Alliances at the Service of Hegemony: Deconstruction of the Military Domination Toolbox

Alliances at the Service of Hegemony:
Deconstruction of the Military Domination Toolbox

Istomin I.A.,

MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia; Harvard University, Cambridge, USA,

elibrary_id: 333124 | ORCID: 0000-0002-8334-6343 | RESEARCHER_ID: A-8494-2017

Baykov A.A.,

MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 621264 |

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2020.06.02

For citation:

Istomin I.A., Baykov A.A. Alliances at the Service of Hegemony: Deconstruction of the Military Domination Toolbox. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No. 6. P. 8-25. (In Russ.).

The study was carried out on a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (Project No. 17-78-20170 “Typology of Modern Military-Political Alliances and Model of Russia’s Relations with Allies”). The authors express gratitude to Alexander Cooley, N.Yu. Silaev, Angela Stent, A.A. Sushentsov, and M.V. Kharkevich for valuable ideas and comments.


In IR studies into the most prominent patterns of how great powers conduct themselves under anarchy, a special emphasis is placed on the concepts of great power, dominance, and hegemony. However, concrete manifestations of these phenomena, as well as applied tools through which leading international players seek to structure the international environment, often remain outside the scope of detailed investigation. This study aims to appraise the significance of asymmetric alliances, as a tool of military and political dominance in the toolkit of power politics. The article shows that, although the traditional capabilities of appliances’ aggregation function in large part lost their value after the Second World War as part of the bipolar structure of the international power balance,, asymmetric alliances still became firmly woven into the practices of American dominance – this time as a mechanism for the consolidation of U.S. hegemony. They assured control over a select group of privileged partners in key regions of the world and helped advance the power projection of the United States. Currently, alternative centers of power aspire to delegitimize this mechanism of military-political interaction, denouncing it as a tool for subordinating weaker states, contrasting them with the egalitarian nature of inclusive dialogue formats. The USA itself is, too, often burdened by the institutional constraints of allied relations, questioning their relevance on, above all, operational considerations. Against this background, the significance of asymmetric alliances in international politics may decline in the coming decades, following the weakening of the hegemony they were originally designed to shore up; this will require creativity on the part of rising powers, who will be inneed of new institutional mechanisms to back up their regional, and possibly global, hegemony. 

hegemony, United States, alliances, great powers, global governance, coalition, asymmetry.


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Content No. 6, 2020

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