Participants in the project

Dr Baldur Thorhallsson 

NATO Project Country Director
University of Iceland
Contact information:


Baldur Thorhallsson has published extensively on small states, Iceland’s foreign policy, and European integration. In 2002 he established the Centre for Small State Studies and re-established the Icelandic Institute of International Affairs at the University of Iceland. He chaired both those institutions until 2011. He has run an annual Small States Summer School at the University of Iceland since 2003. Baldur has completed one monograph, two edited books, 24 journal articles, and 15 book chapters on small states. Several of these are widely taught in courses on small states.

Selected publications

1. Bailes, Alyson JK, Baldur Thorhallsson and Rachel Lorna Johnstone. 2013. “Scotland as an Independent Small State: Where would it seek shelter?” Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration 9(1): 1-20.
2. Bailes, Alyson JK and Baldur Thorhallsson. 2013. “Instrumentalizing the European Union in Small State Strategy.” Journal of European Integration 35(2): 99-115.
3. Thorhallsson, Baldur and Peadar Kirby. 2012. “Financial crisis in Iceland and Ireland: Does EU and Euro membership matter?” Journal of Common Market Studies 50(5): 801-808.

Dr Anne-Marie Brady

Partner Country Director
University of Canterbury
New Zealand
Contact information:


Anne-Marie Brady is a specialist on Chinese foreign and domestic policy, Arctic and Antarctic politics, China-Oceania relations, and NZ foreign policy. Anne-Marie has published 9 books and more than 40 research papers. She is Professor in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Executive Editor of The Polar Journal, and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

Selected publications

1. Anne-Marie Brady, China as a Polar Great Power, Washington, DC/New York: Wilson Center Press/Cambridge University Press, 2017.
2. Anne-Marie Brady, ed., Looking North, Looking South: China, Taiwan, and the South Pacific, Singapore: World Scientific Press, 2010.
3. Anne-Marie Brady, ed, The Emerging Politics of Antarctica, Abingdon, Routledge, 2013.

Dr Margarita Šešelgytė

Vilnius University
Contact information:


Margarita Šešelgytė is Studies Director at the Institute of International relations and Political Science, Vilnius University. She teaches international politics and security studies, the common security and defence policy of the EU, European Eastern Partnership Policy, NATO readiness, and Baltic-Nordic cooperation.

Selected publications

1. Šešelgytė M., „NATO‘s Readiness in the Post-Crimea Environment: political and military challenges“, in Fassi E., Lucarelli S., Marrone A., eds. What NATO for What States? Warsaw and beyond, NATO HQ, 2015.
2. Šešelgytė, Margarita, Security in the Baltic Sea Region: ‘island of peace’ or a potential battle ground? in Spruds A., Bukovskis K. (eds.) Security of the Broader Baltic Sea Region: afterthoughts from the Riga seminar, Latvian Institute of International Affairs, 2014.
3. Šešelgytė, Margarita; Mälksoo, Maria, „Reinventing ‘new’ Europe: Baltic perspectives on transatlantic security configurations,“ Communist and Post-Communist Studies, ELSEVIER, Vol. 46, Issue 3, September 2013.

Dr Alan Tidwell

Georgetown University


Alan Tidwell is the Director of the Center for Australian New Zealand, and Pacific Studies, Georgetown University. He teaches on the foreign policy of small and medium states, and is currently researching how small and medium states lobby the US government.

Selected publications

1. Tidwell, Alan and Barry Zellen (eds), Land, Indigenous Peoples and Conflict, Routledge, 2015.
2. Pollmann, Mina and Alan Tidwell, “Australia’s submarine technology cooperation with Japan as burden-sharing with the USA in the Asia-Pacific,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, Volume 69, Issue 4, 2015.
3. Tidwell, Alan, Conflict Resolved? A Critical Assessment of Conflict Resolution, Continuum, 1998.

Young researchers

Dr. Steven Murphy recently obtained a PhD in History from University College Cork, Ireland, where his thesis focused on Irish neutrality during the Second World War. He holds a Masters Degree in International Relations and as post-graduate diploma in Small States Studies. At University College Cork, Steven taught classes on International History, European Studies and Politics. He also worked for the Irish government in various capacities for 10 years prior to moving to Iceland. His areas of interest include state neutrality in Europe, Irish foreign policy, European security, small states and transnational history.

Research project:

An examination of the challenges and opportunities for Ireland and Europe’s other small neutral and non-aligned states (Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Sweden) in their co-operation with NATO via the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. Participation in the PfP enables these small states to co-ordinate and co-operate with NATO members on their own terms without bearing the cost of full membership. As these neutral states are committed to peace-keeping efforts and often position themselves as honest brokers in international conflicts, participation in NATO peace-keeping missions, such as in Kosovo and Afghanistan, brings further advantage for the fulfilment of foreign policy goals. Consequently, inter-operability between military forces and participation in peace-keeping training programmes is high on these states’ agendas in their relations with NATO.

