In international relations, a regional power is 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".
- form part of a definable region with its own identity
- claim to be a regional power (self-image of 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 fora
Current regional power
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 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.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Historically, China was the dominant power in East Asia. However at the beginning of the early 20th century the Empire of Japan first became an important player in World War I as one of the Allied powers, then economic turmoil, its expulsion from the League of Nations, and interest in expansion of mainland caused Japan to become a major player in World War II as one of the Axis powers while China became a key player in World War II as one of the Allied powers. In last few decades, regional alliances, economic progress and military might have changed the strategic and regional power balance in Asia. Pakistan after her establishment have enjoyed pivotal roles in major military and non military alliances. In recent years, a re-balancing of military and economic might towards countries such as China, Pakistan and India has made significant changes in the geopolitics of Asia. China and Japan have also earned 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.
France, Germany, Italy, and the 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.
Transcontinental regional powers
Transcontinental countries like Russia are able to exert regional influence in large areas of the world.
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- 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.
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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.
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- "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.
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Moreover, the rise of regional powers Brazil and Mexico, and their burgeoning middle classes, could be a boon for other Latin American economies.
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Regional powers define the polarity of any given regional security complex (Walt 1987; Lake and Morgan 1997; Buzan and Wæver 2003): India and Pakistan in South Asia...
- Buzan, Barry; Wæver, Ole (2003). Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security. Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-521-89111-0.
In the framework of their regional security complex theory (RSCT), Barry Buzan and Ole Waever differentiate between superpowers and great powers which act and influence the global level (or system level) and regional powers whose influence may be large in their regions but have less effect at the global level. This category of regional powers includes Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey.
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The regional powers such as Israel or Pakistan are not simple bystanders of great power politics in their regions; they attempt to asymmetrically influence the major power system often in their own distinct ways.
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Regional powers refers to the much larger and, in international security terms, much more significant, category of states that define the power structure of their local region: India and Pakistan in South Asia; South Africa in southern Africa; Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf; Egypt, Israel, and Syria in the Levant; and so forth. Regional powers may not matter much at the global level, but within their regions they determine both the local patterns of security relations and the way in which those patterns interact with global powers.
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It is also a nuclear power, with dozens of nuclear warheads and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (Khan and Lavoy 2008). By these crudely material resources measures, Pakistan should be considered a major regional power.
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... Central and South Asia have now been renewed with fresh interpretations especially in regard to the regional powers of Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
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Because of Pakistan's reemergence as at least a regional power, we identify an emerging pentagon of power in and around South Asia...
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