Countries differ in size, socioeconomic development, and political regime. They also vary in their political institutionalization and societal structures, military and economic capabilities, and strategic cultures. In addition, public opinion, national role conceptions, decision making rules and belief systems, and personality traits of political leaders vary from one state to another. These differences directly affect both foreign policymaking process and foreign policy decisions. Whereas the extant literature on foreign policy analysis (FPA) lacks a grand theory as to how domestic factors influence foreign policy and under what conditions these factors become more important, a large body of work shows that a state’s foreign policy relies heavily on unit-level characteristics, and it is not completely shaped by systemic-structural constraints and opportunities based on distribution of power and military capabilities.
Diversionary explanations are a key FPA approach to understanding how domestic politics shape foreign policy and, in particular, the resort to force and risk of war, arguing that increasingly vulnerable leaders manipulate foreign policy in order to enhance their domestic political position. This literature has emerged in major ways since Levy’s early critique in which he noted wide disparity between the lack of theoretical rigor and empirical findings in political science research and the richness of qualitative research by historians offering compelling cases of diversionary wars such as the First World War. Nearly three decades later, however, this situation has significantly changed. A vibrant political science literature has emerged that provides significant empirical evidence based on, first, longitudinal studies of mostly the U.S. case and the presidential use of force since World War II (WWII); and, second, cross-national studies that capture variance in the diversionary resort to force across regime types (and subtypes) and different international contexts. In contrast, historical literature on the origins of World War I (WWI) has come to view the German case as more complex and has placed it into comparative perspective with the other four great powers. Historical research suggests that leaders in all five powers faced rising domestic opposition in the prewar decades; that they subsequently adopted new (yet varied) political strategies for containing opposition; and, at the brink of war, that diversionary and other political motivations played out in indirect and different ways. This article reviews these literatures and suggests that there has been some convergence of themes in the research of political scientists and historians. Consistent with FPA approaches, these literatures point to complex patterns of domestic oppositions across different institutional arenas, contingencies affecting the willingness and ability of leaders to resort to diversionary force, the role of agency stemming from leader beliefs about political stability and the consequences of risking war, and the importance of decision making dynamics in the ultimate resort to war.
Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, yet neither its road to membership nor its time in the Union have been easy. In the 1990s and 2000s, the accession process provided an impetus for political and economic reforms, but the EU’s famed transformative power worked unevenly. Bulgaria started its journey later than other countries in post-communist Europe, and had to deal with worse domestic and external political and economic impediments, and thus failed to close the gap with the wave of nations entering the EU in 2004. The sense of unfinished business paved the way to a post-accession conditionality regime, subjecting Bulgaria and Romania to special monitoring and regimenting them into a special category apart from other members. Despite efforts by successive governments in Sofia, the country has not made it into either the Schengen area or the eurozone’s antechamber, the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-2). The limited progress in reforming the judiciary and combatting high-level corruption and organized crime has prevented Bulgaria from continuing its journey to the core of Europe, unlike some of the 2004 entrants from Central and Eastern Europe. Being part of the Union has not made a profound difference when it comes to deep ingrained ills such as state capture, and the lack of accountability and transparency in policymaking. Some critical areas have witnessed serious backsliding—notably the national media, where the EU has few formal competences or levers of influence. Yet, Bulgaria’s EU membership should not be written off as a failure. On the contrary, it has delivered enormous economic benefits: increased growth, expanded safety nets in times of recession (especially after 2008), improved economic competitiveness, new opportunities for entrepreneurship, cross-border labor and educational mobility, and transfer of knowledge and skills. As a result, EU membership continues to enjoy high levels of public support, irrespective of the multiple crises it has gone through during the 2010s. Political parties by and large back integration, though soft Euroscepticism has made inroads into society and politics. While the EU has had, caveats aside, a significant domestic impact, Bulgaria’s imprint on common institutions and policies is limited. It lacks the resources and political clout to advance its interests in Brussels. That generates risk in light of the growing divide between a closely integrated core and a loose periphery, likely to expand in the wake of Brexit. Bulgaria is affected by decisions in the eurozone but has little say over them. The absence of leverage is particularly striking in external affairs. Despite its geographic location, next to the Western Balkans and Turkey and in proximity to Russia and Ukraine, Bulgaria has rarely, if ever, been on the forefront of major decisions or policies to do with the EU’s turbulent neighborhood. At the same time, Bulgaria has been exposed to a series of crises affecting the Union, notably the antagonistic turn in relations with Russia after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East.