This article offers a theoretical approach to evaluate political friendship, and to test this approach by focusing on two well documented and supposed friendships: those of Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand, and George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. In so doing the article aims to address an academic oversight where friendship is taken for granted, without pausing to define and measure its influence on political actors. Part one aims to operationalize the concept of friendship, offering a concise philosophical overview of the concept, culminating in a demarcation between a (businesslike) partnership and a characterdriven friendship. Part two analyses the current state-centred approach to friendship in international relations and shows that operationalizing the concept of friendship between actors connects directly to current research on friendship, adding an additional layer of analysis on the level of political actors. Part three follows with an overview of the supposed friendships between Kohl and Mitterrand, and Bush and Gorbachev, which are then evaluated in the light of the definitions of partnership and friendship. This paper concludes by marking the similarities and inherent differences of the two friendships, particularly pausing on the thin line a politician must walk between personal affections and an opportune political agenda.

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Amity - The Journal of Friendship Studies
Department of History

van Hoef, Y. (2014). Friendship in world politics: Assessing the personal relationships between Kohl and Mitterrand, and Bush and Gorbachev. Amity - The Journal of Friendship Studies, 2(1), 62–82. Retrieved from