Polina Beliakova’s Research and Policy Seminar

Senior PhD Research Fellow Polina Beliakova presented her dissertation research at the CSS Research and Policy Seminar on November 5. Beliakova’s dissertation, which raises both important theoretical and policy implications, seeks to explain the conditions under which intrastate conflict will lead to an erosion of civilian control over the military. It will contribute to the literature on civil-military relations and offer a new theory of civilian control. The research will help elucidate the power dynamics between civilian and military actors in conflict-affected societies and will inform strategies of conflict management and post-conflict state building.

The central argument of Beliakova’s research is that intrastate conflict will cause an erosion of civilian control under two conditions: first, if the tasks and missions assigned to the military violate the boundaries of the military profession, and, second, if the government uses the military to increase the regime’s own legitimacy. To organize the theory’s wide range of observable implications, Beliakova is developing a comprehensive typology of the erosion of civilian control, which includes acts ranging from military foot-dragging to taking policy positions to plotting, attempting, or assisting a coup. To test her theory under various conditions, Beliakova will be researching Russia’s Chechen wars, the United Kingdom during the conflict in Northern Ireland, civil-military relations in Ukraine during the ongoing conflict in Donbass, and Israel during the two Palestinian intifadas. Beliakova’s dissertation will involve extensive field research and archival work.

At the seminar, the CSS research and post-doctoral fellows provided useful feedback that will help to improve the theory, sharpen the argument, and enrich the literature review. In particular, the discussion highlighted the significance of the proposed theory beyond intrastate conflict. The discussant, Sidita Kushi, a research fellow at CSS, provided a series of comments related to the research puzzle, hook, and methods. She suggested that Beliakova highlight the extent of her contributions to civil-military relations and further integrate international relations theories, such as ones regarding failing states, into the project’s framework. Kushi offered suggestions on the measurements of key variables, such as civilian control, and the refinement of causal mechanisms.

Beliakova addressed all of these points in detail and prompted a lively evening of scholarship and policy discussion. She is currently writing the prospectus for her dissertation and the feedback she received at the seminar will contribute to the advancement of her project.

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