Analysts have argued that balance of power theory has become irrelevant to understanding state behavior in the post-Cold War international system dominated by the United States. Second-tier major powers (such as China, France, and Russia) and emerging powers (such as Germany and India) have refrained from undertaking traditional hard balancing through the formation of alliances or arms buildups. None of these states fears a loss of its sovereign existence as a result of increasing U.S. power. Nevertheless, some of these same states have engaged in soft-balancing strategies, including the formation of temporary coalitions and institutional bargaining, mainly within the United Nations, to constrain the power as well as the threatening behavior of the United States. Actions taken by others in response to U.S. military intervention in the Kosovo confiict of 1999 and the Iraq war of 2003 offer examples of soft balancing against the United States.
The post-Cold War international system, dominated by the United States, has been shaken by the relative downturn of the US economy and the simultaneous rise of China. China is rapidly emerging as a serious contender for America’s dominance of the Indo-Pacific. What is noticeable is the absence of intense balance of power politics in the form of formal military alliances among the states in the region, unlike state behaviour during the Cold War era. Countries are still hedging as their strategic responses towards each other evolve. We argue that the key factor explaining the absence of intense hard balancing is the dearth of existential threat that either China or its potential adversaries feel up till now. The presence of two related critical factors largely precludes existential threats, and thus hard balancing military coalitions formed by or against China. The first is the deepened economic interdependence China has built with the potential balancers, in particular, the United States, Japan, and India, in the globalisation era. The second is the grand strategy of China, in particular, the peaceful rise/development, and infrastructure-oriented Belt and Road Initiative. Any radical changes in these two conditions leading to existential threats by the key states could propel the emergence of hard-balancing coalitions.
This article addresses the role of nuclear taboo or the tradition of nonuse of nuclear weapons in limited wars involving a nuclear- and a nonnuclear-weapon state and the importance of this prohibitionary norm to deterrence theory. It explores nonnuclear states' strategic calculations before launching wars against nuclear-armed states. It discusses the historical, moral, normative, and rational bases of the taboo and explains why nuclear states have refrained from using their capability vis-à-vis nonnuclear challengers. Two cases of nonnuclear states initiating wars—the 1973 Egyptian offensive against Israel and the 1982 Argentine invasion of the British Falkland Islands—and the calculations of these states' decision makers on their adversaries' nuclear capability are addressed. The article concludes by discussing the implications of nuclear taboo for deterrence theory and regional conflicts, the conditions under which it could be broken, and the likely consequences of its infraction.
This article addresses the research question: how have most small states of South Asian region managed to acquire substantial amount of investment from China and India without falling into the strategic orbit of either power? This is an anomaly because most structural theories, in particular neorealism, would expect small states not to have much power and influence on their own in their relationship with powerful states. I answer this puzzle by arguing that the limited competition between China and India in an era of intensified economic globalization has provided a window of opportunity to small states to maximize their returns from the two without upsetting their relationship with either in a big way. This short-term bargaining window has been facilitated by the managed rivalry and economic interdependence between China and India which is yet to become an intense strategic rivalry. The article cautions that as the Chinese and Indian ambitions in the Indo-Pacific collide, the smaller states may be asked to make choices akin to bandwagoning with either one, in particular by offering military bases and naval facilities. This development, if it occurs, will drastically affect the bargaining power of the smaller states.
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