Do states learn from other states' experiences in international relations? This is the expectation of prominent theories. But empirical research indicates that foreign policy learning is based overwhelmingly on direct experience. I argue that vicarious learning has not been uncovered because we have not known where to look: there has been no well-developed theory leading to falsifiable expectations. Here I suggest a theory and test it on data for foreign policy beliefs and analogies used by Ukrainian and Russian elites. The results indicate that learning from vicarious success, or imitation, has a strong impact on beliefs following a major failure. This has implications for foreign policy decision making and for concepts of interests and change in systemic theories of international relations.
- foreign policy
- political psychology