Grand strategies in foreign policy


The very abnormal time of the Cold War is over, but certain patterns in foreign policy have become visible as near-constants.

The approach of important powers to foreign policy differ a lot.

The U.S. kept its Cold War approach of containment, applied it to Iraq, Russia, Iran, China and North Korea. It expanded its approach with strategies of direct military regime change (first seen in Panama) after decades of only indirect meddling.
The UK plays along (with little interest in North Korea apparently) and exerts relatively small influence in the EU.

Russia has lost its rule over the other USSR nations and turned to a policy of an influence sphere. Actually, it wants exclusive influence and even integration (CIS). The tools range from aid to intelligence activities, 'peacekeepers', inciting minority conflict and invasion.

Their ambitions seem to be limited to former USSR territory so far.

France keeps a less strict policy of an influence sphere, primarily in regard to its former sub-Saharan African colonies. Its European strategy is based on its embrace of Germany and the political and economical integration of both former arch-enemies into European order.

The PRC, South Korea and Japan seem to focus on a policy that secures access to raw materials by investment and trade, using their economic power instead of military power for leverage.
The PRC is also engaged in North Korea and still dissatisfied with the de facto independence of Taiwan. There seems to be a long-term re-unification strategy for the absorption of Taiwan (involving economic entanglement and deterring military strength).

Germany and Turkey have a cooperation & good relations strategy to preserve a satisfactory situation. The German policy collides with he U.S. containment strategy for Russia while the Turkish policy collides with the U.S. containment policy on Iran and Syria (and previously on Iraq).
Turkey's friendly policy has exceptions with the Kurds and Southern Cyprus. Turkey with its Muslim majority even wants to be friends with the Israelis, but not really with its own minority, the Kurds.

The Turkish foreign policy is still pretty much limited to regional influence.

Australia plays a role as UK light. It didn't emancipate itself from the alliance with the U.S. as did the smaller neighbour New Zealand. Well, that was the world stage strategy. Australia actually seems to have a kind of sphere of order strategy in its region, acting as a kind of policing/peacekeeping power nearby.

Canada also plays along with the U.S. as a UK light.

Brazil doesn't seem to have much of a grand strategy except that it's peaceful and wants to be a kind of first among equals in South America (despite it's the only state with Portuguese as language in South America). I suspect it's active behind the scenes against U.S. influence in South America.

India doesn't seem to have much of a grand strategy; they're locked in their long hostility and arms race with Pakistan and seem to pretty much ignore their neighbour Burma/Myanmar.
The Himalaya pretty much separates India and PRC better than an ocean could; border disputes are minimal and the Indian army is still not well-prepared for high altitude combat.

I cannot discern the present grand strategies of Spain and Italy for sure.
Spain looked like UK light under conservative rule, while Italy had probably too many governments for a coherent grand strategy and appropriate influence.

It's interesting how diverse the (grand?) strategies of allied powers are.
NATO seems to be split in four parts, with significant resistance to U.S. foreign policy in some places.

It will also be interesting to see whether UK, Australia and Canada will keep playing the auxiliary troops supplier for long, as they don't seem to experience much success or have much influence that way. The U.S. orientation of the UK pretty much costs the British a lot of influence in European affairs.

Some great powers seem to spell more troubles than they solve:
The U.S. (bullying some unfriendly small nations), PRC and Russia (both only in their vicinity).
That could cause to major wars.

Another question of interest is how much extrovert powers like China, India and Brazil will become.

China could begin to look beyond its region not just with investments, but also in politics and with military might.
India could look more than ever to Africa for resources (in competition to East Asian powers) and exploit the existing network of Indian traders in Africa.
Brazil could attempt to become the stabilizing and policing power of South America, for example.

New powers could gain much more than regional relevance under certain circumstances. Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia have the necessary weight, for example.

Sven Ortmann


  1. "The Muslim Turkish even want to be friends with the Israelis,..."Sven Ortmann

    Really? Those times have gone.
    (And what about Turkey and Greece/Cyprus ?)

    Study: 64% of Turks don't want Jewish neighbors
    Israel is the most unpopular foreign country, followed by Armenia and the United States, the study revealed.

    "Mein Kampf" (Adolf Hitler) :bestseller in turkey?

    Conflict between Erogan and Peres in Davos

    Attacs on israel basketball-team in turkey

    turkey gets closer to syria

    Israeli weapans for turkey: risk for israel?

    no more partners

  2. Edit:
    "Turkey's friendly policy has its only exception with the Kurds."

    And what about the relationship Turkey-Armenia? The relationship might get better but is still extremely bad.

  3. Those times have not gone.

    Israel doesn't win popularity contests in Germany either - that tells nothing about a nation's political strategy or the people's preference for good relations.

    The opinion of the 'common people' and especially the opinion of violent extremists does not define national strategies.
    Governments do.

    A commentary in a third country's newspaper isn't indicative either.

