Today, we often hear that the theory lags behind a rapidly and fundamentally changing reality, is
incapable of interpreting what is happening. Is it so? The theory of international relations is
developing and every day looking for new ways of analysis and explanation. Taking into account
the current situation in international politics, to some extent, the realism and neorealism theory
could be called a flawed theory and have limited analysis usage.
Neo-realism or structural realism is a trend in the theory of international relations that arose after
the publication in 1979 of Kenneth Woltz’s book The Theory of International Politics. Waltz
advocates a systemic approach: the international structure acts as a constraint on state behavior so
that only those states whose results are within the expected range of action survive. This system is
similar to the microeconomic model in which firms set prices for the set and quantity of products
based on the market1.
According to Waltz, the world exists in a state of perpetual international anarchy. This type of
anarchy is not defined as chaos. Its reason is the absence of a hierarchy in international politics, but
not the complete chaos of what is happening. In case of internal problems, individuals can apply to
higher standing instances. For example, a citizen refers to the state in the form of a police officer, a
judge, a lawyer and the legal system as a whole. It is the existence of this most deterrent in the form
of the state and the police, which is the guarantor of the legal system, is a deterrent to the
emergence of anarchy within the state. However, there is no “Supreme Judge” in the international
arena, there is no source of supreme power.In the international arena, there is no “policeman” who
could control the emergence of anarchy. According to the theory of neo-realism, all states are
separate individuals in the international community. Such anarchy forces states to act in such a way
as to guarantee their safety first of all. Guaranteed security is the basic factor of success in
achieving other goals 2.
This primary factor influencing the behavior of the state, which in turn ensures that states begin
to develop offensive military capabilities, as a means of increasing their relative power. This is due
to the fact that all states perceive their measures to improve security as defensive, and the measures
of others as offensive. 3 Hence, there is a mistrust between states, which requires everyone to be on
the alert. This lack of trust is called the “security dilemma” 4: increasing the security of a great
power inevitably reduces the security of other powers. Henry Kissinger argued 5 that in relation to
the ability of states to reach diplomatic agreements, a more or less stable situation in the sphere of
international security is possible only with the relative safety of everyone. And it is absolutely
impossible in the event of complete security of one or several states. According to the supporters of
neo-realism, for national security purposes, the state, under the threat of national security or other
1 1.? Waltz K., 1979, p. 91.
2 .Waltz K., 1979, p. 93.
3 Baylis J., Smith S. The Globalization of World Politics. London: Oxford University Press, 2001. —648p.
4 Herz, John H. (1950). Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma. pp. 157–180.
5 Kissinger G. Does America need foreign policy? – Moscow: Ladomir, 2002. -352p
vital interests of a state, may become a prerequisite for the use of its power resources. 6 As a force,
military force, weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, are primarily considered.
Neorealistic concepts, study options for the development of international cooperation, the
possibility of creating alliances, alliances by groups of states, the emergence of confrontation and
armed conflicts. A key role in the settlement of international security problems at the world level is
played by the United Nations (UN), which is the central link in a stable system of international
relations. Along with it, such organizations as NATO, OSCE, PACE, EU, SCO and others have a
significant influence, their functioning is the most important form of institutionalizing security.
However, like most realists, Waltz recognizes that globalization poses new challenges to states,
but he does not believe that states are interchangeable, because no other (non-state) body can equal
the state’s capabilities. Waltz suggested that globalization is a fad of the 1990s and that the state can
expand its functions in response to global changes. Accordingly, the above-mentioned organizations
can not act as a “supreme judge” and which I mentioned earlier.
According to realism neo-realism, there are three possible systems according to a certain number
of great powers within the international system. A unipolar system contains only one great power, a
bipolar system contains two great powers, and a multipolar system contains more than two great
powers. Some neo-realists, including Waltz, conclude that the bipolar system is more stable. They
explain this by the fact that in a bipolar system, states are less likely to struggle for power and
systemic changes than a multipolar system, because balancing can only happen through internal
balancing, since there are no additional great powers (superpowers) to form alliances 7. Since there
is only internal balancing in the bipolar system, and not external balancing, the probability of
miscalculation and the chances of war between the great powers are diminishing 8.
However, Realism also has a significant criticism, which, it should be noted, has intensified in the
last few decades. In my opinion, first of all, it should be emphasized that within the framework of
the theory of neo-realism for example, the economic component is not taken enough consideration
in the build-up of military forces, since the achievement of national security is a priority. In my
opinion, this is the main reason why Waltz’s assertion that bipolar systems should be more stable
than multi-polar systems came under doubt after the collapse of the USSR. The main thing in the
collapse of the Soviet Union is that it collapsed without war and the use of force from outside. It is
quite peaceful by the standards of the international community. However, Waltz said that stability is
confused with duration, which does not mean peace, and that the bipolar system was indeed more
stable in the latter sense. In this case, I completely agree with him. The system of the bipolar world
lasted long enough and was quite stable. This can also be a criticism. In the end, It did not lead to
nuclear war, as many believed, on the contrary, after the crisis in the Caribbean the situation was
leveled and the doctrine of “mutual destruction” became the main deterrent that exists to this day.
