Why did Georgia prioritize balancing instead of bandwagoning with Russia after the Soviet Union’s collapse? One of the weakest post-Soviet states militarily and economically, Georgia was one of the first states to declare independence; its leaders interpreted Russia as its main security threat, and it maintained an anti-Russian foreign policy despite the steep power asymmetry and lack of military or economic guarantees from external powers (with some variation across time). Its foreign policy thus represents a puzzle for conventional theories that explain state behavior primarily by referencing power distributions and economic incentives. Tsintsadze-Maass argues that national mobilization was the primary cause of Georgia’s balancing strategy towards Russia. Through a process utilizing Georgian-language primary sources, she demonstrates how high national mobilization - rooted in shared identity, experiences, and information - drove the Georgian public and leaders alike to prioritize their political autonomy, to perceive Russia as the greatest threat to that autonomy, and to deem compromises of that autonomy through bandwagoning unacceptable. This study thus serves as a powerful corrective to materialist theories of foreign policy, detailing how deep historical processes of nation and state building can generate a domestic ideological environment capable of shaping the construction of national interests and the selection of security strategies.
Eteri Tsintsadze-Maass is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky. She specializes in International Relations and Comparative Politics, with research interests in interstate conflict, security, women and politics, nationalism, and politics of the post-Soviet region. Eteri uses both quantitative and qualitative research methods in her work. Her dissertation, Why Weak States Balance: National Mobilization and the Security Strategies of Newly Independent States, aims to explain variations among newly independent states’ security strategies towards their former ruler, focusing on the 14 weaker post-Soviet states’ differing security strategies towards Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. She proposes that a state’s national mobilization and domestic ideological environment profoundly affect its security strategy. A second stream of Eteri’s research focuses on women and politics, including two papers currently in progress. One examines the effects of women’s participation in civil wars on the post-war political empowerment of women; the other examines the effects of democratic institutions on women’s rights policies and outcomes. Before pursuing her Ph.D. in Political Science, Eteri earned her M.A. in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and she has since turned her thesis on groupthink and terrorist radicalization into a publication in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence.