Friday, January 13, 2012

Foreign Policy Essay

Foreign Policy Essay

How can small powers enhance their freedom of action in foreign policy? Foreign policy gets more and more complicated in the modern world as the world gradually polarizes around the USA, the European Union and to a lesser degree around China and Russia. The modern superpowers as represented by the USA and the European Union appear to monopolize the foreign policy leaving little freedom for small powers (small states). These states, nevertheless, also are in a need to make independent foreign policy decisions rather than wait and accept what is decided for them by the superpowers. Currently, there are several means available to small states for them to enhance their freedom of action in a foreign policy. Please refer to them as shown in the essay below:

1. Economic dominance. It is a common knowledge that the stronger the economy, the more powerful the state becomes (Valls, 90). On one hand the state appears to be a very attractive market for foreign goods and thus has the power over other states indirectly by controlling the foreign companies’ trade. The foreign countries that depend on the country’s market thus economically depend on that country which in turn means that they take into account the country’s wishes and demands. On the other hand, the state has the necessary resources to engage in a war whenever needed and thus looks like a strong power.

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In other words, economic superiority almost always leads to political superiority and thus to more freedom to enhance their freedom of action in foreign policy. Small states like Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Singapore or South Korea possess more power and ability than large yet impoverished states of Eastern Europe, Africa or South America (Burchill, 72).

2. Military superiority. This type of power is classic and can be traded throughout history of mankind. The country that has enough weapons, and superior armed forces already has enough power to enhance its freedom of action in a foreign policy (Art, 31).

As a matter of fact, these countries can also exercise control over other countries through direct intimidation and force. One might pose a question, why it was Iraq rather than North Korea that was attacked. The answer is simple and logical: Iraq never possessed weapons of mass destruction before the war, while North Korea is believed to already possess nuclear weapons (Brown, 144). In the United Nations organization, the countries that have a veto power are the USA, Russia, Great Britain, France, China and India-the countries that officially have weapons of mass destruction and thus possess military superiority.
Having sophisticated weapons thus is one of the ways for small states to enhance their freedom of action in foreign policy (Nye, 274).

3. Unification and bloc formation. While one state has little power and opportunity, the formation of trade areas, and blocs immediately enhances their freedom of action in a foreign policy. Just like the individual North American states formed the USA, so did the European states that individually could hardly influence the US decisions formed the European Union, a politically integrated bloc that gives each state more freedom (Jackson, 61).

The world historically possessed various blocs, and at present one is aware of eastern European blocs, and south American blocs. The Arab world is also considered to be a unique bloc. Just like trade/labor unions that give individuals more power over others (e.g. employers and corporations), so do blocs give more freedoms to small states (Goldstein, 120).

4. Some unique attribute. These countries historically possessed a unique attribute that gave them more power to enhance their freedom of action in foreign policy. Switzerland has been historically a world’s banking center.

The country is neutral politically yet has enough freedom in a foreign policy (economic relations) and domestic affairs. Some countries that currently constitute a ‘buffer zone’ between east and West as represented by Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and the Baltic states have a freedom to unite with either west or Russia and thus have such unique power. The channel countries that host major oil/gas pipes from Russia or the Arab world also have unique power since technically they can shut off the west from the Arab or Russian oil/gas.

The countries that control the major ocean paths have a unique power since these paths are used by virtually every country in the world (Cutler, 76). Countries like Panama (Panama channel that connects Atlantic and Pacific ocean), Egypt (Indian ocean and Europe/Mediterranean), Spain (Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean), and Turkey (Eastern Europe and the south by sea) technically should possess as much power as they want because of their ability to control the global flow of goods. One needs to note that because this power has been realized long ago by the USA, the Panama channel belongs to the USA.

Unique resources also give the country the extra power since it could rapidly improve the country economically (Mingst, 50). The Arab world and Russia despite weak economy are considered as powerful simply because they provide oil/gas for virtually every other country in the world.

Unfortunately, such resource power has also been realized long ago, and the majority of African countries (that possess unique resources like diamonds, uranium, and other rare minerals) had ceded their mines to the major superpowers (mostly USA, Great Britain and France) after the end of WWII. Should these small African states have full control over their resources one would see their power to control the foreign policy grow.
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