As Churchill once quipped, a balance of power policy translates into balancing between two “hedonistic” parties and refraining from choosing or siding with one over the other and in turn avoid giving the advantage to one over the other, as in the case of Germans fighting Russians during his time. Arguably, Britain’s balance of power policy both past and present can be explained in large part by the process of globalization. As Henry Kissinger wrote:
“The international economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world has remained based on the nation-state. The global economic impetus is on removing obstacles to the flow of goods and capital. The international political system is still largely based on contrasting ideas of world order and the reconciliation of concepts of national interest. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. International policy emphasizes the importance of frontiers even as it seeks to reconcile conflicting national aims.”
It follows that economic prosperity is moving towards the direction of globalization and that increased economic prosperity both on an individual level and collective level is deeply intertwined with the process of globalization, whereas the politics of Western governments and societies is driving Western governments and societies away from the process of globalization. Kissinger also wrote:
“Governments are subjected to pressures seeking to tip the process of globalization in the direction of national advantage or mercantilism. In the West, the issues of globalization thus merge with the issues of the conduct of democratic foreign policy. Harmonizing political and economic international orders challenges vested views: the quest for world order because it requires an enlargement of the national framework; the disciplining of globalization because sustainable practices imply a modification of the conventional patterns.”
Thus, it remains to be seen whether a major Western nation and society like the United States – who in turn will serve as a litmus test or perhaps a major sample for where Western Europe as a whole stands in terms of its general attitude and outlook towards the process of globalization – is heading towards the “enlargement of the national framework” in order to accommodate the process of globalization, or whether it is heading towards “the disciplining of globalization” as a result of a domestic backlash towards the abrupt and unsettling economic, political, and social changes which have resulted from rapid developments and evolutions in globalization and technology over the course of the last couple of decades on one hand, along with the issue of geopolitics and war on the other hand.
As mentioned before, the balance of power principle addresses the issue of war by serving as a counterweight or safeguard against the disruption of the prevailing international order through hegemonic war. What disrupts the prevailing order and thus the balance of power is a unilateral policy or strategy of global hegemony, as in the case of France during the Napoleonic era, the case of Germany during the Nazi period, and the case of the United States in the 21st century. However, it is “a perpetual effort to get the better of the balance” which ultimately leads to the disruption of the emerging balance and in turn leads to a collapse of the prevailing order and a descent into a state of anarchy and conflict, to borrow from G. Lowes Dickinson. In a sense, what we are going through with Russia at the moment is a two-sided coin and in turn a paradox, in the sense that the emerging balance of power is being established by both sides through “a perpetual effort to get the better of the balance” which in turn has led to the preemptive disruption of the emerging balance on the part of Russia, hence resulting in our current state of anarchy and conflict.