During the acute phase of the Caribbean crisis, the whole world was on the verge of nuclear war
and the peoples of the countries in great tension. There was a real threat of mutual nuclear
annihilation, that is, self-destruction of mankind. Fortunately for all of humanity, the state leaders of
the Soviet Union and the US in time sensed the reality of the emergence of a nuclear apocalypse,
6 Kosov Yu. V. World politics and international relations. Tutorial. -PSP .: Publishing house “Peter”, 2011. –
7 Waltz K., 1979, pp. 132—133.
8 Waltz K., 1979, p. 133.
realizing that such a “nuclear stalemate” found the strength to emerge from the situation by non-
military methods, but through political decisions.
Another major criticism of neo-realism (and classical realism in general) speaks of the inability to
explain the lasting peace of a great power since the Second World War and the increasing
cooperation of states. There were also new ideas about the connection of national interests not only
with defense and the army, but also with the economy, education and culture, the interdependence
of states and peoples, when a reduction in the level of security of one side inevitably caused a
decrease in the level of security of the other.
Other critics argued that states do not participate in balancing behavior, as neo-realism predicts,
and instead often choose a winning side or a stronger side in an international crisis, given the
choice. Waltz replies that his theory explains the actions of medium and great powers and that small
vulnerable states, indeed, often have a side with the winning side when they have a choice; but in
the final analysis their actions do not significantly affect the course of international relations.
However, in the modern world, we increasingly find facts that disprove this claim. In the age of
information technology and hybrid war, pure crude military power is hampered by the race for
technology, control over the media and also artificial intelligence. The economic factor also began
to take into account much more. An example can serve such countries as Qatar 9 or Israel 10.
Also, the situation has changed due to the fact that in our age of information technology, the
powers increasingly resort to hybrid wars. This is a kind of hostile action, in which the attacker does
not resort to a classical military invasion, but suppresses his opponent, using a combination of
covert operations, sabotage, cyberwar, economic sanctions and also supporting the insurgents
operating in the enemy’s territory. 11 An example of a hybrid war today is the New Confrontation
between the US and Russia. Using their influence in the international arena, the United States
actively promotes the idea of imposing economic sanctions, sometimes resorting to rather vile
methods and double standards, supporting the regimes that are aggressive towards Russia, arranging
color revolutions in the territory of the former Soviet republics. In response, Russia does not
hesitate to use agent networks, as well as to intervene in the Syrian conflict, playing on the slogans
of combating terrorism, to which the US covers up its actions, thereby destroying plans and
destroying US investments in this sector. But this is already a topic for a separate essay, which I
would write with pleasure in the future.
Realist view of international relations is pessimistic: the state concerned primarily with self-
preservation, because due to lack of international police rational behavior for them is to maximize
the power, including the military, which is necessary for the preservation of independence.
Nationalism is strong, and states are selfish, so there is little trust between them, and altruism is not
at all. International norms of law or organization are not able to significantly affect the behavior of
strong players. Any attempt to rework the world in accordance with any ideology is therefore
doomed, regardless of the abstract quality of the ideas offered.12
10 http://forward.com/news/israel/127233/past-and-present-israel-s-impact-on-the-develop/ and https://
11 Popescu, Nicu. Hybrid tactics: neither new nor only Russian. EUISS Issue Alert 4 (2015).
12 Steven Walt. What Would a Realist World Have Looked Like ?. // Foreign Policy, January 8, 2016.
In the end, given the fact that in the yard of 2017, the year of new technologies, I would say that
the theory of realism no longer suits the modern world totaly. In addition to classical criticism of the
theory, the world today dictates new rules, including the rules of influence and the acquisition of
authority in the international arena. The rapid economic growth of China, for example, can make it
a superpower of a new generation, where military power will be considered less important than
economic power. Hybrid war in the future can fully replace major military conflicts like world wars.
It should also be taken into account that the bipolar world no longer exists, and against the backdrop
of the emergence of China as a great power and the revival of Russia after the collapse of the
USSR, the supporters of realism and neo-realism find it increasingly difficult to predict and explain
the current situation on the international arena. The world needs a new concept that can become a
new dominant theory of international relations. It could be realism based theory. It should be
realism based theory, because in my opinion, beside anything, states still will be acting according to
realism theory, but in different way.