How can small states influence the international system? — North Korea and Israel  

Introduction

The aim of this essay is to understand how the foreign policy of small states impacts on the international system. The objective is to examine the foreign policy choice of the small states in terms of domestic environment and external boundaries effect on the international relations. The two specific states selected for this study are ‘North Korea and Israel’.

North Korea confrontation with South Korea and cold war with America, nuclear capabilities, and non-democratic leadership decides the foreign policy (Chanlett-Avery & Rinehart, 2015). On the other hand, Israel close relationship with America influences the foreign policy. The confrontation with Palestine and non-recognition of 33 countries which are a member of United States present a diverse opportunity to study the small state influence on the international system (Ross, 2015).

Reiter & Gartner (2013) stated that in today’s globalised world, small states have a plausible impact to make changes in international system and thus they are considered as important actors in international relations. Alden & Aran (2013) added that foreign policy involves the practices as well as conduct among these actors in the international system. The substance of the foreign policy between the international actors includes intelligence, diplomacy, international trade and cultural exchange.

Therefore, foreign policy analysis (PFA) is an important instrument to understand the formal decision making of these actors along with sub-national resources such as population and territorial size, gross domestic product (GDP) and military capacity which influence the foreign policy (Breuning, 2016).

According to Karsh (2012) the small states have divergent characteristic based on power, weakness and size. A state is considered small based on its nominal size (wealth, economy, population, and territory) and developing as a state in the compressed system.

The four approaches which classified the small states are; 1) setting of the upper limit in terms of population, 2) measurement of the element objectives, 3) relative influence, and 4) characteristic which the states from each other. The size variable involves the notion of power which defined the self-image of the state (Doreian & Mrvar, 2015).

According to Holsti (2016), the combination of size, economic development, material resources, geographic location and military power explains the extent to which smaller states have the capacity to perform in the international context and influence on foreign policy.

According to Brown (2015), classical realism highlights that people routinely unite because of the fear of coercion from the external power rather co-operating based on the social obligation for the mutual interest. The cooperative relation between the states deepens over time which makes conflict and raw power exercise the exception rather than a rule of international relation.

Consequently, once trust establishes between the states, it becomes the binding factor for the mutual benefit and influence foreign policy. On the other hand, realist thinking or neo-realism excludes the human nature as an explanatory factor of international relation (Dunne, et al., 2013).

According to Jackson & Sorensen (2015), neorealist believe that states faced with a system of anarchy and strong states define the balance of power and stability of the system is based on the hegemonic power of the bi-polar and multi-polar system. Neorealist argue that state behaviour determinants depend upon the degree of the threat which small states feel from the aggregate power of another state (offensive intention and capability and physical proximity).

Rationalist suggests that foreign policy choice is based on security and wealth maximisation and does not consider the structural importance. The problem with realist approach is that it focuses on states and fails to include the recognition of the global challenges and solidarity which bring people and states together at international level (Moses, 2014).

A constructivist approach to international relations and implication for foreign policy for small states highlight that network and shared webs of the understanding which are developed over time based on exchange and cooperation brings opportunities and protections to small states. Despite the international rules which define the rules of behaviour may not prevent the strong power states to impose their contraventions on the smaller states. Therefore, smaller states have greater degree of interest in protecting as well as strengthening the norm and processes (Adler, 2015).

North Korea is located in Eastern Asia with a population of 24.9 million and GDP of the country is $40 billion. North Korea have non-democratic regime as well as adopted the policy of self-reliance for diplomatic relations and economic welfare.

According to Holsti (2016), the combination of size, economic development, material resources, geographic location and military power explains the extent to which smaller states have the capacity to influence international system. The geographical outreach and nuclear power pose threat to many countries such as Japan, Israel, and the USA. The country history of missile and arms proliferation including recent hydrogen bomb test is major concern for the international community.

Dunne, et al (2013) mentioned that realist thinking or neo-realism excludes the human nature as an explanatory factor of international relation. North Korea neighbour South Korea and ally, the US poses a threat to the country in terms of coercion and conflict. In the light of realism approach, North Korea accepted the Soviet Union influence. Therefore, the presence of South Korea did not allow the bi-polarity.

Neorealist argues that state behaviour determinants depend on upon the degree of the threat which small states feel from the aggregate power. The high tension which could avoid the superpower to form the coalition does not hold in the case of North Korea. International rules which define the rules of behaviour may not prevent the strong power states to impose their contraventions on the smaller states such as Korea. The US has imposed a sanction on the North Korea and brings sanction through the United Nations.

China fears of the US intervention are present while Chinese leaders remained the US democratic transition of Eastern Europe as well as ramification of Germany does not allow the eastward expansion of NATO. Therefore, Chinese cooperation has allowed maintaining regional stability and influencing the North Korea regime behaviour (Jackson & Sorensen, 2015).

