Small state security engagement in a military alliance – the case of Estonia



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Tartu Ülikool


A principal goal of a small state in contemporary International Relations is to ensure their survival, a task which is inherently more challenging for small states. Countering and mitigating those challenges often pushes small states towards alliance engagements. Up to now, most works analysing small state alliance engagement have quoted the benefits of multilateral alliance engagement for small states. In addition to sovereign deterrence creation measures, the theoretical discussion in the thesis hypothesises the use of bilateral security alliance relations as a separate tool of deterrence creation next to multilateral engagement. Such engagement is seen to be most widely used in times of increasing threat perception, with the increased speed and effectiveness of such commitments being more advantageous for small states than multilateral deterrence creation. This master’s thesis engages with a single-case study of Estonia, through three relevant time frames of increasing threat perception, to chart the ways and circumstances in which different methods of security engagement is used. To do this, a three way model of multilateral, bilateral, and sovereign deterrence creation methods is used, mostly focusing on charting the balance of multi- and bilateral security arrangements through the use of relevant elites’ speech acts and security documents. The results of the case study analysis indicate that the relevance of bilateral security arrangements within an alliance increases hand-in-hand with threat perception, with instances of higher security risks pushing a small state away from multilateral and toward bilateral arrangement. This thesis contributes to the literature of small state alliance engagement through highlighting the importance of bilateral engagements within an alliance as a tool of improving the speed and intensity of allied security engagement.