Date of Award

Summer 8-31-2023

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Sarah Lockhart, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

Caley Johnson, Ph.D.


In the field of international relations, the fate of small and mid-sized nations is often analyzed through the lens of great power politics, but this perspective misses half of the story. In this paper, I ask the question: what factors internal to smaller states affect their ability to court Western support? I compare the cases of Ukraine and Taiwan, as both are geopolitical flashpoints with a much larger aggressor, are widely researched for their implications on the global balance of power, yet lack sufficient research regarding their own actions on the world stage. Looking at the history of both states since democratization (the early 1990s in both cases), three variables–international/democratic norms, strategic alignment, and domestic support–have been relevant to the success of each state in realizing security agreements and military support from the United States. Yet the way these variables affect outcomes reveals interesting nuances in the cases examined. I argue that Ukraine and Taiwan find diplomatic success in achieving security partnerships with the US by emphasizing different norms and employing different messaging around strategic alignment, while domestic support is a prerequisite for diplomatic success in both cases. These findings should inform how scholars understand the factors internal to smaller nations which have a real and lasting impact on geopolitics, in particular by highlighting the underlying conditions which make adherence to democratic and international norms effective for some states and not others, and which influence the calculus for strategic alignment. These findings open up possibilities for further examination of small and mid-sized states to delineate these dynamics with greater clarity.