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 |

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.


Beckley M. 2015. The Myth of Entangling Alliances: Reassessing the Security Risks of US Defense Pacts. – International Security. Vol. 39. No. 4. P. 7-48.

Bogdanov K.V. 2019. Flexible Coalitions: Origins and Prospects. – Russia in Global Affairs. Vol. 17. No. 3. P. 132-150.

Brooks S.G., Ikenberry G.J., Wohlforth W.C. 2013. Don’t Come Home, America: The Case Against Retrenchment. – International Security. Vol. 37. No. 3. P. 7-51.

Brooks S.G., Wohlforth W.C. 2016. America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bull H. 1977. The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. London: Macmillan.

Cha V.D. 2016. Powerplay: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Cooley A., Nexon D.H. 2013. “The Empire Will Compensate You”: The Structural Dynamics of the US Overseas Basing Network. – Perspectives on Politics. Vol. 11. No. 4. P. 1034-1050.

Gaddis J.L. 2005. Strategies of Containment: a Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gelpi C. 1999. Alliances as Instruments of Intra-Allied Control. –Imperfect Unions: Security Institutions Over Time and Space. Ed. by H. Haftendorn, R. Keohane, C. Wallender. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 107-139.

Gholz E., Press D.G., Sapolsky H.M. 1997. Come Home, America: The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation. – International Security. Vol. 21. No. 4. P. 5-48.

Gibler D.M., Vasquez J.A. 1998. Uncovering the Dangerous Alliances, 1495-1980. – International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 42. No. 4. P. 785-807.

Gilpin R. 1981 War and Change in World Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Fenenko A.V. 2019. “Long Peace” and Nuclear Weapon. – Russia in Global Affairs. No. 1. P. 72-99.

Hardin G. 1968. The Tragedy of the Commons. – Science. Vol. 162. No. 3859. P. 1243-1248.

Ikenberry G.J. 2019. After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Jervis R. 1980. The Impact of the Korean War on the Cold War. – Journal of Conflict Resolution. Vol. 24. No. 4. P. 563-592.

Jervis R. 1989. The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Johnson J.C. 2017. External Threat and Alliance Formation. – International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 61. No. 3. P. 736-745.

Kang D.C. 2010. Hierarchy and Legitimacy in International Systems: The Tribute System in Early Modern East Asia. – Security Studies. Vol. 19. No. 4. P. 591-622.

Lake D.A. 2011. Hierarchy in International Relations. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Lanoszka A. 2018. Atomic Assurance: The Alliance Politics of Nuclear Proliferation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Layne C. 2007. The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Layne C. 2012. This Time It’s Real: The End of Unipolarity and the Pax Americana. – International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 56. No. 1. P. 203-213.

Lebow N., Reich S. 2014. Goodbye Hegemony! Power and Influence in the Global System. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Long A., Green B.R. 2015. Stalking the Secure Second Strike: Intelligence, Counterforce, and Nuclear Strategy. – Journal of Strategic Studies. Vol. 38. No. 1-2. P. 38-73.

Lostumbo M.J., McNerney M.J., Peltz E. et al. 2013. Overseas Basing of US Military Forces: An Assessment of Relative Costs and Strategic Benefits. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.

Mandelbaum M. 1981. The Nuclear Revolution: International Politics Before and After Hiroshima. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mann M. 2012. The Sources of Social Power, Volume III: Global Empires and Revolution, 1890-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mearsheimer J.J. 2001. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. N.Y.: WW Norton & Company.

Morrow J.D. 1991. Alliances and Asymmetry: An Alternative to the Capability Aggregation Model of Alliances. – American Journal of Political Science. P. 904-933.

Newnham R. 2008. “Coalition of the Bribed and Bullied?” US Economic Linkage and the Iraq War Coalition. – International Studies Perspectives. Vol. 9. No. 2. P. 183-200.

Nikitina Y. 2012. The Collective Security Treaty Organization through the Looking Glass. – Problems of Post-Communism. Vol. 59. No. 3. P. 41-52.

Pant H.V., Super J.M. 2015. India’s ‘Non-Alignment’ Conundrum: a Twentieth-Century Policy in a Changing World. – International Affairs. Vol. 91. No. 4. P. 747-764.

Posen B.R. 2014. Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Pressman J. 2011. Warring Friends: Alliance Restraint in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Risse-Kappen T. 1995. Cooperation Among Democracies: The European Influence on US Foreign Policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Schmitt O. 2018. Allies that Count: Junior Partners in Coalition Warfare. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Security Assurances and Nuclear Nonproliferation. 2012. Ed. by J.W. Knopf. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Smith A. 1995. Alliance Formation and War. – International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 39. No. 4. P. 405-425.

