might actually improve your position. This is a classic prospect theory or behavioral decision theory choice, this choice between a certain bad outcome and a gamble.”
Berejikian tested this theory by examining military conflicts in the 19th and 20th centuries to see when a country was acting aggressive.
“What we find is that as the security position of a state erodes, it’s more likely to initiate a dispute,” he said. “It’s more likely to threaten the stable deterrent relationship that had been established and lash out against its rivals.”