Alliance formation and balancing

Balancing of power and alliance formation

Balancing of power and alliance formation has been extensively studied in last 40 years. Hans Morgenthau refers to alliances as “a necessary function of the balance of power operating in a multiple state system” (1967), Kenneth Waltz presenting concepts like “balance of power, balancing and bandwagoning” (1979) and Stephen Walt introducing “balance of threat theory” (1987).

Kenneth Waltz has argued that since the early 1990s the US would inevitably be balanced by other states (Waltz 1993, 2000). His argument was that the balancing of power, which operates in anarchically organized systems like the international system, also applies to the present unipolar system.

Even if a dominant power behaves with restraint and patience, weaker states will worry about its future behavior and international politics abhors unbalanced power (Waltz 2000). Furthermore, this balancing will eventually result in a systemic change.

Walt (1987) defines alliance as “a formal or informal arrangement of relationship for security cooperation between two or more sovereign states”. This definition assumes some level of commitment and an exchange of benefits for both parties.