European populist radical right leaders’ foreign policy beliefs: An operational code analysis
Despite the significance of the subject, studies on the foreign policy preferences of European populist radical right leaders are scarce except for a handful of examples. Are European populist radical right leaders more hostile than other world leaders or comparatively friendly? Do they use cooperative or conflictual strategies to achieve their political goals? What are the leadership types associated with their strategic orientations in international relations? Using the operational code construct in this empirical study, we answer these questions and depict the foreign policy belief systems of seven European populist radical right leaders. We test whether they share a common pattern in their foreign policy beliefs and whether their foreign policy belief systems are significantly different from the norming group of average world leaders. The results indicate that European populist radical right leaders lack a common pattern in terms of their foreign policy belief systems. While the average scores of the analysed European populist radical right leaders suggest that they are more conflictual in their world views, results also show that they employ instrumental approaches relatively similar to the average group of world leaders. This article illuminates the microfoundations of strategic behaviour in international relations and arrives at conclusions about the role of European populist radical right leaders in mainstream International Relations discussions, such as idealism versus realism. In this sense, the cognitivist research school complements and advances structural accounts of international relations by analysing leadership in world affairs.