«Key Issues of International Relations» - Great Essay Sample

«Key Issues of International Relations»

This phase of the development of society is characterized by globalization process and the presence of the number of complex processes and trends of the development of international relations on different levels. They are reflected in the dynamics of changes in the international, political and economic arena. Therefore, the question of international relations and knowledge of their proper formation is acute, relevant and is worth consideration.

1. Idealistic and Realistic Theoriesof International Relations

Idealistic theory is classified as utopianism. Its basic idea is the belief that the need and the opportunity lead to the end of the world wars and armed conflicts among states through legal regulation and democratic international relations, extending the rules of morality and justice to them. Idealist tradition in theory and practice was embodied in the program of creation the League of Nations, developed by American President W. Wilson, the treaty about the refusal to use force in international relations, Briand - Kellogg Pact (1928 p.), in the U.S. refusal of the diplomatic recognition of the changes brought by force,  known as Stimson Doctrine (1932 p. ).

Supporters of political idealism associate incarnation of fair democratic norms and principles of international relations with the realization of the idea of a world government based on the universal international organization. The basic mechanism of creation of such government is a phased voluntary transfer of sovereign rights to a supranational regulatory center (Strohmer, 2009).

Studies of international relations were conducted as part of the history of philosophy, moral, ethical and legal approaches of political science, which have been developed in the U.S. since the mid XIX century. These few colorful views in American literature have became known as a collective term "idealism", sometimes as "political idealism". This concept comes not from the usual philosophical vocabulary and had a specific meaning. It was given to the research stream only because the arguments were based on foreign policy and international relations, proceeding to a set of abstract moral and legal "ideal" standards and criteria. "Morality" and "right" have become their central categories. In the context of "morality" and "rights" such key category as a "national interest" Was considered. That is why this approach was also called "moralism", "legalism" and "normativism".

It is an apparently subjective idealistic stream that ignored the socio-economic, class-based and historical patterns that determine foreign policy and international relations in general. Proponents of this movement considered "moral" and "right" as fundamental principles of international relations, taking them from the real historical and social facts and proving their importance as "independent terms" on the basis of life factors.

"Idealism” is a theoretical approach that claims about the failure in the face of practical experience in the pre-war crisis and the World War II. It was in conflict with the foreign policy strategy of American imperialism in the postwar years.

Supporters of political realism identified the ways to develop the science of international relations. American scientist Hans Morgenthau and French sociologist Raymond Aron became the main ideologues and spokesmen of this trend. The concept of political realism offers to consider international relations as the sum of policies of individual states, as the struggle for power, strength while dominance could be considered as universal for all times and regions.

This concept has been fully disclosed in written form in 1947 p. Many researchers consider Hans Morgenthau’s work "Political relations between nations. The struggle by power "the most important book on the theory of the international relation that ever was written". In his concept Hans Morgenthau showed 6 principles of political realism (Mearsheimer, 2005).

1) The policy is subject to objective laws, the foundation of which is in the eternal and unchangeable human nature. So one can create a rational theory which allows to reproduce the content of international politics in the relatively objective way.

2) Political realism is based on "the concept of interest, expressed in terms of power" and requires a rational policy. Such policy is correct because it minimizes risks and maximizes benefits. However rational policy also depends on the moral and practical purposes.

3) Political realism believes that changes in the existing world can be realized with the help of the skillful use of objective laws but not by means of subordination of political reality to some abstract ideal that refuses to recognize such laws.

4) Recognition of the moral significance of political action within moral requirements must be seen not as abstract and universal norms but should respond to time and place. Therefore, the highest morale in international politics  is moderation and caution.

5) Refusal to identify the moral aspirations of any nation with universal moral norms. One thing is to know that nations obey the moral law in their policy and quite another one is to claim what is good and what is bad in international relations.

6) Political realism comes from the acceptance of a pluralistic conception of human nature. A real man should be considered as a complex one, but the relative autonomy of individual aspects of life (economic, moral, religious) should be taken into account.

So, in terms of Hans Morgenthau, international relations are based on objective laws of social development. International relations are an arena of acute confrontation of states. The desire to increase their power or strength, to define military strategy or political game and to achieve the balance of power (force), which is the only real way to ensure and maintain peace, is in the heart of all their international activities. State of peace is the state of balance. Normal international law and morality should also be considered. However,, in any case it should not be overly idealized (Strohmer, 2009).

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Proponents of the theory of political realism remind the fact that States and nations were, are and will be main actors of international relations who can influence a system of public international development. Geographic scope of such influence is determined by complex balance of power capabilities of states and unions. The concept of "power" in this case is embedded in many factors, but above all, in the military-technical and economic capabilities of the states.

