Georgia’s Foreign Policy Trilemma: Balance, Bandwagon, or Hedge? Part 2
A large number of Georgians prefer some form of hedging foreign policy – either a pro-Western policy that maintains good relations with Russia, or a pro-Russian policy that maintains good relations with the West. In absolute terms, the pro-Western hedge group is much larger than the pro-Russian hedge group, and the former is fairly evenly split – 54% to 46% – between those who perceive Russia as the main threat and those who do not. In the pro-Russian hedge group, only 16% identify Russia as the main threat. If we combine all those who expressed a preference for either of the two hedging options – about three quarters of respondents who expressed a foreign policy preference – slightly less than half (44%) identify Russia as the main threat to Georgia (which is about the same as the population as a whole).
Hedging, by design, incorporates the logic of both balancing and bandwagoning. On the one hand, support for the two hedging options mirrors the more uncompromising positions of straight pro-Western or pro-Russian preferences. Identifying Russia as the main threat is positively associated with both a purely pro-Western and pro-Western hedge position as well as negatively associated with both a purely pro-Russian and pro-Russian hedge position.
On the other hand, a hedging strategy seems to be more important for those who do not see Russia as the main threat: this group is more likely to support a pro-Russian policy that also maintains good relations with the West (bottom left quadrant). But those who do see Russia as the main threat seem to prioritise balancing over bandwagoning. At the same time, they are less likely to opt for a policy that maintains good relations with Russia (top right quadrant) than a strictly pro-Western orientation.
Commenting on Serbia’s foreign policy and Belgrade’s attempt to navigate between the West and Russia, a US diplomat once said "You cannot sit on two chairs at the same time, especially if they are that far away." This precarious position for small states is well-known to Georgia and Armenia, and comparing the two cases can be instructive. Georgia and Armenia face similar conditions for reasons of geography and history, and the trilemma of balancing, bandwagoning, and hedging shapes foreign policy choices. Each country risks incurring costs if they lean too far towards the West or towards Russia, and as a matter of self-preservation they have to successfully manage relations with both sides, which also comes with risks. That said, threat perception among their respective publics is very different – Armenians do not see Russia as a threat to the same extent as Georgians – and support for Euro-Atlantic integration is far higher in Georgia.
The intuitive logic of hedging is clearly appealing and it resonates with many Georgians. There is a large domestic constituency in favour of a foreign policy that seeks good relations with both the West and with Russia, especially among the more than 50% who do not identify Russia as the main threat to the country.
The danger, however, of pursuing the best of both worlds is that you end up with the worst of both. Nor should it be forgotten that foreign policy preferences may be explained better by shared identity and values than by threat perception, and that it is a primarily pro-Western policy that also maintains good relations with Russia, and not vice versa, that commands the greatest support among Georgians.
Confronted with multiple competing demands and challenges – from strong public and elite support for greater Euro-Atlantic integration to the persistent tensions between the West and Russia and, not least, the ongoing presence of the Russian military on Georgian territory – Georgia’s politicians and diplomats have their work cut out as they navigate a tough geopolitical neighbourhood.
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.