Are States Stıll The Most Important Actors In Internatıonal Polıtıcs?

Politics has always existed since the history of humanity. Since the communal primitive life, the policy has continued to exist in general. Over time, the increase in the number of people emerged from tribes and colonies. The relations of states have been added to the human relations that existed in the early ages of history. When we look at the present, state relations are just like human relations, and when it comes, state relations become more important than human relations. When we look at the development line of history, we can see various comments about the emergence of states. Although politics has changed shape and method throughout history, it has always progressed cumulatively. In this article, we will try to explain with empirical examples of how states emerged, how states have been active in the international system throughout history and how they continue to operate.There are various hypotheses and interpretations of the research results. We can now look at these comments in more detail. Let us first look at the ideas of the famous British thinker Thomas Hobbes. In his book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes explains the foundation of the state as follows: “the only way to establish such a general force that can protect people from the attack of foreigners and the harm of each other and thus enable them to feed themselves and live in happiness through their own labor and the fruits of the earth; to transfer all their power and powers to a single person or to a delegation that will reduce the will of all of them to a single will by the majority of votes. The aim of the state is individual security. Naturally, the ultimate reason, purpose or goal of the restriction that people who love freedom and sovereignty subordinate themselves to when living in states is to protect themselves and thus lead a more dignified life; that is, as it has already been shown, when there is no apparent force that will keep people in fear and force them to perform their belonging and to comply with the laws of nature described in chapters fourteenth and fifteenth, it is the terrible result of people’s natural feelings. to get out of the war. ”1 According to the famous philosopher Plato also living in ancient Greece, the state “Human and state are looking similar, people are microorganisms and the state is the macro organism. The social classes in the state are the equivalent of some of the abilities that exist in man.”2
According to one of the most important philosophers, John Locke, the foundation of the state is based on a contract. According to John Locke, “the state is only a means of realizing the aims of the society that constitutes the state.”3 Since political society and political power are the results of the contract, it will have approval in its people. Since political power was established to protect the right to property, its elimination cannot be considered. Otherwise, the legitimacy of the political authority will be abolished and the right of the people to resist will be filled. Locke also stressed the principle of separation of powers.

J.J.Rousseau’s book that name “social contract” he said that ” man is born free but then chained everywhere.” Human can only get rid of this by creating a state in which he joins with the contract, which he agreed to and is bound by his own free will.”4 From the earliest ages of history to the present day, the most important factor influencing international politics in the global world we are in is undisputed states. When we look at the stages of history, we can see that states are the most influential actors in every period. History is full of wars, civil wars, treaties, and alliances. Time may change, but states have always existed in political history. We see big states and big empires in every period of history because the states are the most important actors in determining international politics. When we look at ancient times, we see the great Macedonian kingdom in 500 BC. Later, we can see the Turkish states established in Asia. On the other hand, if we want to see how much the states influence international politics, we can look at the American Revolution in history, the great French Revolution, or other European Revolutions. One of the most important states in the history scene is undoubtedly the Ottoman Empire. Influenced the Ottoman Empire’s international politics and world political history for 700 years. The effects of the Ottoman Empire have managed to leave a mark even today. The strong state structure and bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire enabled it to succeed in the international system for a long time. Historically, states have made continuous alliances to maintain the balance of power. This has continued until today. One of the most important wars in history is thirty years war. As a result of this war with the Treaty of Westphalia, which constitutes the international system was signed. “With this treaty, all factors except the state factor have disappeared in the international system.

In particular, the religious factor has become ineffective in Europe. After the peace inWestphalia, many states joined the international system. In the 17th century, the concept of power balance emerged in Europe. All states have made various alliances to achieve this
balance. From this point on, the balance of power has become the most influential actor, first in Europe and then in the world.”5
The concept of “balance of power” is used in many ways. Firstly, it is used in terms of equivalence in which power is distributed among many different states. Secondly, it has a meaning that results from the disruption of this balance. If a state becomes superior in the
international system and the other members of the system form a coalition in order not to lose their independence, then this coalition is called “balance”. Finally, if a state is a necessary member of the coalition and the coalition needs it more than it needs, it can be called the state that controls the balance of power. This state may not always be a member of the coalition. However, if the interests lie in the balance of power in a particular region or the world and it has the power to provide it, the same title can be given to this state.


