in: Contemporary Politics, 16:1, 81-100.
Non-democratic regional powers are increasingly blamed for authoritarian backlashes in formerly democratising countries, or for the persistence of entrenched autocratic regimes in their neighbourhood. Yet there is a striking scarcity of theoretical deliberations as to why powerful autocracies should prefer autocratic neighbours over democratic ones. Employing a rational-choice model that links foreign policy behaviour to the logic of domestic politics, this article develops a theoretical argument why, and under which circumstances, autocratic regional powers should be expected to attempt to impact upon governance structures in their regional environment.
Combining a political economy perspective with findings from transition literature, the authors conclude that, all else equal, autocratic regional powers have strong incentives to favour similar political systems in nearby states, but that this interest must be weighted against an overarching interest in political stability. The article discusses these theoretical findings against the backdrop of country cases in the regional environments of Russia and China.