Peer-Reviewed Articles

Namig Abbasov and Cameron G. Thies, “Between the West and Russia: Explaining Individual Foreign Policy Preferences in Small States”, Foreign Policy Analysis. Forthcoming.

This paper examines mass public opinion in three small states of the South Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to understand why some individuals in these states prefer a pro-Western foreign policy orientation- pursuing membership in NATO and the EU, while others do not. We draw on Social Identity Theory to hypothesize the potential affinity some individuals feel toward the West. Using public data from the South Caucasus region where Russia has strongly attempted to block Western penetration, the paper demonstrates that the commitment to democratic values is central to the understanding of mass opinion over foreign alliances in small states: individuals who demonstrate pro-democracy attitudes and support democratic values are more likely to approve of pro-Western foreign policy orientation. These findings suggest that the study of foreign policy preferences in small states is important for our understanding of great power politics and alliance competition.  

Abbasov, Namig. “Antigovernment Protest and Commitment to Democratic Principles.” Problems of Post-Communism (2021): 1-15.

While antigovernment protests have been widespread across the world in recent years, it is still not well understood why people protest their governments. Given the mass protests in the South Caucasus region, with their wider implications for political protests in other parts of the world where democracy is not consolidated and democratic forces are pushing for a transition from authoritarianism to democracy, this study asks why some individuals are more likely to participate in antigovernment protests, while others are not. I argue that commitment to democratic values is essential to understanding participation in anti-government protests. With broader implications for political protests in political regimes other than consolidated democracies, this research explores recent widespread protests in Georgia and finds evidence consistent with its primary argument.

Souleimanov, Emil Aslan, Namig Abbasov, and David S. Siroky. “Frankenstein in Grozny: vertical and horizontal cracks in the foundation of Kadyrov’s rule.” Asia Europe Journal 17, no. 1 (2019): 87-103.

Many scholars have suggested that organized violence in Chechnya has ended and that Russia’s Chechenization policy and Ramzan Kadyrov’s presidency deserve the credit. We suggest that Putin has created a Frankenstein-like ruler over whom he risks losing control. As a result, the conflict only appears resolved, and we draw attention to both vertical and horizontal cracks in the foundation of Kadyrov’s rule that could lead to renewed violence. Vertically, the Chechen strongman and his growing clout in regional and federal politics have antagonized Russian siloviki. Horizontally, thousands of Chechens appear to be in a state of postponed blood feud toward Kadyrov, his clan, and the kadyrovtsy, his personal army. Backed by President Putin’s personal support, Kadyrov has put in motion a brutal machine of persecution over which some signs indicate he has lost control. Fear of extermination at the hands of Kadyrov and his personal army has kept most prospective avengers at a bay. Once President Putin’s support wanes, locals will retaliate against Kadyrov and against Russian troops stationed in the republic, and Russian law enforcement circles will openly challenge Kadyrov’s rule. Putin’s support is only likely to wither if the costs of continued support (which grow with Kadyrov’s increasing independence) exceed the benefits (derived from an enforced peace). Either a renewed insurgency or ever more recalcitrant behavior would demonstrate a level of interest misalignment that could induce Putin to withdraw his support. Such a turn of events would render these horizontal and vertical cracks in the foundation of Kadyrov’s rule more noticeable and would likely cause the frozen conflict in Chechnya to thaw, leading to a new civil war.

Abbasov, Namig, and David Siroky. “Joining the Club: explaining alliance preferences in the South Caucasus.” Caucasus Survey 6, no. 3 (2018): 252-267.

Foreign policy alliance formation among small states in the aggregate has been extensively examined in the literature, but mass opinion and preferences on alliance formation in these states remain understudied. To address this gap, this article examines individual alliance preferences in two small states in the South Caucasus region: Georgia and Armenia. While most Armenians seem to support Armenian membership in CSTO and most Georgians appear to believe that Georgia should pursue NATO membership, some Armenians and Georgians prefer equal relations with both security alliances. The paper suggests that threat perception influences alliance formation preferences at the individual level and advances three testable pre-registered propositions. First, individuals who perceive Azerbaijan or Turkey as the primary threat to their state tend to support alignment with the Russian-led CSTO. Second, individuals who view the main threat to their state as coming from Russia are predisposed to support NATO membership. Finally, individuals who believe that tensions between Russia and the West are detrimental to their country are more inclined to support equal relations with both NATO and CSTO. In general, the evidence is consistent with these conjectures. We conclude with important qualifications and key implications for the study of mass opinion on alliance formation.

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