Responding to the problems of the 16th and 17th centuries, the great monarchies were unable to maintain such powerful governments, which were the product of globalization, needed by the second half of the 18th century and the 19th century. Only “nation-states could establish these powerful governments. For European people, international politics should no longer be monarchs and princes, but exchanges between “states. Therefore, the monarchs and princes became less and less important than the states they represented. With the second half of the 18th century, the foreign policy of France or Prussia began to be talked about rather than the kings’ ambitions. In the 18th and 19th centuries, when religion had no unifying role, people embraced with great faith the supremacy and immunity of the state. The state became the only valid and dominant unit in the entire international system. In these centuries focused on the unity of Italy, the sovereignty of Prussia, France’sglory, fame and issues such as the size of Russia. Not about subjects of unity, peace, prosperity, or the lives of millions of people.
European people were religious people until the end of the 14th century. By the 19th century, they were all patriotic. European’s “God” was Germany, France, and England in the 19th century. “The rise of the West in the 300 years after the 1500s is evident in the Paris Peace Treaty signed at the end of the Seven Years’ War. In this treaty, the four majorEuropean states – England, France, Spain, and Portugal – tried to give the world the order they wanted.”6
When we look at the history of world revolutions, the vast majority of revolutions occurred for the nation-state. The American Revolution, the French revolution, 1830 and 1848 revolutions in Europe might be given as examples. Particularly after the French Revolution of 1789, the logic of the nation-state took its place completely in the world. Another reason why states are active actors in the international system in world history is the industrial revolution. With this revolution, the countries of the world met with colonialism and imperialism. The realization of the industrial revolution in Europe enabled these states to influence other people and countries. European states have been effective in the world in every sense in the international system. We saw that the most important outcome of the industrial revolution for Europe was the establishment of German and Italian national associations. The most important consequence of this revolution in the world is the transformation of colonialism into imperialism.Colonialism is the establishment or expansion of the sovereignty of a state over otherlands and peoples. In this period, colonialism became the symbol of the power of European states.

States with a large number of colonies were considered to be large states and governed the international system. After the emergence of colonialism and imperialism, states increased their economic, cultural, social and commercial activities not only in the military but also inthe international system. Powerful states have invaded weak states and colonial states, have been subjected to occupation in every sense. The greatest factor affecting the international system has always been the state. The greatest example of this in history can be seen in the emergence of World War I. One of the major factors in the emergence of the first world war is the aggressive foreign policy of states, economic and political interests, the effects of the industrial revolution, the effects of the French revolution, nationalism and the structure of the nation-state. “In the 20th century, many states did not want war, but the national interest of the states required it.”7

Throughout history, there has been a constant distrust between the state. When we look at recent history, we can see this in the First World War. One of the main reasons for this war is the lack of interstate trust and the constantly changing balance of power. With the emergence of nation-states and the influence of nationalism, an anarchic structure emerged in the world political system. In an anarchic system, states have always considered their interests, and during this war, interstate alliances have also occurred, taking into account the balance of power. We can best understand this situation from the agreements made at the end of the war. For example;
• France acquired Alsace-Lorraine hills from Germany.
• Military restrictions imposed on Bulgaria.
• According to the Treaty of Sevres, the Ottoman state was tried to be disintegrated.
• The Ottoman army dissolved.
• Iraq was left for England.
The theory of international relations attempts to explain why international events occur. The majority of theorists speculate about the relations between sovereign states. They purpose to find and understand patterns of mutual political interaction between states.
“Some go further and try to reach general principles through these patterns of interaction that can explain past events and enable them to predict future events.”8 All events that took place in the international system until the first world war showed us that the international system directed by the states. We have seen more of the power of states in the system after the first world war. In this section, we will see how states are the dominant force in the international system, in a better way with examples of recent history, scientific theories, and experiences, and more detail that other factors are not effective. After the first world war, there was a tense environment in the whole world. Defeated states were obliged to make heavy agreements to victorious states. The international system also had an atmosphere of anarchy.
During this period, a realist dominated the international system. From the realist perspective, there is no superior factor in the international system than states. The origins of the realist perspective date back to the 16th century. Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of Prince, Thomas Hobbes, the author of Leviathan, laid the foundations of this movement centuries ago. Edward Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Henry Kissinger are the representatives of this movement in the 20th century. According to realism, states regulate the interstate relationship. The International System is anarchic. Without an anarchic structure, states cannot have sovereignty. There is a constant hostility in the international system. The state is the most important factor in the international system. Every state in the International System is a unit of the system as a rational actor. States tend to pursue their interests. States work to reach as many resources as possible. The main problem for states is to exist. States develop military forces to maintain their existence, which also leads to a security dilemma. Realists contemplate that people are not prone to innate goodness, but rather selfish and competitive. In this sense, “the realist paradigm assumes that national security is usually at the top of the list in the hierarchy of international issues and argues that conflict is inevitable and persistent in the international arena where states’ sovereignty confronts. He also states that
military issues dominate world politics and that power is a key concept. ”9 The use of force emphasizes compeller strategies and behaviors used to prevent anything that threatens the national interest. States apply the rational decision-making model with the information they have obtained and accepted as correct. There is no international authority due to the dominance of anarchy in the International system. States have to provide safety for themselves. According to the realists, sovereign states are the main actors of the international system, but special attention is drawn to the great powers because of the magnitude of their influence at the international level. It is assumed that international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations, individuals and, sub-state or transstate entities have little independent impact capacity.
A glance at the international political system, we see that the pre-realism and postrealism period coincide with the realist principles. After the first world war, new actors began to enter the international political system. The first and important organization in this regard can be defined as the League of Nations. “The importance of the League of Nations – not only Europe – following the globalization process of the earth, is the first organization established in peacetime in which the countries in other continents of the world are members.”10 The League of Nations was an organization that could be considered the basis of the United Nations today. It was founded on 10 January 1920 in Switzerland after the First World War and it broke up in 1946 after World War II. It aims to develop international cooperation and to ensure that international peace and security, to accept certain obligations not to resort to war to maintain fair and dignified international relations and to strictly abide by international law. “The success of an international organization depends on the support of its members and on reaching a consensus on its purpose” but especially the great states of the national community have not done so. Japan, Germany, and Italy withdraw from membership, causing the organization to fail”11