Israel is small country located in the Middle East along the border of Mediterranean Sea and the total area is 20,770 Sq./km. According to Karsh (2012) the four approaches which classified the small states are; 1,) setting of the upper limit in terms of population, 2) measurement of the element objectives, 3) relative influence, and 4) characteristic which the states from each other. The population of Israel is 8.05 million along with GDP of $281.8 billion.

There is little risk of invasion or coercion to the country from the nearest countries and neighbouring countries have weak economic and military structure. However, countries which do not recognise Israel and some of them are nuclear power which poses a threat to the country. The size variable involves the notion of power which defined the self-image of the Israel (Doreian & Mrvar, 2015).

According to Brown (2012), classical realism highlights that people routinely cooperate because of the fear of coercion from the external power rather co-operating based on the social obligation for the mutual interest. The relationship of Israel with the USA is an attempt to avoid the risk of coercion from different countries.

Thus, the foreign policy and relationship with Israel have shaped up power exercise the exception rather than a rule of international relation

Jackson & Sorensen (2015) discussed that neorealist believes that states faced with a system of anarchy and strong states define the balance of power and stability of the system is based on the hegemonic power of the bi-polar system. Constructivist approach highlight that network and shared webs of the understanding which are developed over time based on exchange and cooperation brings opportunities and protections. The strong relations of Israel with the US provide security to Israel and provide economic opportunities.

The foreign policy and international relation for the North Korea and Israel is remarked distant. The Israel is strong ties with the US and manages its relationship based on the mutual benefits. The neo-realist perspective of the relationship between the two countries which is based balance of power and stability of the system is based on the hegemonic power of the bi-polar (Reiter & Gartner, 2013).

The strong alliance between the countries presents a bi-polar situation. The support of the US for South Korea and military support void the bipolarity agreement. North Korea have maintained its nuclear game to deter the threat of US military and this influence its foreign policy (Davis, 2013).

Webber & Smith (2014) analysed that the relationship allows the Israel to deter the confrontation problem hegemonic power of USA creates bi-polar power system in the region. The foreign policy of the Israel is support by the USA for decades which includes the strong military presence at the Palestine border as well as the proliferation of nuclear weapons by Israel. Israel has managed to develop a bi-polar relationship with the USA to deter the security problem.

North Korea implementation of self-reliance defence system is used for political and economic self-efficiency. A constructivist approach network and shared webs of the understanding brings opportunities and protections. The relationship of North Korea with the Soviet Union, Geographic outreach, nuclear program, as well as economic self-reliance, allowed the country to shape its foreign policy.

The post-realism approach of Israel suggests that foreign policy choice is based on security and wealth maximisation and does not consider the structural importance (Redd & Mintz, 2013).

The state survival perspective for Israel and wars with Arab countries over the period of 50 years has contributed to the legitimizing of the Israel self-declared status. On the Palestinian issue, Israel is quite satisfied with status quo approach and i.e. uncertainties, as well as insecurities, involve the actual realization for the two-state solution. Despite the actors of world which do not recognise the Israel and its biggest threat from North Korea, as it does not recognise the Israel and criticise it as ‘imperialist state’ (Jervis, 2015).

The foreign policy of the Israel takes on the constructivist approach and relationship between the two has provided Israel to mark its presence and avoid the international conflicts. The continuous use of the veto power by the US in the united national has allowed protecting the interest of the Israel. The small size of Israel has a greater degree of influence on the international system (Dunne, et al., 2015).

The geographic location, economy, and nuclear power represent greater influence in the region despite the small population.  The rationalist approach to Israel suggests that foreign policy choice is based on security and wealth maximisation. Military power and relationship with the USA have allowed creating economic opportunities and developing a stronger presence in the region. To an extent Israel follow the realism approach for manage its relations and foreign policy. Israel receives the legal support underpinning its relationship with states (Dunne, et al., 2013).

On the other hand, North Korea has followed the realist approach which has allowed the intervention and influence of the china and the Soviet Union to influence its foreign policy. The neoclassical realists enclosed better explanation for the foreign policy of North Korea through alliance and influence of Soviet Union and Chinese, the control of the institutions and perception to control the behaviour of state (Jackson & Sorensen, 2015).

Conclusion

To conclude, the classical realism highlights that people routinely unite because of the fear of coercion from the external power rather co-operating based on the social obligation for the mutual interest.

Israel has taken realism approach to deterring the threat from Arab and other nuclear states through developing relationship with USA and western countries. The military capabilities, GDP, and self-claimant status have influenced the foreign policy of big actors such the US. Military power and relationship with the USA have allowed creating economic opportunities and developing a stronger presence in the region.

North Korea has taken neorealist argue that state behaviour determinants depend on upon the degree of the threat which small states feel from the aggregate power of another state. The external influences and the high tension which could avoid the superpower to form the coalition do not hold in the case of North Korea.

  • It is recommended that North Korea should purse realism approach to developing relationship with other for mutual benefit and cooperation. Realism would allow establishing trust as well as reducing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • Israel should take the constructivist approach to international relations with non-recognising countries which would allow developing a network of the understanding and on exchange and cooperation brings opportunities and protections.

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