Strategies of Middle-Sized Countries Vis-a-Vis Great Powers


Analysis of foreign policies of middle and great powers has traditionally been considered one of the key problems of International Relations. The period after the end of the Cold War is characterized by the formation of a new political and economic architecture, the emergence of new centers of power, the aspiration of non-Western players to challenge American domination by forming an independent growth pole that excludes hegemonism, asymmetric dependence, sanctions and any other forms of "economic war" as foreign policy tools. The non-linearity and randomness of these processes makes the problem of studying foreign policy strategies as a response to the global challenges of the modern world order relevant to an even greater degree. The current article analyzes the peculiarities of the foreign policy strategies of middle powers towards the great powers (the U.S. and China) using examples of South East Asian nations and Malaysia in particular. It reveals the conceptual features and theoretical  limitations  of  the  main strategic patterns identified by structural and neoclassical realism – balancing, bandwagoning  and hedging. Using the case of Malaysia as a basis, the paper highlights the main factors that influence the elaboration of foreign policy towards the great powers by middle power in terms of ensuring national security and maximizing economic benefits. The article argues that economic pragmatism, a strong institutional framework for bilateral cooperation, and the desire of the Malaysian ruling elite to strengthen its positions lead to Kuala Lumpur's rejection of the balancing policy against Beijing, despite the existence of a territorial dispute with China, the growth of Chinese ambitions and close military-political cooperation between Malaysia and the U.S. Therefore, this article challenges Stephen Walt's neorealist approach, showing that the geographical proximity of a weaker state  with  a  powerhouse  may  rather become a valuable asset than a source of threat. Finally, the article attempts to construct a new typology of foreign policy strategies of middle powers, building upon the tools introduced by Neoclassical Realism.


middle powers; great powers; Malaysia; USA; China; balancing; bandwagoning; hedging; regionalism; advanced  economic  engagement.

Authors: Alexander Korolev

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