The balance strikes back: power, perceptions, and ideology in Georgian foreign policy, 1992-2014

Kevork Oskanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
320 Downloads (Pure)


Tbilisi’s recent foreign policy presents analysts working from a balance-of-power perspective with something of a puzzle: with Russia very much the regionally dominant power, against the predictions of structural-systemic theories, small state Georgia has ended up balancing against, rather than bandwagoning with great power Moscow. As a result, domestic, ideological explanations that implausibly ignore or minimize inter-state considerations of power have predominated in analyses of Tbilisi’s foreign policy. In response, this essay examines Georgia’s post-Soviet foreign policies from a neoclassical realist theoretical viewpoint, combining systemic, balance-of-power and domestic, ideological factors: throughout the period under review, Tbilisi’s policies were thus due to ideologically conditioned perceptions of shifting power-political realities in its neighborhood, with an ideological adherence to liberal norms playing a particularly important role in distorting these perceptions during the Saakashvili administration. Through this combination of power and ideology, neoclassical realism ends up providing a more comprehensive and continuous account of Tbilisi’s shifting policies since 1992 than either domestic or alternative realist frameworks, like balance-of-threat theory, or omnibalancing; as an important implication, Georgia’s, and other former Soviet states’ continued pro-Western orientation will depend as much on their perceptions of the West’s continued commitment to regional power-projection, as on domestic ideological preferences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-652
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Issue number4
Early online date11 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Russia
  • Georgia
  • Neoclassical Realism
  • Foreign Policy Analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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