Snyder G.H. 1997. Alliance Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Vasquez J.A. 1993. The War Puzzle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walt S. M. 1990. The Origins of Alliance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Waltz K. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Watt D.C. 1984. Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain’s Place 1900-1975. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Weitsman P.A. 2004. Dangerous Alliances: Proponents of Peace, Weapons of War. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Weitsman P.A. 2013. Waging War: Alliances, Coalitions, and Institutions of Interstate Violence. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Wolfers A. 1968. Alliances. – International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. New York: Macmillan.

Womack B. 2016. Asymmetry and International Relationships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yarhi-Milo K., Lanoszka A., Cooper Z. 2016. To Arm or to Ally? The Patron’s Dilemma and the Strategic Logic of Arms Transfers and Alliances. – International Security. Vol. 41. No. 2. P. 90-139.


Baranovsky V.G. 2017. Transformation of Global World Order: Dynamics of Systemic Changes. – Polis. Political Studies. No. 3. P. 71-91. (In Russ.)

Baykov A.A. 2011. Geopolitics of the American Military Bases. – National Security. No. 1. P. 32-37. (In Russ.)

Batyuk V.I., Volodin D.A. Dyakova N.A. 2012. Amerikanskaya voennaya politika k XXI veke: regional’nye aspekty [American Military Policy in the 21st Century]. Moscow: ISKRAN. (In Russ.)

Bogdanov A.N. 2014. American Hegemony and Systemic Stability. – International Trends. Vol. 12. No. 3. P. 8-22. (In Russ.) URL: (accessed 09.10.2020).

Fomin I.V., Silaev N., Makarycheva A., Stolyarova S., Shavlay E. 2019. Russia’s Allies Formal Obligations vs. Effective Cooperation. – International Trends. Vol. 17. No. 2. P. 101-130. (In Russ.)

Istomin I.A. 2019. Politika SShA v Indo-Tikhookeanskom regione [US Policy in the Indo-Pacific Region]. Rabochaya tetrad’ Rossiiskogo soveta po mezhdunarodnym delam [Working Paper of the Russian International Affairs Council]. No. 49. (In Russ.) URL:

Istomin I.A., Baykov A.A. 2019. Dynamics of International Alliances in an Unbalanced World Structure. – Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya. Vol. 63. No. 1. P. 34-48. (In Russ.)

Istomin I.A., Silaev N.Yu., Sushentsov A.A. 2018. Strategies of Alliances of Continental and Sea Powers. – International Trends. Vol. 16. No. 4. P. 42-62. (In Russ.)

Khatuntsev S.V. 2015. The West and the “Eurasian Quadriga” (Russia, China, India, Iran). – Polis. Political Studies. No. 6. P. 45-52. (In Russ.)

Lukin A.V. 2019. Discussion on the Development of China and Prospects for Its Foreign Policy. – Polis. Political Studies. No. 1. P. 71-89. (In Russ.)

Nikitin A.I. 2018. Modern World Order, Its Crisis and Prospects. – Polis. Political Studies. No. 6. P. 32-46. (In Russ.)

Pechurov S.L. 2013. Koalitsionnye voiny anglo-saksov. Istoriya i sovremennost’ [Coalition Wars of Anglo-Saxons. History and Modernity]. Moscow: LKI. (In Russ.)

Ricardo D. 2007. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation: Selected Works. Moscow: EKSMO. (In Russ.)

Shakleina T.A. 2013. Great Power Phenomenon and Parameters in the World Politics of the 21st Century. – Megatrendy. Osnovnye traektorii evolyutsii mirovogo poryadka v XXI veke [Megatrends. Major Trajectories of the Evolution of the World Order in the Twenty-First Century]. Ed. by T.A. Shakleina, A.A. Baykov. Moscow: Aspect Press. P. 283-298. (In Russ.)

Shishkov V.V. 2014. The Rise and Development of U.S. Hegemony: Imperial Domination and Globalization in the 20th Century. – Age of Globalization. No. 1. P. 140-141. (In Russ.)

Smirnov S.V. 2011. At the Roots of the Russian-German Energy Relations (The 70s of the 20th Century). – MGIMO Review of International Relations. No. 2. P. 193-201. (In Russ.)

Troitsky M.A. 2002. Concept of “Programming Leadership” in the US Euro-Atlantic Strategy. – Pro et Contra. Vol. 7. No. 4. P. 86-103. (In Russ.) 

Content No. 6, 2020

See also:

Busygina I.M., Filippov M.G.,
Political modernization of Russia as condition of growth of her international influence. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No5

Timofeev I.N.,
Security Dilemma. Risk of Armed Conflict between the Great Powers. – Polis. Political Studies. 2009. No4

Safronova O.V., Korshunov D.S.,
«New» or «Old» great debates?. – Polis. Political Studies. 2013. No4

Tarasov I.N.,
Escalation of History as Phenomenon in the Relations of Russia with the Countries of Central-East Europe. – Polis. Political Studies. 2008. No2

Konyshev V.N., Sergunin A.A.,
“The Great Debates”: The Means of Structuring or Periodization of International Relations Theory?. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No4



   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991