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Beacon of Liberty: Role Conceptions, Crises and Stability in Georgia’s Foreign Policy, 2004–2012
Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences, Political Science. Södertörn University, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Baltic & East European Graduate School (BEEGS). Uppsala universitet, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president in Georgia, committing to a foreign policy that would ostensibly make his country a leading example of reform and democratization in the post-Soviet space, and a net-contributor to Euro-Atlantic security. Throughout its time in power and until its defeat in Georgia’s 2012 parliamentary elections, the Saakashvili government remained steadfast in its commitment to establishing these international roles for Georgia, despite developments in both the country’s international and domestic contexts that could plausibly have made these roles, and the foreign policy decisions deriving from them, redundant.

This dissertation explores the relationship between national role conceptions (NRCs) and foreign policy stability. It demonstrates how Georgia’s NRCs as a Beacon of Liberty and a Net-Security Contributor, evolving specifically in the relationship between the Georgian and U.S. governments during these years, contributed to stability in Georgia’s foreign policy. Yet these NRCs were also subjected to serious challenges, particularly relating to two crises ensuing over the November 2007 riots in Tbilisi and the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. In both cases, the Georgian government was subjected to conflicting imperatives emanating from its own role conceptions, the expectations voiced by its U.S. counterparts, and the immediate demands of crisis decision making.

Drawing on recent advances in foreign policy role theory and crisis management theory, two social mechanisms are developed, role location and role conflict management. Role location is a long-term process of interaction between the actor and significant others, resulting in a gradual harmonization of role expectations and intentions. Role conflict management instead represents the actor’s handling of potentially disruptive moments, raising questions about the credibility and legitimacy of existing NRCs in the eyes of others, and confronting the actor with choices regarding stability and change in existing NRCs.

The framework is applied in an analysis of the Georgian government’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the U.S. in the years 2004-2012, with particular attention to the disruptive effects of the crises in 2007-2008, and the actions taken to address the resulting role conflicts. The analysis draws on unique first-hand material, including interviews with members of the Georgian and U.S. foreign policy elites, confidential diplomatic correspondence and official speeches, to uncover the processes by which the mechanisms of role location and role conflict management played out in Georgia’s foreign policy. The dissertation concludes that the stability in Georgia’s foreign policy stemmed from the fact that the two NRCs became deeply socially embedded in Georgia’s relations with the U.S. over time, but also from the Georgian government’s ability to adapt its NRCs in response to crises, the role expectations of significant others, and contextual change. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. , 280 p.
Skrifter utgivna av Statsvetenskapliga föreningen i Uppsala, ISSN 0346-7538 ; 192
Keyword [en]
Georgia, United States, Foreign Policy, Role Theory, Crisis Management
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Politics, Economy and the Organization of Society; Baltic and East European studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-28208ISBN: 978-91-554-9274-8 (print)OAI: diva2:851605
Public defence
2015-09-18, Brusewitz, Gamla torget 6, Uppsala, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-08-31 Created: 2015-09-07 Last updated: 2016-01-19Bibliographically approved

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