    "most unpopular foreign country" doesn't mean anything about whether they want to be friends or not. That's simply not logically connected.

    part 2:
    "Davutoglu: We see no radicals or moderates in our neighborhood. All we see are neighbors. Which is why Turkey cultivates relations equally with Israel and Palestine, Egypt and Iran, Fatah and Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the coalition that invokes murdered former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Do you know who sent me congratulatory messages last year when Turkey beat Croatia in the European football championship? An Israeli, a Palestinian and a Lebanese! We simply do not believe in polarization or isolation. We believe that problems can be solved in a dialogue. Turkey doesn't want chaos in the Middle East. It wants order."

    That is a recent policy statement. It wasn't the only one of its kind.

    I might have been more accurate in my description to make sure really everyone understands that the Turkey-Israel thing was about the state and its strategy.
    I made it "idiotensicher" in the meantime.

  4. "And what about the relationship Turkey-Armenia? The relationship might get better but is still extremely bad."

    They're warming up very much.


    You seem to misunderstand a strategy's objective with strategy itself.

  5. "Davutoglu: ..."

    "That is a recent policy statement. It wasn't the only one of its kind."
    Sven Ortmann

    Don´t mistake a statement in an Interview, adressed to newspaper-readers in Germany ,with facts (links in former comment).
    Since Erdogan there is no deep friendship between Israel and turkey anymore.There is distrust like never before.

    And, of cause, there is a kind of "strategy":
    Erdogan got more popular in his country (and in the so called "muslim world" ) when he criticised Israel hard. He did not do that for fun.

  6. Edit:
    Erdogan (Gaza-Conflict):
    "Israel should be barred from UN."


  7. Interviews of a foreign minister are irrelevant, but a commentary in a third country newspaper by a nobody was good enough to be cited by yourself?
    That's an incoherent argumentation.

    The foreign relations of Turkey show clearly the general direction.

    Nevertheless, I kind of agree that Erdogan's outrage was a publicity stunt (and possibly a hint for Israel that it should do more itself for good relations.

    I rate it as a tactical maneouvre and it's compatible with the strategy, though.

    Davutoglu already coined Turkish foreign policy for years when he became foreign minister, and his views are much more than rhetoric for a foreign audience.

    And it works.

    You may address the Northern Cyprus issue next, but I consider that as on hold since the Turkish-Greek relations improved and the Cypriotes are in the EU already. The particular problem would mostly solve itself if Turkey joined the EU as well.

  8. "http://de.timeturk.com/Erdogan-Israel-aus-UN-ausschließen-3441-haberi.htm"

    Erdogan reshuffled his cabinet months later and assigned a new foreign minister who had a clearly different position.
    As I already wrote; Erdogans behaviour early this year was most likely a tactical maneouvre.

    Grand strategy isn't about tactics, so there's little relevance in such minutiae.

    Turkey might sometime drop Israel if this would push its influence in the Arab world, but so far it's got surprisingly good relations.

  9. How do you think the current economic situation in the West and particularly the United States will influence this grand strategy? Maintenance of America's economic dominance has been a major driver of policy in the past, and this might require more aggressive action in light of the Untied States' precarious fiscal situation.

  10. "Italy" and "Grand Strategy" actually are non-matching concepts! Too many troubles at sorting off internal matters to developed decent long-time, far-gazing strategy.
    The only tool/concept I have seen developed in the last some 30 years is our "italiani brava gente" branding of good-hearted and (maybe) smart peace keeping troops, always trying to win trust in each country they are deployed into.

  11. Dr. Luny:
    It's possible to keep an unaffordable strategy till you're broke. That's one of the factors that make strategy changes so difficult to predict.

    I assume that the other powers will sometime react to the East Asian raw materials access strategy. The East Asians are only catching up to our level of secured supply, but sometime there may be serious rivalry.
    That might shift attention to the resource question (not only energy resources), away from the inflation of "rogue state" "threats".

  12. That's to assume that the current emphasis on "rougue states" and terrorism isn't just a pretext for furthering our economic agenda. I find it hard to believe that we would expend so many resources on these conflicts if there were not much to be gained in that regard, unless the political leadership is really that stupid or that willing to act against its own long-term interests for short-term gain.

    Then there's the question of how relevant all of these resource deals would be in a world in which the US has almost complete naval dominance, at least until Asian powers have a chance to use their ship-building industries to catch up. If the dominance of the American elite is challenged they may fall back on what is still the world's best-funded, most experienced, and most strategically positioned military. Obviously no one wants another great power war, but if the options are war or an economic/military/political collapse, you can be sure that war is a very real possibility. War has a way of changing the economic landscape, and if the US feels it is loosing control of things it might just throw the dice.

  13. In fact, I believe that both the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars were simply mistakes. They don't make sense from an economic point of view (except for a few companies and their shareholders).
    The reasoning behind these wars was morphed by excessive optimism, lack of trust in historical/scientific information and subjective preferences.

    A future competition for resources would not be decided by naval power (except during a hot war). It may come to look like the Cold War in the Third World: A competition waged with economic/fiscal power and intelligence agencies.