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Inviting Balance: non-power states and the construction of regional balances.

Open Panel

Abstract

One of the most prominent features of the post-Cold War world is the resurgence of regions as the relevant level of analysis for security matters. The resurgence of these “regional security complexes” freed form “overlay” (Buzan) imposed to non-power states –those that do not qualify as polar or great powers (Schweller)–a new framework to design their security strategy. In spite of the relative disinterest of realists for non-power states, realism does provide us with useful axioms to delineate the universe of possible postures for non-power states. This class of states does not face the same structural constraints and is not offered the same opportunities as great powers. Non-power states are buck-passer par excellence in the sense that, by definition, they cannot guarantee their security by their own and have to rely on external help to insure their security. This paper thus argues that non-power states security and freedom is maximized in a situation where a balance between great powers exists. The “facilitation” of the creation and maintenance of such balance –and not the alignment with one unique great power– is thus at the core of non-power states strategy. Following Michael Handel, we argue that non-power states are not powerless victims of great power politics and, as regions are inherently open systems, that they have a crucial role to play in the constitution of regional balances by ‘inviting’ distant powers to take part in the regional balance. In this perspective, regional institutions are built by non-power states because it allows them to coordinate the ‘invited balance’ of great powers. This paper will then test our assumptions by examining how in two pivotal regional security complexes –Southeast Asia and Middle East– non-power states have contributed to create, organize and manage regional balances.