State as a Dominant Actor in International Politics

International Relations (IR) initially concentrated on the relationships between states. However, over the past decades, the definition has been broadened to encompass interactions between all sorts of political entities. Additionally, other entities such as multinational corporations, international organizations, citizens, and societies have been involved in IR. They cover an array of issues that arise from the connection of people to the old and modern forces of security, ideologies and beliefs, conflict resolutions, economy, climate change and the environment as a whole, and poverty. As a result of these numerous issues that are being addressed by agencies, there are multiple actors that are involved in tackling the problems. Each actor plays a different role within the system, although their actions do not contradict the objectives of the IR. Despite the involvement of numerous actors, the state is still the dominant actor in international politics.

For years, international politics has focused on the states as the essential actor in promoting the political drive internationally. According to Nasiritousi et al. (2016), 193 states joined the international system in 2017 as recognized by the United Nations. The organizations formed by these states were mainly to promote their political agenda in the international arena. The state is usually composed of political officials and bureaucratic organizations such as the presidents and the military. These leaders are typically involved in regulating the country’s residents’ political, economic, and interactions (D’Anieri, 2020). The states also guide their citizens by directing and controlling their behavior through enaction of different laws. States also have a territorial jurisdiction, which prevents other states from interfering with the affairs and interactions of their citizens. As a result of this nature, the states are important actors in international politics because they help set the rules that govern how their occupants interact with people across the globe.

Additionally, states have unique attributes that differentiate them from other actors, thus dominating international politics. Interests and capabilities are the exemplary attributes that the states possess (Babic et al., 2017). National interests are regarded as the broad political, economic, and social goals that direct most governments’ policies. The leadership of the state stipulates the nation’s interests according to the internal and external pressures (Babic et al., 2017). For example, during the Cold War period, the US concentrated on reducing the power expansion of the Soviet influence across the world (Craig & Logevall, 2020). Therefore, using an internal factor can be realized when politicians from a different party replace the government. For instance, the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, defined the interest of the US relative to Russia in a cooperative term than his predecessor, Barack Obama (Branda, 2018). Their policies can also be defined in relation to other countries to create harmony with their enemies, as witnessed between the United States and Russia during the reign of President Trump.

Moreover, the content of interests can vary from state to state, making it a crucial factor in international politics. The interest can advocate for economic incentives to realize industrial competitiveness or enhance a nation’s economic growth. However, some states can focus on promoting national security and actions relating to protecting the sovereignty of a country (D’Anieri, 2020). As a result, the states are better placed to promote their policies that can improve the livelihoods of their citizens through playing international politics. For example, the United States has consistently advocated for democracy across the world for several years by promoting its foreign policy. However, its current economic rival (China) has continuously offered its support for sovereignty and non-interference in political affairs (Yan, 2018). As a result of these differences, international organizations can weigh which policy is suitable for adoption. Other actors, however, rely on the members to formulate a policy, and each member is given an opportunity to contribute. As a result, their activities often take long to implement and sometimes do collapse. Therefore, this aspect makes the state of being the dominant actor in international politics.

Also, the states have a unique capability that enables them to drive the international politics agenda success. Actors often require the military to achieve their goals by negotiating situations with others. However, this unique feature lacks other actors, and only the state can organize and recruit the army. Military strength can be used as pressurizing factor to compel other nations to comply with the political demands. This is usually done by making a damaging threat to the opposing countries for noncompliance. For instance, this strategy was mainly used during the Cold War when the US used its military power and nuclear weapons to warn the Soviet Union from attacking West Germany (Craig & Logevall, 2020). However, other actors lack the military might and therefore experience significant challenges in realizing their international political quests. For example, terrorists’ groups can aspire to capture and overthrow the US government and size its current territory. However, this is only possible if such groups possess the military power to defeat the military forces that defend the US.

Moreover, other actors that can drive international politics also rely on the military offered by nations with strong defense forces. For example, the United Nations is an international body that can easily promote international politics (Nasiritousi et al., 2016). However, the organization does not have a military of its own, and therefore it relies on other nations to offer military support. As a result, it has to streamline its policies to match those states providing military support. Through this reliance, the states that have powerful military and police can force the international organizations to heed to their interests, and this compromises their independence. Although it can be viewed that the international organization is acting independently, their actions are indirectly dictated by the states. This, therefore, makes the state an essential actor in global politics because other actors can form no decision without considering the interests of the states.

In conclusion, although many actors have been realized in international relations over the past few decades, the state is still the dominant actor in international politics. This is mainly because it is composed of political leaders such as the presidents and prime ministers. It also has bureaucratic agencies such as the military that help in imposing a political ideology of their states. Additionally, the content of the interests of different nations makes the state an important actor in international politics because it enables each country to evaluate its policies before engaging in international politics. Moreover, the states possess the financial wealth that can be used in promoting international politics. Therefore, in regards to other actors, the state still dominates international politics and will continue to do so.


Babic, M., Fichtner, J., & Heemskerk, E. M. (2017). States versus corporations: Rethinking the power of business in international politics. The International Spectator, 52(4), 20-43. Web.

Branda, O. E. (2018). Changes in the American foreign policy: from Obama to Trump. In International Conference Knowledge-Based Organization (Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 160-165). Sciendo. Web.

Craig, C., & Logevall, F. (2020). America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity. Belknap Press.

D’Anieri, P. (2020). International politics: Power and purpose in global affairs. Cengage Learning.

Nasiritousi, N., Hjerpe, M., & Bäckstrand, K. (2016). Normative arguments for non-state actor participation in international policymaking processes: Functionalism, neo corporatism or democratic pluralism? European Journal of International Relations, 22(4), 920-943. Web.

Yan, X. (2018). Chinese values vs. liberalism: What ideology will shape the international normative order? The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 11(1), 1-22. Web.

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