As for international organizations of regional and global scale, their activity, according to supporters of the school of political realism, is also defined by national interests of the leading world powers (Strohmer, 2009).

Therefore, the principle of equality of states in international organizations, according to the supporters of the theory of political realism, is the formal and declarative; it does not correspond to reality.

Famous French sociologist and political scientist Raymond Aron has also considered his major works "Peace and War" (1967 p.) and "Clausewitz: Philosophy of War" (1983) as those full of the spirit of political realism in international relations.  According to Aron, in the era of industrial civilization and nuclear power wars become unprofitable and risky (Thies, 2002). But it does not mean a radical change in the basic features of international relations which is in authoritarianism of law and law obedience by the participants is due. Therefore, Aron considered peace as impossible, while war is believed to have little probability. Conflict is a standard for international relations rather than its absence. So the main thing that needs explanation is not a state of peace, but a state of war. If we want to conclude briefly, we should say that despite the conceptual harmony, the desire to rely on the objective laws of social development and considering the tendency to a balanced and rigorous analysis of the international reality, political realism does not become unchallenged dominant paradigm in the science of international relations. The fact that political realism absolutized the role of force in international relations was driving past to the interstate and does not take into account the important new changes and trends which required the new methods of scientific analysis and their application. This led to criticism of supporters of both political realism and idealistic theory from other areas of modern international relations theory.

2. Energy Issue of U.S. Foreign Policy

Speaking about international relations we need to say that the country's foreign policy determines its future. Thus it is very important to characterize issues in U.S. foreign policy.

The first application of the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, shows new issues in U.S. foreign policy. One of the key foreign policy issues for the United States is the creation of mechanisms for international cooperation in the development of new sources of energy and new energy markets, increasing investment in Africa as a continent of energy resource. Despite the modest space which Africa occupies in the external relations of the USA (excluding energy imports), the American administration keeps the continent in the focus of its attention, guided by long-term strategic considerations. Thus U.S. President Barack Obama during his official visit to Africa stated that the energy question is a key foreign policy issue. The official visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the same goals. She visited seven African countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Angola and Cape Verde (Firsing, 2012). Both abovementioned personalities influence the whole policymaking process.

One of the main features of the new approach is that in recent years geo-economic interests of the U.S. in Africa (as opposed to geopolitical, shape American foreign policy in the past decade) has begun to be the major. Minerals, primarily African hydrocarbon reserves, are the greatest economic interest of the United States. Despite the fact that the United States reduced oil intensity of GDP by 20%over the last 15 years, the control over liquid hydrocarbons is very important for it, as the global demand for crude oil is forecasted to grow (to be 2030 to 99-113 million barrels a day), as compared to the level of consumption which makes 83.39 million barrels a day.  By 2005 the United States reduced its stake in the global production on 6.4% to critical level of dependence on oil imports and came close to the figure of 60 % consumption. Implications of the terrorist attacks in 2001 showed increased U.S. energy vulnerability which is not insured against accidental loss of imports of oil and natural gas from politically unstable regions of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf (Carson, 2013).

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For these reasons the United States is seeking for the diversify of its sources of oil imports, pinning great hopes on the hydrocarbon reserves in Africa where in the last decade there was found the largest number of all new oil fields in the world and its production has almost doubled. Currently, the share of African countries is almost equal to the proportion of the Persian Gulf in U.S. imports of oil, although the Gulf states that especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were until recently the largest suppliers of crude oil to the U.S. According to the estimates of the National Council on exploration of USA till 2015, 25% of U.S. oil import will come from West Africa (comparing to 16% today). Even now the West Africa supplies in the U.S. as much crude oil as Saudi Arabia does.

Africa's contribution to the increase of energy production in the world is not limited by crude oil. New features of the continent, producing liquefied natural gas (LNG), can increase the export of this type of fuel. In early 2006, Africa has supplied more than 50 million metric tons of LNG per year (comparing with 173 million metric tons which were produced in the world), and Angola and Nigeria were its leading suppliers. In recent years, a number of new countries on the continent joined the process. In Egypt, for example, a new production line is commissioned into exploitation.  It produces 36 million metric tons of LNG per year. Equatorial Guinea and Angola also announced about the launch of new projects in mining and processing of LNG.

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However, the dependence of the United States, unlike the European Union, from African energy is not critical. In the other categories of mineral resources the U.S. economy is vitally dependent on the stability of imports from Africa. Such resources include, in particular, cobalt, manganese and chromium.

