Alternative in Realism? Conflict over the Kurile Islands

  • Jan Štěpán


The theoretical basis for this case study focuses on the duelling differences within realism. In order to define the thesis for further investigation the author identifies a new realistic approach that has developed within Waltzian neo-realism. The underlying difference between neo-realism and the so-called post-classical realism lies in the understanding of motivation of state behaviour in the international environment. Where Waltz stipulates that states act on the basis of the mere existence of power, post-classical realism suggests that it is more likely that they wait and assess the probabilities of threats before considering any further action. The fundamental objective of the essay is to judge whether the new alternative to neo-realism differs substantially in its conclusions to provoke a more profound debate within realism.
In the empirical part of the study the aim of the author is to prove the post-classical thesis that high probability of threat is a necessary motivation for state action. Conclusions are drawn from a careful examination of Russo-Japanese relations and especially of the conflict over the Kurile Islands. This particular conflict appeared to be a suitable object of the empirical analysis for various reasons. It is a long-term argument whose roots can be traced all the way into the nineteenth century. Both Japan and Russia have undergone unprecedented development and a repeated alternation of governing ideologies in the last century. Nevertheless their approach to the Kurile Islands issue has not changed significantly. And above all, the motivation for their behavior has by default followed the changes of the situation in the field of international politics. The quest for a common denominator of this motivation is therefore a suitable challenge for the theory of post-classical realism.
As a conclusion of the analysis the theory of post-classical realism is viewed as more flexible than neo-realism and capable of explaining and forecasting the behavior of states. The road for a more profound debate within realism is therefore open.

Author Biography

Jan Štěpán



Research Articles