Reasons for Failure of the League of Nations

.“There were gaps in the preventive measures within the Society and the sanctions were
• The application of the unanimity principle on important issues prevented the resolution of
political and legal problems.
• The international mentality to maintain and maintain peace was inadequate and
• It was contradictory that it tried to protect human rights on the one hand, and on the other
hand, it was the guarantee of colonization and the mandate system.
• The separation of the United States from the League of Nations caused the loss of
important international power and the loss of its effectiveness.”12
The main reason for the failure of the League of Nations is that the international system is anarchic, each state considers its interests and states are the most powerful actors of the international system. Because international organizations were created by states, and these organizations can provide peace to the extent permitted by the states. Another reason why the League of Nations is ineffective is that the United States does not enter the League of Nations. We can see that in the international system, a state is more important than an organization. Again in this period, due to the anarchic structure of the system, various alliances were established against Germany. Another reason for the lack of peace in this period is the German and French hatred of history. Again during this period, because the system was anarchic, the states were experiencing a security dilemma and this concern forced them to
ally. During this period, France made alliances against the Germans with Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary. During this period, as a result of Italy’s aggressive foreign policy and the desire for expansion, it tried to spread to the Balkans and Africa. In this period, Mussolini defined
the society of nations as follows. “The League of Nations is a Holy Alliance formed by the Frank and Anglo-Saxon plutocratic states (the rich) to exploit the rest of the world.”13 While these were happening in the western part of the world, the Soviet Union in the eastern part adopted communism and made peace agreements that would shape the international system. In 1933, there was an event that profoundly affected the world’s political system, and Hitler became the head of Germany. Hitler occupied to other European states because of aggressive German foreign policy. During Hitler’s period, Germany became athreatening state for the international system. During this period, millions of people murdered or expelled from their countries. Hitler’s realist policy has shown how effective states are in the system. During this period, the decisions of the League of Nations’ never effective in Hitler’s aggressive foreign policy. Hitler adopted the policy of a nation and a state, and the interests of Germany in the international system. To this end, he exploited and of the anarchic structure of the system and signed treaties for the national interests of Germany. In this period, we can see from the American example of how the foreign policy of states affected the international system. In this period, America adopted the policy of loneliness in foreign policy because its national interest required it. This made Hitler’s job easier for a certain period. The other reason that made Hitler’s job easier was that other European states did not take Hitler too seriously. Even today, we can see how this situation creates problems in the international system. The fact that states are the only actors, in the international system has had great effects on history. The most striking example of this is the occurrence of the second world war after the first world war. We can briefly explain the events leading to this war as follows; Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, Arab nationalism, Conflicts in the Middle East, US loneliness policy, Hitler, Mussolini, and Soviet aggressive policies. When we look at these events, we can see that each state is considering its security and national interest.

