6.7.7 Foreign Policy

A peaceful world order is likely to be in every country’s interests – even though that sometimes requires governments to make concessions in order to reach agreement.  A quiet stance might be hard to defend against other politicians, who might urge a more flamboyant approach, but a good leader would explain why coercion doesn’t work.  This vision might be seen as idealist, though, especially at a time when three permanent UN Security Council members are ignoring international law and exercising a contemporary version of realpolitik: Russia in Crimea, China in the South China Sea, and America (unsuccessfully) in the Middle East.

Politicians can choose different styles for interactions with other countries, as described in the next four sub-sections:

  • They can seek national advantage by applying coercion (
  • They can compete fairly, whilst supporting rules-based international governance (
  • They can use ‘soft power’ to persuade other countries to co-operate (
  • Or they can use ‘realpolitik’, choosing aspects of the above three strategies on a purely pragmatic basis (

Politicians can take the internal view of these four options – calculating what would best increase their own domestic popularity – or, taking the broader view, they can assess what kind of world order would best suit their countries’ interests.



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