Interdependence liberalism

Liberal theories about interdependence  are grounded in ideas about free trade and economic relations. Economists of commercial liberalism in the nineteenth century, based their thinking on the classical economics of David Ricardo (1770–1823) and the ideas of the so-called ‘Manchester liberals’, Richard Cobden (1804–65) and John Bright (1811–89). 

Later, Norman Angell was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for writing that world leaders were under A Great Illusion” that armed conflict and conquest would bring greater wealth. During the Cold War, it was an element of the rationale for détente with the Soviet Union — to, as Henry Kissinger said, “create links that will provide incentive for moderation.” 

The key theme within commercial liberalism was a belief in the virtues of free trade. Free trade has economic benefits, as it allows each country to specialize in the production of the goods and services that it is best suited to produce, the ones in which they have a ‘comparative advantage’. However, free trade is no less important in drawing states into a web of economic interdependence that means that the material costs of international conflict are so great that warfare becomes virtually unthinkable. Cobden and Bright argued that free trade would draw people of different races, creeds and languages together in what Cobden described as ‘the bonds of eternal peace’. Not only would free trade maintain peace for negative reasons (the fear of being deprived of vital goods), but it would also have positive benefits in ensuring that different peoples are united by shared values and a common commercial culture, and so would have a better understanding of one another. In short, aggression and expansionism are best deterred by the ‘spirit of commerce’. 

There are good reasons for the European Union to believe that economic ties would bind potential combatants more closely together, said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. The proof was the European Union itself. The organization’s roots go back to the creation after World War II of the European Coal and Steel Community, a pact among six nations meant to avert conflict by pooling control of these two essential commodities.

“The idea was that if you knit together the French and German economies, they wouldn’t be able to go to war,” Richard  Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations,  said. The aim was to prevent World War III.

The stress on interdependence that is basic to commercial liberalism has been further developed by neoliberals into what Keohane and Nye (1977) called ‘complex interdependence’, viewed, initially at least, as an alternative theoretical model to realism. Complex interdependence reflects the extent to which peoples and governments in the modern world are affected by what happens elsewhere, and particularly by the actions of their counterparts in other coun tries. This applies not only in the economic realm, through the advance of globalization, but is also evident in relation to a range of other issues, including climate change, development and poverty reduction, and human rights . Such a view suggests that realism’s narrow preoccupation with the military and diplomatic dimensions of international politics, the so-called ‘high politics’ of security and survival, is misplaced. Instead, the international agenda is becoming broader with greater attention being given to the ‘low politics’ of welfare, environmental protection and political justice. Relations between and amongst states have also changed, not least through a tendency for modern states to prioritize trade over war and through a trend towards closer cooperation or even integration, as, for instance, in the case of the European Union. Nevertheless, there has been disagreement amongst interdependence liberals about the significance of such trends. 

So-called ‘strong’ liberals believe that qualitative changes have taken place in the international system which substantially modify the impact of anarchy, self-help and the security dilemma, creating an irresistible tendency towards peace, cooperation and integration (Burton 1972; Rosenau 1990). ‘Weak’ liberals, on the other hand, have come to accept neorealist assumptions, particularly about the implications of international anarchy, as the starting point for analysis, thereby highlighting the extent to which modern realist and liberal theory sometime overlap (Axelrod 1984; Stein 1990). 

War in Ukraine

Case study War in Ukraine 

Today, Russia is the world’s largest exporter of oil and wheat. The European Union was its biggest trading partner, receiving 40 percent of its natural gas, 25 percent of its oil and a hefty portion of its coal from Russia. Russia also supplies other countries with raw materials like palladium, titanium, neon and aluminum that are used in everything from semiconductors to car manufacturing. British, French and German gas companies completed a decade-long, $11 billion project to build a direct pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that was awaiting approval from a German regulator. But Germany halted certification of the pipeline after Russia recognized two separatist regions in Ukraine. 

Despite its huge land mass, nuclear arsenal and energy exports, Russia is otherwise relatively insulated from the global economy, accounting for 1.7 percent of global output. And since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Mr. Putin has moved to isolate the economy even more to protect against retaliation. 

Philippe Martin, the dean of the School of Public Affairs at SciencesPo in Paris, said that the 2014 agreement between Ukraine and the European Union may have marked a turning point for Russia. “That translated into more trade with the E.U. and less with Russa,” he said.

Mr. Martin has written skeptically that economic ties promote peace, arguing that countries open to global trade can be less worried about picking a fight with a single nation because they have diverse trading partners.