The ability of a powerful nation to alter the foreign policy behaviour of a weaker nation has long been recognized.
For various reasons, however, studies analysing process through which this effect occurs and when such influence is effective have not appeared.
Although the proposition appears self-evident to most and theoretically straightforward, beneath this seemingly simple notion lurk important unanswered questions concerning the nature of international influence and the determinants of weak state policy.
Empirical studies have been hampered by formidable barriers to the measurement of effective influence, especially when it is conceived as the gap between actual behaviour and the behaviour which would have occurred in the absence of the influence attempt.
Two general views of the nature of this process are identified by researchers:
- The bargaining model: the policymaking process of weak states is relatively autonomous though influenced by reward/punishment actions of a more powerful nation which condition the weaker partner. Threats and promises condition the weaker nation to alter foreign policy toward the preferences and expectations of the dominant nation.
- The dependency model: stresses the long-term character of the influence and the indirect path by which it occurs, seeing the decision making process as embedded in a social/political structure which is distorted by the dependency relationship. This structural perspective implies the crucial point of influence occurs not during the decision making process itself but rather long before it, when the decision makers were being selected and when their foreign policy orientations were being formed in relation to the interests and perspectives which they derive in part from the dependency relationship.
At its most severe, such a dependency relationship generates distortions in the social and political system of the weaker state which bring to power an elite whose interests, values and perceptions have more in common with the elites of the powerful nation than with the masses in their own country.
Basically, incorporating a national elite into an internationalized bourgeoisie produces decisionmakers who, owing not because of shared economic interests but also shared values and perspectives, produce policy virtually indistinguishable from that which would be generated by American elites. Thus, external effects on foreign policy, though strong, are indirect and involve the penetration of the society and economy as well as the political system. By systematically affecting interests, perceptions and goals of an elite, the existence of a dependency situation renders bargaining unnecessary
Researcher Bruce Moon in 1983 considered a cross-sectional and a longitudinal analysis relying upon UN voting data and measures of the relations between the United States and 88 less-developed nations to find the explanatory power of the bargaining model is relatively limited and that the dependency model is a more appropriate conception.
Though cross-sectionally, both reward behaviour (various forms of aid) and dependency-indicating transactions (e.g. treaties, trade, arms sales, IGO memberships, consultations, etc.) exhibit correlations with voting behaviour, those of the latter are generally considerably stronger.
Further, longitudinal analysis exposed much greater stability in voting behaviour over time and much less correlation with aid-giving than would be expected if bargaining were present. This stable pro-American behaviour is precisely that which would be predicted by a theory resting upon long-term distortions implicit in an enduring and penetrating structural relationship.
Powerful states influence weaker states through bargaining or structural dependecy. The policymaking process of weak states can be influenced by reward/punishment actions of a more powerful nation which condition the weaker partner. Usually the long-term grooming character of influence and the indirect path by which it occurs, sees the decision making process as embedded in a social/political structure which is distorted by the dependency relationship.
Bruce E. Moon Source (1983) The Foreign Policy of the Dependent State, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 315-340
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