Georgia’s Foreign Policy Trilemma: Balance, Bandwagon, or Hedge? Part 1
Research on the foreign policy options of small states have generally focused on elite attitudes and structural determinants, but – with some exceptions – less so on the relationship between public opinion and foreign policy. This gap matters as public preferences for a country’s foreign policy (should) be important to decision-makers in a democracy. While foreign policy generally ranks lower than domestic concerns in the publics’ priorities, high stake questions of national security do cut through, and a foreign policy that lacks public support will be harder to sustain. This leads to the question, do threat perceptions predict foreign policy preferences?
Foreign policy analysts often talk about geopolitical choices in terms of balancing and bandwagoning: a state can either form alliances with other countries to balance against the threat of a stronger state, or bandwagon with the country that threatens them in the hope that the threat is mitigated by aligning themselves with the more powerful country.
Georgia’s options can seem like a stark choice between Russia and the West: should Georgia balance against Russia and deter the threat by developing closer alliances with Europe and the US, or bandwagon with Russia and forge closer relations with their northern neighbour? Each option has its advocates and detractors. Balancing can be seen as either a rational response to guarantee survival or as unnecessarily antagonistic. Bandwagoning can be seen as either the pragmatic management of geopolitical realities or appeasement and capitulation.
A third option is for Georgia to hedge its bets and strike a path between balancing and bandwagoning between Russia and the West. This risk management strategy may be well-suited for small states caught between Great Powers, including Russia’s neighbours who want to escape the influence of the region’s dominant power and protect themselves from East-West tensions, while working within the constraints of geography. Armenia’s attempts at a ‘multi-vectored’ foreign policy reflect this logic as well as the difficulties of implementation.
In the March 2016 CRRC-Georgia/NDI survey, respondents were asked to choose between four exclusive options: “In your opinion, Georgia's foreign policy should be Pro-Western; Pro-Western, however we should maintain good relations with Russia; Pro-Russian, however we should maintain good relations with the EU and NATO; or Pro-Russian?”. Georgians clearly favour a pro-Western foreign policy but there is a large constituency that does not want to accept a binary choice between the West and Russia. More than two thirds want what amounts to a hedging option, that is, a foreign policy that leans towards one side but without sacrificing good relations with the other side.
In theory, perceived threats to security should be an important determinant of foreign policy preferences in general, and of preferences over balancing, bandwagoning and hedging in particular. As the chart below suggests, Russia is by far the single most commonly identified threat to Georgia.
To test whether threat perceptions are related to these foreign policy preferences, a multinomial regression analysis is used with the above question about foreign preference as the dependent variable, and the threat perception question, in addition to demographic characteristics and domestic political preferences, as the independent variables.
If Georgians have a preference for balancing, there should be an association between identifying Russia as the main threat and a preference for a pro-Western foreign policy orientation that deters that threat, i.e., aligning with the European Union and NATO. The results provide evidence in support of this. As the table shows, those who identify Russia as the main threat are far more likely to support a pro-Western foreign policy (top left quadrant).
If, conversely, Georgians had a preference for bandwagoning, we would see an association between identifying Russia as the main threat and a preference for closer relations with Russia, i.e. a pro-Russian orientation – this is not the case. Contrary to the bandwagoning logic, we do not see support for a pro-Russian foreign policy amongst those who see Russia as the main threat. Rather, it is those who do not identify Russia as the main threat who are more likely to support a pro-Russian foreign policy. Notably, running the model without the threat perception variable made very little difference to the effect of the other variables on foreign policy preference.
However, as noted above, most respondents, when given the option, expressed a preference for a foreign policy that hedged between a purely pro-Western or pro-Russian orientation. The second part of this blog post, which will be published next Monday discusses this in greater depth.
Note: The analysis uses a multinomial logistic regression. The dependent variable is the foreign policy preference. The base category is ‘Pro-Western’. The table shows the predicted probabilities for the following independent variables (with base category in parentheses): threat perception (all responses other than Russia as main threat), education (higher than secondary level), party support (Georgian Dream–Democratic Georgia), and country direction (Georgia is not changing at all). The other independent variables are sex, age group, settlement type, and ethnic minority domain. Party support was recoded into four categories: GD-DG, United National Movement, No party/Don’t know, and Other. Country direction was recoded as wrong direction, right direction, or no change.
Replication code of the full analysis is available here, including alternative model specifications. The data used are available here.
Interview by Dustin Gilbreath
By: Dustin Gilbreath
CRRC’s third annual Methodological Conference: Transformations in the South Caucasus and its Neighbourhood
შიდა მიგრაცია საქართველოში: რა ვიცით მის შესახებ CRRC-ის კავკასიის ბარომეტრის მონაცემების საფუძვლეზე?არსებული შეფასებების თანახმად, მსოფლიო მასშტაბით შიდა მიგრანტთა რაოდენობა ბევრად აღემატება საერთაშორისო მიგრანტთა რაოდენობას. სამწუხაროდ, საქართველოში ძალიან ცოტა მონაცემი არსებობს შიდა მიგრანტების რაოდენობისა და მათი გეოგრაფიული განაწილების შესახებ. საქართველოს სტატისტიკის ეროვნული სამსახურის შინამეურნეობების ინტეგრირებული გამოკვლევები რეგულარულად აგროვებს ინფორმაციას ქვეყანაში შიდა მიგრაციის შესახებ. სახელმწიფო სერვისების განვითარების სააგენტო კოორდინაციას უწევს მოსახლეობის რეგისტრაციას საცხოვრებელი ადგილის მიხედვით.
By Till Bruckner
By Nino Zubashvili
By Dustin Gilbreath
From environmental catastrophe to violence, our world currently faces serious challenges with long-term consequences. In this context, what do people in the Caucasus consider to be the most acute problems?
In terms of the business findings, CRRC's Media Survey (undertaken in September/October 2009) generated extensive data that is available to help media make good business decisions. One recent presentation, summarized here, focused on showing the diversity of data that is available.
Food Safety in Georgia: views from retailers, producers and consumers in Tbilisi and Samtskhe-Javakheti
Book Review | The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict and Nationhood in the Caucasus | Christoph Zürcher
Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data
Here are some basic tips and tricks we found useful.
Book Review: Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus | Thomas Goltz
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?
CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and GeorgiaDo voters in less than democratic contexts matter or are elections simply facades used to create a veneer of democratic accountability for domestic and international actors? Within the Autocratic Response to Voter Preferences in Armenia and Georgia project, funded by Academic Swiss Caucasus Net, CRRC-Georgia and CRRC-Armenia aimed to help answer this question, at least for Georgia and Armenia. On October 27, Caucasus Survey published the results of the project in a special issue, available here.
What are young people’s values and how are these different from older generations’ values in Georgia?As Georgian society is going through social and cultural changes, it is important to understand people’s beliefs and values. Comparing the values of young people to those of the older generations is also important. This blog post summarizes the findings of a study that examined the values of young people aged 18 to 25, and analysed how these values are different from the values of older people in Georgia, based on both quantitative (World Values Survey, 2014) and qualitative data (40 in-depth interviews conducted in 2016). The study looked at values, perceptions, attitudes and tolerance towards different minority groups in Georgia. It concludes that in many cases, the younger generation shares more modern views and values, while the older generations are more inclined to support traditional values and hold conservative points of view.
In the December 2017 CRRC/NDI survey, pollution was the second most commonly named “infrastructural” issue, with 23% of the population choosing it in the respective show card. Only roads were named more often, by 33%. Approximately equal shares of men and women named pollution: 25% of women and 20% of men; similarly, there was no difference in the frequency of naming this issue by age.
The Caucasus Barometer survey regularly asks people, “Which of the following statements do you agree with: “‘People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent’ or ‘Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.’” Approximately half of the population of Georgia (52%) agreed in 2017 with the former statement and 40% with the latter. Responses to this question have fluctuated to some extent over time, but overall, attitudes are nearly equally split.
But what do people want?
Georgians are enthusiastic in supporting the country’s accession to the European Union. Since 2012, when the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia started tracking attitudes, three quarters of Georgians approved of the government’s goal of joining the EU, on average. What motivates Georgians to support the Union, or alternatively, to abandon support? A survey experiment included in the latest CRRC/NDI poll suggests potential economic burdens have a modest yet significant effect on support for membership. Results do not support the common belief that a potential military threat from Russia dampens Georgians’ support for the EU.
CRRC-Georgia investigates who is more susceptible to Russian-pushed conspiracies surrounding Georgia’s US-funded Lugar Centre.
In Georgia, a conspiracy about the US-funded Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Tbilisi has recently gained traction. As CRRC-Georgia’s USAID-funded research shows, Georgia’s far-right groups eagerly picked up on this conspiracy and blamed the centre for the seasonal flu outbreak in early 2019.
While many things could divide the public, what do the people think and which groups report more and fewer sources of division? The April 2019 NDI-CRRC poll suggests that there are fewer perceived reasons for division in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.
უვიზო მიმოსვლის ამოქმედების შემდეგ საქართველოს მოსახლეობაში შემცირდა ცოდნა უვიზო მიმოსვლის მოთხოვნების შესახებუკვე სამი წელიწადია, რაც საქართველოს მოქალაქეებს შენგენის ზონაში უვიზოდ მიმოსვლა შეუძლიათ, რაც რამდენიმეწლიანი დიალოგისა და პოლიტიკის რეფორმის შედეგია. მიუხედავად გასული დროისა და ევროკავშირის მიერ დაფინანსებული საინფორმაციო კამპანიის ჩატარებისა, ამ პროგრამის ამოქმედების შემდეგ საზოგადოების ცოდნა ევროკავშირში უვიზო მიმოსვლის მოთხოვნების შესახებ დაეცა. ამას მოწმობს 2019 წელს CRRC-საქართველოს მიერ ჩატარებული კვლევა ევროკავშირის მიმართ დამოკიდებულებებისა და ცოდნის შეფასების შესახებ. ამავე პერიოდში გაიზარდა საქართველოს მოქალაქეთა რიცხვი, ვინც ევროკავშირის ქვეყნებში არ შეუშვეს. მხოლოდ 2018 წელს ოთხ ათასზე მეტი ასეთი შემთხვევა დაფიქსირდა, რაც 2017 წლის მონაცემებს აღემატება.
In Georgia, having a boy has traditionally been desirable as sons are often considered the main successors in the family line, and they stay at home to take care of their parents as they age in contrast to women who traditionally move in with their husband’s family.
The long-fought-over electoral reform was a compromise which represents two steps forward after three steps had been taken back.
The findings reflect broader global trends which have seen dramatic decreases in air pollution levels in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom.