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Foreign Fighters

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

What brings individuals from different countries to decide to join a war as a foreign fighter? Academic discussion on the topic has been focusing on foreign nationals’ involvement in terrorist organizations and jihadist groups, especially in the Middle East. In this study, we revisit this question while focusing on a different type of group, those who decide to join the Ukrainian Foreign Legion and take part in the war in Ukraine. This case captures a different trend than those regularly discussed in research given the institutionalization of the recruitment process and the tacit support of the international community that do not criminalize volunteering. To examine motivation, we created a database of volunteers’ motivations taken from open-source information, including social media. Examining the personal stories, justifications, and narratives presented by over 280 foreign fighters we map the set of motivations they introduce. We contextual those motivations in the broader literature and compare it to terrorist foreign fighters.

Preliminary findings:

Swed, Ori. Fighting Someone Else's War. Footnotes.


Aria Stiefelmaier

Oleksandra Hanchukova

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