Shifts in the international security environment since the end of the Cold War have posed definitional challenges not only for NATO itself, but also for how the small European neutrals and non-aligned states view their own position on defence and security issues. Domestic factors largely constrain significantly deeper co-operation with NATO, but a revanchist Russia, increased threats from international terrorism, conflict on the borders of the EU and the migration crisis prompt a re-assessment of these small European states’ security calculations. Should they seek shelter through NATO, or remain aloof?

Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir is adjunct lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Iceland. Her research mainly focuses on Icelandic society and politics, Iceland’s foreign and security policy and feminist international relations. She holds degrees in international relations from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon (1995) and the University of Southern California (1998), as well as post-graduate certificates in methodology (2011) and university teaching (2012) from the University of Iceland.  She recently submitted her PhD at University College Cork in Ireland (2017) and is engaged in numerous research projects on feminist peace studies, resilience and societal security.

Research project:

With the ongoing changes in global politics, a politico-military alliance such as NATO must reassess its relevance not only to its member-states, but also the populations in those states. With perceived threats and risks stemming from non-state actors and even resulting from unintentional events in the natural environment, people in many countries may believe that the main threats they face are not of the kind that can be responded to with military capacity. For small states with limited military capabilities, this may be particularly pronounced. Previous research indicates that the general public is far more likely to find their safety and security is threatened by climate change, economic shocks, migration, and increasing political polarization. In a 2016 survey, I found that only 17% of the Icelandic population, for example, believes that NATO membership is the primary factor in ensuring Iceland’s security.

Drawing on that survey, I propose a project that assesses the difference between the perceptions of the public and the policies promulgated by the authorities. I will be asking whether it is possible that the population in small states is less likely to perceive intentional threats stemming from the international system. If so, is this due to its limited exposure to international (and in particular militarized) conflicts? Whereas the legislative and in particular executive branches of the state undergo considerable international socialization through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, due to the limited scale of the public sector, it is possible their experiences do not get funneled through to the population, leaving the public unaware (or uninterested) in these kinds of threats.

Živilė” Marija Vaicekauskaitė serves as US Desk Officer of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Department at the Ministry of National Defense of Lithuania. Prior to assuming this position, Živilė served as a Baltic American Freedom Foundation Fellow working with the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security. Živilė also serves as a chairperson of the board of the Lithuanian Atlantic Treaty Association. In her role, she executes and oversees projects relating to NATO visibility in the Baltic region and regional security issues. Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, she worked as a coordinator for Eastern European and Russian Studies program at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University where she earned her Master’s degree in European Studies. Živilė’s principal research interests include transatlantic security policy, Baltic Sea regional cooperation, and Nordic-Baltic security. Her work has been featured in several scientific journals, Lithuania media outlets, and the Atlantic Council’s NATOSource. Most recently, she contributed to a book chapter dedicated to discussing the Baltic Sea Region security cooperation.

Research project:

The Nordic-Baltic countries are all defined as small states which share the same geopolitical space and are positioned close to a neighboring large power. Smallness is most commonly felt by these states in the security field where all Nordic-Baltic countries are facing a similar threat environment. The changing European security environment, growing political instability worldwide, uncertainty about the US role in bolstering European security, and the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union have led to a rethink of the security strategies of small states in the Baltic sea region and a search for new ways to boost their security.

The proposed research examines the defense and foreign policy choices and challenges of small states in the Nordic Baltic region as they face these new security challenges.  The project enquires whether/why Nordic Baltic states have adopted parallel or diverging security strategies to deal with emerging security challenges and what are the future prospects for enhancing Nordic-Baltic defense and security cooperation at the regional level.

The research analyzes defense and security cooperation among five Nordic (Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland) and three Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia). The NB8 format is an interesting example of regional cooperation because two countries of this format are NATO partner countries, yet all of them are small states bounded by the same geographical area and geopolitical environment – the Baltic Sea region, where they face the same threat environment. Given these conditions, the research raises the question of why Nordic-Baltic countries have not yet achieved a more regionalized security and defense cooperation and what security strategies they have employed to respond to the complex security environment.

Neringa Bladaitė is a PhD Candidate at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University.  She holds M.A in International Relations and Diplomacy from the same Institute. Her Master thesis about US nuclear weapon posture (from the perspective of deterrence theory and norms) was published in scientific journal. Prior to that Neringa earned B.A degree in History at Vilnius University.

Neringa’s research interests include small states studies, security issues of Baltic Sea region, nuclear weapons policy, and theoretical challenges of security studies.

Research project:

Research project focuses on recent discussions and developments in the field of small states studies and aims to suggest the guidelines for a new security strategy. In changing security environment, the classical strategies of the small states become questionable. In practice, instead of maintaining traditional “one level” security cooperation, small states try to take advantage of several security providers at the same time. Project aims to analyze the emerging issue in this context:  although, while participating in multiple partnerships small states gains broader security guarantees, they become more vulnerable for any positional changes of their security providers.

