Basics of realism
There seems to be five basic presumptions in the theory of realism, common to various directions or schools of realism:
- Sovereign national states are the key actors in international politics. International system is made up of sovereign national states and the main events in international politics can be explained only through states and their foreign security politics. International cooperation and various alliances can be seen as useful tools in selfish game of great powers seeking after their national interests. The more a state has power, the more a state has sovereignty. Small states instead, usually try to seek protection and alliance with a great power.
- Structure of international system is anarchic meaning the absence of hierarchical order in the system. There is no central power above the sovereign national state in controlling the behavior of states. This does not mean a chaos because the international order is made up of two elements: (a) sovereign states take care of their internal regime (b) international order is based on division of power, which defines great powers and others. Based on the number of most powerful states, there are some specifically defined forms of international system: unipolar, bipolar and multipolar. International order is the result of competition of great powers, based on the military and economic power and national interests of leading great power.
- Power is always the final aim of competition in international politics. Great powers pursue more power in order to satisfy national interests, from which security and influence are crucial. Neorealism underlines such a power definition which is based on materialistic and national resources of great power, not interaction-based influence. Realist researchers are not unanimous how the capability/power of great powers should be measure or assess but the military might is the basic power and the key performance indicator.
- Military might and power politics are the fundamental factors in international politics. As the result of power competition between great powers, recurrent use of military power is essential feature in the international politics. The factual use of military might depend on the political will and capability of states expressing various aims and willful decisions. In defining the military threat, the essential factor is the military power and offensive capability. As a counter measure, states can create more deterrence either by increasing their own armament or through alliances with other states.
- States act rationally in pursuing their national interests. The central priorities of great powers are securing their sovereignty and increasing their influence.