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NATO defense ministers meet to discuss the Ukraine crisis, Brussels, Belgium, June 25, 2015 (NATO photo).

For 21st-Century Problems, States Seek Partnerships, not Alliances

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Today’s international system is a confusing and hybrid mix of concepts about how states interact and manage their relations. Since the end of the Cold War, the absolute and relative importance of alliances is increasingly being questioned, and new forms of ad hoc cooperation that do not assume permanent shared interests have emerged. Above all, there’s no longer one rule book to govern interstate relations. Instead states in the 21st century work across a full spectrum of approaches, from insistence on absolute state sovereignty on one end of the spectrum to regional integration on the other, with a range of partnerships of varying degrees of obligation and commitment in between.

Today, with the possible exception of North Korea, most governments see the value of working with other countries on shared or mutually beneficial projects, from security, trade and infrastructure cooperation to more ambitious initiatives to improve the human condition. There is nearly always some level of friction in these relationships, as most states seek to maximize their freedom of action and resist infringements on sovereignty. ...

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