Special attention of this project is devoted to evaluation of the process of dynamics (changes of actors) in difficult multi layered security strategies that small states adopt. The research also covers the questions: how the actors interact within the same security model? If the smooth change of security providers is possible? How does the process of dynamics affects foreign and security policies of small states? Consequently, from the theoretical point of view, this project aims to identify the vital elements for the security strategies of small states in new security environment, as well as to provide a policy brief. Therefore, the special emphasis will be placed on the case studies (cases will be chosen from the different regions) with strong orientation to current and forward-looking issues.

Ryan Knight is a graduate student at Georgetown University seeking an M.A. in Conflict Resolution. He focuses on issues related to intractable conflict, contested identity, and corruption in Eastern Europe and is currently living in Lviv, Ukraine studying the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian society at Ukrainian Catholic University on a Boren Fellowship. He was born and raised in Eureka, California and served in the United States Peace Corps in Ukraine from 2013-14 and from 2015-16.

Research project:

Throughout the periphery of the former Soviet Union, intergroup conflict in smaller states has been influenced and been instigated by larger external powers. In November of 1990, the first of several wars that would break out along the former borders of the former Soviet Union ignited in a brief but bloody conflict in Moldova’s Transnistria region. Despite the failure to come to a full settlement to resolve the conflict more than two decades after it began, Moldova has enjoyed a state of relative peace since the end of the war.

This project, which will produce a Master’s thesis, an academic paper and policy briefs, will explore the factors that have prevented violence from reigniting while identifying current drivers of peace and conflict in Moldova. Understanding these factors are critical to designing responsive, evidence-based practices that can ultimately resolve the Transnistrian conflict and prevent a return to violent conflict in Moldova.

Khamza Sharifzoda is a graduate student at Georgetown University. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at the School of Foreign Service. He completed his undergraduate degree with honors at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, focusing on the politics and governance of the post-Soviet countries. He researched conflicts in Ukraine, Moldova, South and North Caucasus. He also studied abroad at Charles University in the Czech Republic. Khamza traveled extensively for his research purposes in other Eurasian countries, especially in Russia and Ukraine. His previous articles have appeared in the Diplomat Magazine. He can be reached via email at

Research project:

Following a short but dangerous war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, the European Union recast its policy toward a set of former Soviet republics sandwiched between East and West.  Under the “Eastern Partnership Program,” the EU sought to foster stability and deepen economic integration with the neighboring region through a socio-economic and political transformation of the six countries.  In order to steer Eastern countries toward democratic futures, the EU incentivized and rewarded democratic practices, increasing transparency and government accountability, decreasing energy dependency, and supporting civil society and human rights in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.  While Ukraine is at the center of the tug of war between Russia and the EU, Azerbaijan provides a fascinating case of a state that neither decided to pursue deeper integration with Russia (as Armenia and Belarus) nor actively sought membership in the EU (as Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova).

The aim of this research is to examine EU-Azerbaijani relations through the prism of the Eastern Partnership Program.  Given that the EU will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership Program in 2019, it is time to evaluate the effect of the Program on Azerbaijan and to fill the gap in the existing literature.  The importance of this research lies in its potential to identify limits and weak points of the Program and to produce relevant policy recommendations for future engagement with Azerbaijan. The research will also shed light on the areas in which the EU’s soft power was more successful and the areas in which the EU utterly failed.

Project management

The project will be housed within the Centre for Small State Studies (CSSS) at the University of Iceland. The Centre for Small State Studies aims to encourage research and education on the subject of small states. It has established itself as one of the leading research centres in the world focusing on this theme. The CSSS has received several grants from the European Union, the Nordic Council, and the Nordic-Baltic Council. It has also received support from both private and public enterprises in Iceland. In 2013 the CSSS was awarded a prestigious Centre of Excellence grant from the EU and thus became a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, the first of its kind in Iceland. Since 2003, the CSSS has run an annual summer school on Small States and European Integration. The course runs for two weeks and is open to both Icelandic and international students. The Summer School is a joint project of several universities in Europe and is sponsored by the EU’s Erasmus program. The Centre runs two reviewed publications series offering occasional papers as well as working papers, available in print and online. The Centre has also published books on various related topics. The Centre for Small State Studies is housed under the Institute of International Affairs as well as the Centre for Arctic Policy Studies and Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre. Pia Hansson is the director of the Institute of International Affairs (IIA) and the centres that are housed within the IIA.

Margrét Cela

Project manager
Centre for Arctic Policy Studies
Centre for Small State Studies
Contact information:

Margrét is a project manager at the Centre for Arctic Policy Studies, but occasionally manages projects under the other centres or the Institute of International Affairs. She has done research on small states and security and is currently also working on a PhD thesis on small states and security in the Arctic – with a special focus on Iceland.