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.
- Neoclassical Realism
- Foreign Policy Analysis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Political Science and International Relations