My paper assessed whether or not a neoconservative lens was appropriate in understanding U.S. – Georgia relations during the George W. Bush Administration. Under the administration, the United States pursued high levels of foreign aid and cooperation with the Republic of Georgia. I conclude that U.S. engagement with Georgia was an application of the neoconservative worldview embodied in the Bush Doctrine, specifically the desire to support and cooperate with like-minded states, promote democratic values, and maintain American dominance abroad. In order to accomplish these goals, the Bush administration gladly welcomed Georgia’s loyalty, sustained democratization assistance, and granted rhetorical support for the post-Rose Revolution administration of Mikheil Saakashvili. Furthermore, the U.S. assisted Georgia in its bid to join NATO and provided military aid in order to check a resurgent Russia.
Nevertheless, certain aspects of this aid and the near unconditional support the Bush administration provided to Georgia would prove to be detrimental, as it contributed to increasing tensions between Georgia and Russia and helped lead to the Russian invasion of Georgia in August of 2008 intended to reassert Russian dominance over the region. Nevertheless, the Bush administration’s subsequent decision to not militarily intervene on Georgia’s behalf showed that in the end realist logic prevailed over the prior neoconservative motivations to engage with the country, indicating the potential limitations of worldview and doctrine as presidential sources of foreign policy-making.
Probably the most interesting aspect of my research has to do with this last point. A neoconservative worldview had been the inspiration for U.S. engagement with Georgia prior to 2008, but realist logic prevented the Bush administration from militarily intervening on Georgia’s behalf and risking a second Cold War with Russia. The conduct by the administration at the outbreak of the war indicates the limitations of worldview as a source of presidential foreign policy-making. This case study in U.S. – Georgia relations shows that worldview is a potential way of understanding certain presidential foreign policy motivations, but these motivations can be constrained by strategic concerns and the reality of the international system.