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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchWhen Do Ideological Enemies Ally?

When Do Ideological Enemies Ally?

Author: Mark L. Haas

Affiliation: Duquesne University

Organization/Publisher: International Security, MIT Press

Date/Place: Summer 2021/USA

Type of Literature: Academic Journal article

Number of Pages: 43 


Keywords: Alliances, Ideology, France, Soviet Union, Frenemy, International Relations theory




The author argues that realist explanation of alliance grounded in ‘outsider threats’ is not enough to explain the nature of alliances. The article focuses on the odd case of the frenemy alliance between two ideological rivals. No study up to this point explains why two ideological rivals ally. The dominance of the realist perspective in international relations has left this historical fact unexplained. The author proposes a two-pronged framework to predict when ideological enemies may enter into an alliance. The first factor is regime vulnerability. Vulnerable regimes are less likely to engage with potential frenemies especially when an ideological fifth column could be nurtured domestically. A second factor is ideological distance. Ideological distance occurs when ideologies of two different countries either diverge or align towards a shared goal. For example, a regime is less likely to ally when allying with an ideological enemy could be construed as ideological betrayal against a similar regime. These two factors calculated together help to explain the numerous historical examples the author considers in order to prove the viability of his framework. The article is especially helpful in understanding the role of ideology in facilitating alliances, particularly in a field that is dominated by pure power calculations. Those concerned with pursuing an ummah-wide international alliance agenda will find the article instructive in overcoming ideological obstacles to alliance making. The article will also help to highlight the right moments to enter into such alliances and help scholars explain why ideological enemies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia may choose to come into an alliance.


By: Üveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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