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Small States and the New Security Environment

28 March 2024

The SSANSE project (2017-2019) was a preparedness initiative examining the defence and foreign policy choices and challenges of small states in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Oceania in the new security environment. Find out more about the project.



Small states may be small in population and territory, but they have frequently had a disproportionate effect on global politics and they are more often affected by global shifts in power. The SSANSE project, which ran from 2017 to 2019, contributed to theoretical debates on the role of small states in the changing international system as well as on the issue of how states manage their relations between the major powers in the new security environment.

The SSANSE research team was led by Professor Anne-Marie Brady, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Canterbury and Professor Baldur Thorhallsson, University of Iceland; working with co-directors Professor Margareta Šešelgytė, Vilnius University and Professor Alan Tidwell, Georgetown University. The project produced two edited books and more than twenty policy papers, held three international conferences (in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Reykjavik, and Washington DC), and provided scholarships for six post-graduate students. The NATO-SPS grant funded travel for the four lead researchers to attend three conferences, funded six student stipends, and provided a subsidy to the Center for Small States which was the lead organisation of the project. Further funding assistance was received from the University of Canterbury and NZ Political Science Association to help with an additional graduate scholarship for a New Zealand-based student and to pay for the travel cost of New Zealand graduate students to attend the project’s conference held in Ōtautahi Christchurch in 2017.


SSANSE Researchers

UC-Based Research Team
SSANSE Co-directors
  • Professor Margareta Šešelgytė, Vilnius University
  • Professor Baldur Thorhallsson, University of Iceland
  • Professor Alan Tidwell, Georgetown University


Research Associates (NZ foreign policy book project)
  • Dr Joe Burton, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Dr Beth Greener, Massey University
  • Mr Nicky Hager, independent researcher
  • Associate Professor Jim Headley
  • Associate-Professor Steve Hoadley
  • Professor Robert Patman
  • Dr Anna Powles
  • Dr Jim Rolfe
  • Dr Mark G. Rolls
  • Dr Anthony Smith, NZ Department of PM and Cabinet
  • Dr Reuben Steff
  • Dr Corey Wallace


SSANSE Pop-up Think Tank


Te kuaka marangaranga, kotahi manu i tau ki te tahuna: tau atu, tau ra
The godwit flock has arisen; one bird has come to rest on the beach: others will follow.


The Pop Up Think Tank continues the work of the SSANSE Project by supporting policy-relevant, theoretically-informed research on the defence and foreign policy choices and challenges of small states in the new security environment. We welcome new submissions. 

Editorial Board:
Professor Anne-Marie Brady
Professor Margarete Šešelgytė 
Professor Baldur Thorhallsson
Professor Alan Tidwell


Special Series: Commission for a Post-Covid-19 Future

The SSANSE Project is launching a new preparedness initiative, the Commission for a Post-COVID-19 Future, to provide contestable policy advice to the New Zealand government on options for our foreign, trade and economic policy, which aim to help New Zealand recover from the economic and political damage of the pandemic. Covid-19 is both a political and economic crisis, as well as a health issue. New Zealand, along with other small states, must make major changes to our economic planning, trade, and foreign policy in order to proactively adjust to a post-Covid-19 global order.


Special Series: Commission for a Post-Covid-19 Future
Anne-Marie Brady (University of Canterbury)Brave new world - New Zealand foreign policy in the COVID-19 era
Robert G Patman (University of Otago)

COVID-19 New Zealand and the new geopolitics

Charles Finny (Saunders Unsworth)Hedging against trade dependency post-COVID-19
Michael Reddell (Independent researcher)Rebuilding New Zealands shattered economy in a post-COVID world

SSANSE Policy briefs

Professor Anne-Marie Brady (University of Canterbury/ Wilson Center/ SSANSE Project Director)Looking for points in common while facing up to differences:
 a new model for New Zealand-China relations

China's expanding Antarctic interests: implications for New Zealand
Dr Joe Burton (University of Waikato)
The reform of the UN: the part NZ can play
Professor Natalia Chaban
and Dr Serena Kelly (University of Canterbury)

How to communicate New Zealand to global audiences via new media

Dr Simon Chapple (Victoria University of Wellington)Building democratic resilience
Dr Kate Dewes
and Dr Lyndon Burford
(Independent scholars)
New Zealand and disarmament: what next?
Dr Martin Fisher
and Ben Mathews
(University of Canterbury,  
The emerging role of Māori business groups in New Zealand foreign affairs and trade
Dr Beth Greener (Massey University)NZDF Role in NZ Foreign Policy
Mr Nicky Hager (Author)Exploring the meanings and possibilities of an independent New Zealand foreign policy
Dr James Headley (University of Otago)Russia’s Resurgence and New Zealand
Professor Richard Jackson (Otago University)Imagining nonviolent foreign policy in a violent world
Mr K.C. Jung (University of Canterbury)New Zealand’s current relations with Korea and further areas for expansion
Dr Jake Lin (Victoria University of Wellington)Trading with the Great Powers: The limits of New Zealand’s Free Trade Strategy with China
Dr Adrian H. Macey (Victoria University of Wellington)New Zealand's climate change diplomacy: future plans and challenges
Mr Leonardo Milani (Victoria University of Wellington)The New Sparta Modelling the Strategic Outcomes of New Zealand’s Cyber-Armament Program 2020-2040
Dr Vickie Miller (MFAT)New Zealand’s future security
Professor Robert G. Patman (University of Otago)New Zealand-US relations in the Trump era and beyond
Professor Steve Ratuva (University of Canterbury)NZ’s aid policy: what could we be doing better?
Dr Jim Rolfe (Victoria University of Wellington)Should New Zealand and Australia Develop a Closer Strategic Relationship?
Dr Mark G Rolls (University of Waikato)Strengthening ASEAN Centrality in the Regional Security Architecture in the Face of Major Power Competition
Associate Professor Margarita Šešelgytė (Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University, Lithuania/ SSANSE Project Director)Small states’ use of the military in foreign policy
Dr Reuben Steff (University of Waikato)Expanding New Zealand foreign policy and trade beyond traditional partnerships
Professor Baldur Thorhalsson (Centre for Small States Studies, University of Iceland/ SSANSE Project Director)The small state in the new global order
Professor Alan Tidwell (Centre for Australia, NZ, and the Pacific, Georgetown University/ SSANSE Project Director)Re-calibrating New Zealand’s Congressional Outreach Strategy in the Days of Trump
New Zealand's Potential in Small State Peacemaking
Dr Vangelis Vitalis (MFAT)New Zealand's Trade Agenda to 2030
Dr Corey Wallace (Free University of Berlin)Dealing with a Proactive Japan
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