Two friends of mine at Yale-NUS, from Lithuania and Bulgaria, recently debated small states on Fox & Hedgehog:
Bulgaria and the Plight of the Small State: “As long as the country avoids consciously choosing between past loyalties and current prospects, national control will continue to be a chimera. One thing is certain—it is extremely difficult for the small states to be anything but a mere echo of their vociferous “partners.” Satellite states, puppet governments, and proxy wars may be in the past, but subtle directives, resolutions, oligarchic circles, and economic pressures are no less controlling.”
Lithuania and The True Strength of Small States: “Within their specific geopolitical frameworks, small states often become coveted assets. By maintaining their friendly ties with Russia and seeking its help, Cyprus, Greece, and Hungary can send the EU a powerful and clear signal of displeasure with certain policies. They can derive large benefits from outside powers such as Russia without having to make significant concessions.
The fight for smaller countries’ support can be seen in some situations as a game of tug-of-war. However, tug-of-war is won by getting the rope onto one’s side—not by letting it slip. With some wise maneuvering and strategizing, small states can create their own autonomy.”