International Relations Comparative Foreign Policy Security Interests
Aigul Kulnazarova
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0281


The subject of comparative foreign policy security interests concerns itself with at least two separate subfields of international relations: foreign policy analysis and security studies. The foreign policy analysis concerns the decision-making processes of states in their daily interaction with other actors of international relations: state and nonstate, international organizations and individuals. Security studies in a broad sense also refer to the behavior of states, but, in particular, only to those measures that states take to ensure their own security and survival in the international arena. It is not surprising that any such measures have traditionally been viewed as national security interests. The term national security became widely used only after World War II to understand and explain the national interests of the leading powers, which the latter mainly used as a priority of their foreign policy. Often, national security was associated with military/physical security, strategic parity, and confrontation of mutual threat, although some authors, such as Wolfers 1952 (cited under Theoretical Overview), argue that the meaning of the term is not so clear and is, in fact, more complicated. Since the 1990s, due to the changing world order and the growing forces of globalization, the sphere of national security has expanded significantly and now includes nonmilitary or nontraditional security sectors: economic, environmental, societal, political, etc. The consequences of globalization are obvious, as they have influenced further changes in the behavioral tendencies of states in external relations. Old approaches to security no longer meet the challenges of the new millennium. Perhaps the emerging academic subfield of comparative foreign policy security interests will deal with aspects of state behavior and policy aimed at achieving, maintaining, or redistributing the positions of states in the transforming global system. It is possible to distinguish two levels of foreign policy security interests: public and private. While the first concerns the security and integrity of state sovereignty and independence, protected by diplomatic, political, economic, ideological, and military means, the second includes the need for states to establish themselves in international organizations by instituting and promoting relations in scientific, technological, cultural, educational, social, environmental, and other fields with various actors, and participating in the settlement of regional and local conflicts. The protection of security interests at the public level is more stable, while the private level is more variable, and the latter can turn into the public one. One way to understand how states develop and implement their foreign policy security interests is to use a comparative approach.

General Overviews

After the end of the Cold War, significant changes took place not only in the international system (the collapse of the bipolar world order and communist ideology), but also in the thinking about security, which altered the nature of academic discourse. Scholars involved in international relations, strategic and security studies, foreign policy analysis, and related fields have begun to actively participate in various conferences, workshops, and symposia to discuss, identify, and conceptualize the inevitably changing content and scope of foreign policy and security studies, which has led to numerous publications. Historically, security interests were viewed as a matter of state (national) policy. But now nonstate actors are also involved in both national and international security policies. Another distinctive change during this same period concerns the expanding diversity of scholars and the substance of academic research. Previously, foreign policy and security studies were dominated by the empirical analysis of Western academic schools, which dealt mainly with the problems of the great powers. This article redresses such imbalance through bibliographical analysis of works, focusing on foreign policy and security interests of selected states (both major and rising) and regions, including the Global South.

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