Since 1971, the U.S. has been providing its own industry with cobalt entirely by imports. 52% of the world's cobalt reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Morocco and Botswana (the DRC meets 65% of U.S. need in this metal; it is extremely important for the defense industry in the U.S.). Similar situation is with manganese. Import of African manganese compensates depletion of U.S. deposits. Countries of the Black Continent provide about 50% of the supply of manganese in the United States, including the Republic of South Africa which accounts for 39% of all U.S. imports of the raw material. Chrome from 1961 is also entirely imported from Africa, 98% of the country’s needs are provided with chrome supplies from South Africa and Zimbabwe (Carson, 2013).

American industry has long and widely uses rare metals as well as bauxite and alumina, copper, uranium, imported from Africa. In large quantities gold and platinum are purchased as they are  necessary for the production of semiconductor silicon, vanadium and yttrium.

American policy of cooperation with Africa within our foreign policy issue is a private entrepreneurship, the coordination of which on the continent is carried not only by the above-mentioned individuals, but also the institutions. Corporate Council on Africa is one of them. It headquarters in Washington were created in 1992. This organization brings together more than 170 companies (about 85% of all U.S. firms operating in African countries), including such giants as "Chevron", "Daimler Chrysler", "ExxonMobil", "Lazare Kaplan", "Coca-Cola" "Boeing", "Northrop Grumman" and others.

In order to coordinate trade policies in African countries, the U.S. Congress created another institution, “Forum of trade and economic cooperation between the U.S. and African countries which are further on south than the Sahara”, and ordered the head of the U.S. administration to hold annual meetings at the ministerial level and periodic meetings with the heads of African states to discuss specific cooperation issues. These are institutions that influence the policymaking process.

The law of economic growth and trade opportunities in Africa (African Growth and Opportunity Act) (AGOA) ranks a special place in the American model of economic and trade cooperation with Africa, passed in 2000 as part of a larger law on trade and development. Taking AGOA, the U.S. Congress stated that Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is rich in human and mineral resources, which has enormous economic potential and therefore represents a long-term political interest for the U.S. Capital inflow to this region enables the creation of a favorable business climate and removes barriers for trading and economic exchange between the U.S. and African countries.

AGOA has given impetus to the development of US-African trade and the growth of U.S. private investment in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010, a U.S. export to SSA was 18.6 billion, what is 86% higher than the rate of U.S. trade with countries of Eastern Europe. Import reached 86.1 billion dollars (Lawson, 2007).

In order to promote the US-African trade and comprehensive study of the potential markets within the implementation mechanisms of AGOA U.S. administration in Africa opened four regional centers named "Centre of competitiveness of African products in the U.S. and other countries of the world", which act under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Activity of centers is funded under the "initiative of U.S. President for African Development and Enterprise".

Such U.S. government agencies and departments, as the Agency for International Development, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Agency for Trade and Development make comprehensive support to African countries, seeking to expand trade and economic cooperation with the United States.

One of the goals of AGOA,  the basic law for the trade and economic relations of the U.S. with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa is the expansion and diversification of the trade between the U.S. and SSA. AGOA allows the U.S. president to provide technical assistance to countries of SSA and to assist them in the development of trade. In addition, the Act authorizes the President to annually adjust the list of African countries that are eligible to use the trade preferences. So, on December 8, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama added to the list the Republic of Mauritius and dropped from the Guinea, Madagascar and Niger, who allegedly failed to ensure compliance with the established criteria. Moreover, it increasingly shied away from meeting basic requirements. Potential recipients of benefits under the AGOA, according to Washington, should be guided by the principle of respect for the rule of law in every way to protect intellectual property, to participate in the fight against corruption, the spirit and the letter of the labor laws, a course on poverty reduction, respect human rights (Lawson, 2007).

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AGOA is also aimed to help American companies in doing business on the continent. In addition to promoting the sustainable growth of trade, the law helps U.S. businesses to insure the property of the investment risk. In addition, this law is an effective tool to ensure preferential access for U.S. companies in the markets of African countries. Currently, the U.S. is competing for resources and markets, not only with new players from Asia and Latin America, but also with its allies from the European Union. Through the so-called "framework agreements about trade and investment". This U.S. law seeks to ensure the most favorable for American business of the business climate in specific countries of the continent. The mechanism of the law has been so effective that its action aiming initially for 8 years, has been extended until 2015.

Thus an important foreign policy issue is energy equipment issue with the direction of the development of the African continent.

Thus an important foreign policy issue of the USA is energy issue, with the direction of the development of the African continent. To solve it, the U.S. has sent appropriate people, organizations and international institutions, has created a legal and economic base.



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