The Foreign Policies of Small States: Challenging Neorealism in Its Own Backyard

Miriam Fendius Elman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


The received wisdom in international relations suggests that we can best account for the foreign policies of small states by examining structural/systemic rather than domestic level factors. This article challenges this scholarly consensus. The distribution of power and the balance of threat do influence domestic institutional formation and change in emerging states. However, the subsequent military strategies of these weak states are likely to reflect such domestic institutional choices in a number of important and predictable ways. The article tests this argument against pre-1900 US domestic regime change and foreign security policy. The historical evidence suggests that while international preconditions were critically linked to constitutional reform, the institutional structures and rules of democratic presidentialism affected both the timing and substance of US military strategies in later periods. The US case study provides a springboard for speculating on the international context of democratization in Eastern Europe and the long-term foreign-policy consequences of this domestic regime choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-217
Number of pages47
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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