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.
Even though the life quality and economic weight of Africa are relatively low comparing to other continents, and more than two-thirds African countries are amongst the world's least developed group, the rich natural resources and diversified culture contribute to their full potential of emergent development.
Traditionally, North Africa or Maghreb region often considered as a part of Arab world or Greater Middle East due to its closed connection to West Asia of both composition of demographic ethnicity and prominent Arab cultural influence, as distinct from the rest of African continent. Egypt, long known for its ancient civilisation, is the most populous Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times, which also holds a strategic choke point in Suez Canal and the vicinity of eastern Mediterranean. Algeria, on the other hand, is the largest country in both of African Union and Arab League.
The increase in the level of South Africa's diplomatic engagement after the end of apartheid is clearly illustrating its successful reintegration into international affairs over the last 20 years, the country is widely recognized as the only newly industrialised country in African economy and takes a crucial role in BRICS and G20. Nigeria is also referred to as the "Giant of Africa" which possesses the largest population and economic size of Africa, along with its significant cultural influence over Sub-Saharan Africa such as movie industry and mass media.
Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Algeria as the four largest African economies, all reach the thresholds of over 150 billions of total GDP by nominal value and 500 billions by PPP measures as of 2020.
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 North America, and is considered the sole superpower at the moment. In fact, its projection of power is so large that Canada and Mexico, both middle powers are generally not considered regional powers. The case of Mexico is a strange one due to this scenario, where it is not considered a regional power if grouped with North America, but is considered a probable regional power if grouped with Latin America and a definite regional power if considered in either Central America or in Spanish-speaking America.
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 the dominant force of Asia 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 one of the three main Axis powers in World War II.
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 the former now contending with the United States for geopolitical clout in most major regions. With close economic and military ties to the United States, Japan was the main Asian base of operations of America's "containment" strategy during the Cold War. In recent decades, South Korea has emerged as a significant economic and cultural force in East Asia, while Indonesia has solidified its place as the economic heavyweight of Southeast Asia.
Russia – the dominant part of a former superpower, the Soviet Union, is now considered a potential superpower and has historically been the primary geopolitical force in Eastern Europe. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom are seen as the Big Four of Western Europe, they play pivotal roles as part of the NATO Quint in the security of the Western Bloc. Most of the continent is now integrated as a consequence of the enlargement of the European Union, which is sometimes considered a great power as a whole despite it not being a sovereign state. Historically, dominant powers in this region created large global colonial empires (such as the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Belgian, and Dutch empires).
Australia is considered to be a regional power due to its relative wealth within Oceania and South-east Asia. For instance, despite having less than a tenth of Indonesia's population, Australia has a larger GDP in nominal terms. Despite not possessing a particularly large military in terms of manpower, Australia's military expenditure is the 11th highest in the world and is considerably higher than any other nation in the region.
- ^ Considered a great power
- ^ Permanent member of UNSC
- ^ Member of G7
- ^ One of G4 nations
- ^ Member of G20
- ^ Member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
- ^ Member of MIKTA
- ^ Member of OPEC
- ^ Member of BRICS
- ^ Member of G-15
- ^ Member of D-8
- ^ Member of N-11
- ^ Member of CIVETS
- ^ Member of G-14
- ^ Member of Pacific Alliance
- ^ Member of Andean Community
- ^ Member of ACS
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