In international relations since the late 20th century, a regional power is a term used for a state that has power within a geographic region. States which wield unrivalled power and influence within a region of the world possess regional hegemony.
Regional powers shape the polarity of a regional area. Typically, regional powers have capabilities which are important in the region but do not have capabilities at a global scale. Slightly contrasting definitions differ as to what makes a regional power. The European Consortium for Political Research defines a regional power as:
"A state belonging to a geographically defined region, dominating this region in economic and military terms, able to exercise hegemonic influence in the region and considerable influence on the world scale, willing to make use of power resources and recognized or even accepted as the regional leader by its neighbours".
The German Institute of Global and Area Studies states that a regional power must:
- form part of a definable region with its own identity
- claim to be a regional power (self-image as a regional power)
- exert decisive influence on the geographic extension of the region as well as on its ideological construction
- dispose over comparatively high military, economic, demographic, political and ideological capabilities
- be well integrated into the region
- define the regional security agenda to a high degree
- be appreciated as a regional power by other powers in the region and beyond, especially by other regional powers
- be well connected with regional and global forums
Below are states that have been described as regional powers by international relations and political science academics, analysts, or other experts. These states to some extent meet the criteria to have regional power status, as described above. Different experts have differing views on exactly which states are regional powers. States are arranged by their region, and in alphabetic order.
Canada, despite being a middle power, is not a regional power because it is militarily secured by U.S. hegemony and financially comfortable by its dependence on a robust U.S. economy. The United States is the primary geopolitical force in the Americas and the Western world.
In the past, Spain and Portugal were the dominant powers in the region but following decolonization in the first half of the 19th century, the major powers became Brazil and Argentina.
Historically, China was the dominant power in East Asia. But, at the beginning of the early 20th century, the Empire of Japan became an important player in World War I as one of the Allied powers. With economic turmoil, Japan's expulsion from the League of Nations, and its interest in expansion on the mainland, Japan became a major player in World War II as one of the Axis powers.
Since the late 20th century, regional alliances, economic progress, and contrasting military power have changed the strategic and regional power balance in Asia. In recent years, a re-balancing of military and economic power among countries such as China and India has resulted in significant changes in the geopolitics of Asia. China and Japan have also gained greater influence over regions outside Asia. With close economic and military ties with the United States, South Korea and Japan are seen as major regional powers "containing" the communist regimes.
- South Korea[G20][OECD][DAC]
- Iran[N 11]
- Saudi Arabia [G20]
France, Germany, Italy and United Kingdom are regarded as the Big Four of Europe. Historically, dominant powers in this region created large colonial empires worldwide (such as the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and Dutch empires). Most of the continent is now integrated as a consequence of the enlargement of the European Union.
- United Kingdom[GP][G7][G20]
- Egypt [G-15][D-8][N-11][CIVETS]
- Joachim Betz, Ian Taylor, "The Rise of (New) Regional Powers in Asia, Africa, Latin America..."[dead link], German Overseas Institute & University of St. Andrews, May 2007
- Martin Beck, The Concept of Regional Power: The Middle East as a Deviant Case?, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, 11–12 December 2006.
- Lynch, David A. (2010-08-16). Trade and Globalization: An Introduction to Regional Trade Agreements. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 9780742566903.
- Flemes, Daniel (2010). Regional Leadership in the Global System: Ideas, Interests and Strategies of Regional Powers. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9780754679127.
- Buzan, Barry (2004). The United States and the Great Powers. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7456-3375-6.
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- "Southern Africa is home to the other of sub-Saharan Africa's regional powers: South Africa. South Africa is more than just a regional power; it is by far the most developed and economically powerful country in Africa, and now it is able to use that influence in Africa more than during the days of apartheid (white rule), when it was ostracized." See David Lynch, Trade and Globalization (Lanham, USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010), p. 51.
- Alice Bothwell, "Can Canada Still Be Considered a Middle Power?," Master's Thesis (University of Stellenbosch), p. 34
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- "Argentina has been the leading military and economic power in the Southern Cone in the Twentieth Century." See Michael Morris, "The Srait of Magellan," in International Straits of the World, edited by Gerard Mangone (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishes, 1988), p. 63.
- "Secondary regional powers in Huntington's view include Great Britain, Ukraine, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Argentina." See Tom Nierop, "The Clash of Civilisations," in The Territorial Factor, edited by Gertjan Dijkink and Hans Knippenberg (Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA, 2001), p. 61.
- "The US has created a foundation upon which the regional powers, especially Argentina and Brazil, can developed their own rules for further managing regional relations." See David Lake, "Regional Hierarchies," in Globalising the Regional, edited by Rick Fawn (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 55.
- "The southern cone of South America, including Argentina and Brazil, the two regional powers, has recently become a pluralistic security community." See Emanuel Adler and Patricia Greve, "Overlapping regional mechanisms of security governance," in Globalising the Regional, edited by Rick Fawn (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 78.
- "[...] notably by linking the Southern Cone's rival regional powers, Brazil and Argentina." See Alejandra Ruiz-Dana, Peter Goldschag, Edmundo Claro and Hernan Blanco, "Regional integration, trade and conflicts in Latin America," in Regional Trade Integration and Conflict Resolution, edited by Shaheen Rafi Khan (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 18.
- Samuel P. Huntington, "Culture, Power, and Democracy," in Globalization, Power, and Democracy, edited by Marc Plattner and Aleksander Smolar (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), p. 6.
- ""The driving force behind the adoption of the MERCOSUR agreement was similar to that of the establishment of the EU: the hope of limiting the possibilities of traditional military hostility between the major regional powers, Brazil and Argentina." See Anestis Papadopoulos, The International Dimension of EU Competition Law and Policy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 283.
- Arnson, Cynthia; Sotero, Paulo. "Brazil as a Regional Power: Views from the Hemisphere" (PDF). Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
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- ""Iran is a strong regional power, in a far better shape than Pakistan because f its economic capabilities, rich mineral and energy resources, and internal stability, added to its far greater geostrategic importance." In Hooman Peimani, Nuclear Proliferation in the Indian Subcontinent (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2000), p. 30.
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- "Operation Alba may be considered one of the most important instances in which Italy has acted as a regional power, taking the lead in executing a technically and politically coherent and determined strategy." See Federiga Bindi, Italy and the European Union (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2011), p. 171.
- "Italy plays a prominent role in European and global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs. The country's European political, social and economic influence make it a major regional power." See Italy: Justice System and National Police Handbook, Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: International Business Publications, 2009), p. 9.
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