A Balancing Act: the Role of Middle Powers in Contemporary Diplomacy

December 20th 2018 - 08:58

The notion of Middle Powers is well established in academic literature, but not always used with success in practice. In a volatile world, there is much value in seeking partners that can help to uphold the current international order. In this paper, we develop criteria to define middle powers, and distinguish between ‘established’ middle powers (which share a liberal-democratic outlook) and ‘emerging’ middle powers (which can go either way). Secondly, the paper identifies specific middle power partners for the Netherlands across a number of relevant policy domains in the area of peace and security. Finally, the geopolitical ramifications of the ‘power shift to the East’, away from the US to China, are considered for middle powers, with a suggestion to create a global alliance of like-minded middle powers that is willing to uphold liberal-democratic values.

Read the paper here.

Authors: Willem Oosterveld and Bianca Torossian.

Photo: © PR UN, New York
Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld is a non-resident senior fellow at HCSS. His areas of expertise include the politics of the Middle East, conflict analysis and peacebuilding, as well as law and development. He holds degrees in political science, international law, and history, having studied in Amsterdam, Leiden, Paris and New York, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. A former Fulbright scholar, he earned a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
Bianca Torossian is a Strategic Analyst at HCSS. Her studies at The University of Sydney, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Leiden University (The Hague), earned her a Bachelor degree in political science, political economy and sociology, and a Master degree in political science and international organization. For her Master Thesis, Bianca analyzed how the institutional legitimacy of the European Union was impacted by Brexit, and hopes later to reopen this line of research and explore how the nationalistic tendencies of states effect the social legitimacy of multilateral institutions. At HCSS, Bianca primarily focusses on security and diplomacy. A specific area of interest is the field of technology and AI in defense contexts, which ties into a HCSS research project that critically analyzes the challenges and opportunities posed by robotic and autonomous systems in the military. She contributes to a range projects commissioned by the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence.