Regional power

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Leaders of most regional powers during the 2015 G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey

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.[1][2] 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".[1]

The German Institute of Global and Area Studies states that a regional power must:[2]

  • 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

Regional powers[edit]

  Major Regional Powers in North America (United States)
  Major Regional Powers in Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina, Brazil and Mexico)
  Major Regional Powers in Europe (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom)
  Major Regional Powers in Africa (Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa)
  Major Regional Powers in North Asia and Eastern Europe (Russia)
  Major Regional Powers in Western Asia and Southeast Europe (Turkey)
  Major Regional Powers in Western Asia (Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia)
  Major Regional Powers in East Asia (China, Japan and South Korea)
  Major Regional Powers in Southeast Asia (Indonesia)
  Major Regional Powers in South Asia (Pakistan, India)
  Major Regional Powers in Oceania (Australia)

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.

Primary, or major, regional powers (also known as pivotal powers) are placed in the major regions as identified by analysts. Secondary, or minor, regional powers are listed within their subregions. Major regional powers are indicated in bold and minor regional powers in normal font.



The United States is the primary geopolitical force in the Western Hemisphere. 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 the robust U.S. economy.[9]

Latin America and the Caribbean[edit]

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 Mexico, 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. China became a key player in World War II as one of the Allied 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 of China and North Korea.

East Asia[edit]

South Asia[edit]

Southeast Asia[edit]

Western Asia[edit]


France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom are regarded as the Big Four of Europe.[47][48] 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.


Transcontinental regional powers[edit]

Transcontinental countries like Russia are able to exert regional influence in large areas of the world.

See also[edit]


^ Considered a great power
^ Member of G20


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  • Buzan, Barry; Wæver, Ole (2003), Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 55, ISBN 0-521-89111-6
  • Godehardt, Nadine; Nabers, Dirk, eds. (2011), Regional Orders and Regional Powers, Routledge, pp. 193–208, ISBN 978-1-136-71891-5
  • Stewart-Ingersoll, Robert; Frazier, Derrick (2012), Regional Powers and Security Orders: A Theoretical Framework, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-56919-4