Chapter 5: The resolution of conflicts between states

Inter-state war

B. Buzan 1991. People, States and Fear (2nd edition). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner is Buzan’s classic work and constitutes an eloquent theoretical explanation for the dynamics in inter-state relations. In the work of Dan S. Geller and J. D. Singer 1998. Nations at War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, the two authors associated with the Correlates of War project recount empirical findings for how the international system actually operates.

This theme is further elaborated in Sara McLaughlin Mitchell and John A. Vasquez (ed.) 2021. What Do We Know About War? (3rd edition). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. This volume brings together a number of authors working in the Correlates of War tradition on inter-state relations.

In contrast to the concern with security matters, Kapitalpolitik matters in the form of state revenue are given a heavy role in the seminal contribution on the emergence of states in Western Europe: Charles Tilly 1990. Coercion, Capital and European States AD 990–1990. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Inter-state peace

In a very long historical perspective Kalevi J. Holsti 1991. Peace and War: Armed Conflict and International Order, 1648–1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, brings out the variations in how interstate relations are organized and the importance of this for war and peace. For a shorter period than Holsti applies, and with a different systematic, this short article also discusses the importance of international orders and relations between major powers for war as well as peace: Peter Wallensteen 1981. ‘Incompatibility, Confrontation and War: Four Models and Three Historical Systems, 1816–1976’, Journal of Peace Research 18 (1): 57–90, where also the notions of Geopolitik, Realpolitik, Idealpolitik and Kapitalpolitik are introduced at some length. This article points to the role of incompatibility between political orders as an element in escalating conflicts among major states.

In an important work, two authors explain not only how democracy is important for peaceful interstate relations, but also integration and international organizations, in what they call Kantian Peace, drawing on a classical text by philosopher Immanuel Kant: Bruce M. Russett and J.R. Oneal 2001. Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations. New York: W. W. Norton.

The role of alliances and their ability to prevent escalation of crisis into war is much debated. In the article by Michael R. Kenwick, John A Vasquez and Matthew A. Powers 2015. ‘Do Alliances Really Deter?’ Journal of Politics 77 (4): 943–54. It is demonstrated that alliances in the nuclear age function differently than in previous eras. Others show that allies with less domestic change in an alliance also experience a stronger deterrent effect. Jesse C. Johnson and Stephen Joiner 2021. ‘Power Changes, Alliance Credibility, and Extended Deterrence’, Conflict Management and Peace Science, 38 (2), 178–99. The war between Russia and Ukraine has led to a focus on credibility of NATO membership in deterring military attacks on allies and near-allies. Thus, these long-term studies are relevant, particularly as they point to the importance of domestic cohesion to avoid meddling from outside powers.

A deeper understanding of the Russia-Ukraine war requires readings that focus on the two countries and their relationship. Considerable number of publications can be expected in the coming years. A broad perspective is provided by Samuel Greene and Graeme Robertson 2022. Putin vs. The People. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (updated mid-2022). This work builds its analysis on reliable public opinion data to map the political dynamics of Russia.