These policies show how the international system is governed by states.”An important feature of the history of the twentieth century, and especially of the post-World War II era, is the importance of international organization and the widespread application of it.”14 The United Nations, the second international organization of the twentieth century, had a more complex structure than the League of Nations, had a larger budget, had more members, had more organs.“United Nations is an organization in which states are equal in theory, but states are not equal in practice.”15
As a result, the United Nations remained committed to the decisions of 5 permanent countries. These countries are the USA, Russia, England, France, China. In fact, this is an indication that the decisions of international organizations are left to the interests of the states. An organization of this nature has no chance of success. Because each country will consider its own interests in every situation. In the structure of this organization, China and Russia are located on one side, the USA, England, and France on one side. This hinders the functioning of the decision-making mechanism and hinders the international peace of this organization. After 1945 in the history of international relations, the world was introduced to the cold war and the world became a bipolar system. The US on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. The United Nations could not prevent the international system to become a bipolar system. This is another indication that states are more effective in the international systemthan international organizations.
In the world political system, two blocs emerged, the US and western countries, on the other side the Soviet Union and, its satellite states. These two powerful states supported and controlled the states on their side economically, politically and militarily. The system and decisions were determined by these two states.

The Soviet Union took control of eastern European and established governments which depend on Soviet Union. Western Europe, Turkey and, Greece took the side of the US because of the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine. As the cold war continued between the
two great states, NATO was founded in 1949 by the US against Soviets and the Eastern Bloc. This organization aimed to eliminate the military threat coming from the Soviet Union. The most important feature of NATO is that there is collective defense, that is, all member states respond to a military attack on one member. The basis of this is that the international system is anarchic. Because in an anarchic system, states form alliances for their national interests, but alliances end when there is no relationship of interest. The Warsaw Pact against the Western Bloc was founded in 1955 under the Soviet leadership. This pact formed the defensive power of the Eastern Bloc. Its members were the Soviet and Eastern European countries. It ended with the collapse of the Soviets.

When we look at the history of the Middle East, we can see the failure and biased policies of international organizations, for example, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the IsraeliArab conflict. The United Nations and other organizations have still not or do not want to find a solution to this problem. Despite all the United Nations decisions, Israel has never changed its policy towards Palestine. This shows us that states are more powerful and bigger actors than international organizations. We can see in different examples that states use theinternational system for their interests. For example, the Berlin Wall, the Suez Crisis, the U-2 incident, the Cuban October Missiles crisis are other examples that show us how effective states are in the international system. When we look at the 21st-century world political system, we can see that nothing has changed. The US invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan in 2003 to fight the socalled terrorism show us that states are still the most influential actors in the international system. The only reason why the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia cannot be solved is that international organizations are ineffective and states are still the most influential actors.
Today’s events in Ukraine, Russia’s pressure on this country and the annexation of the Crimean peninsula show the power of states. The last and most striking example is the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. The policies of powerful countries are the only reasons why the Syrian still has no stability. This is especially the case in the Syrian civil war. The power and interests of America and Russia in the region are the only reasons why the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011 and is continuing with the deaths of millions, has not ended.


When we look at political history, states are undoubtedly the most powerful actor in the international system. In various periods of history, states only changed their shape. We can see the state in history as a city-state, kingdom, principality, empires and finally nationstate. This situation has never adversely affected states power. This power has continued to as cumulative increased until the present. States can do anything for their national interests. “History” is full of wars, peace, alliances, and massacres because the state is the most powerful factor in the system. Realist theory that emerged during the First World War supports this situation. The reason for the existence of two world wars in world political history is the influence of states in the international system. After World War II, various theories have been put forward. The liberal theory of international relations argued that states, as well as international organizations, international law, multinational corporations, and nongovernmental organizations, were strong in the political system. But this does not reflect the truth to us. The League of Nations, established after the first world war, could not prevent the outbreak of the second world war. As a matter of fact, since the establishment of the United Nations after the Second World War, the United Nations has not been successful in achieving world peace. Examples of this failure can be seen in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir conflict, the Somalia civil war, the Rwandan genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, the Darfur, Iraq, Yemen, Arakan, in Afghanistan against to Al-Qaeda and in Syria against to ISIS. The main reason for these failures is the structure of the United Nations Security Council and the national interests of the five-member states. States have always been superior to organizations and other factors in political history. This will always be the case as long as
the international system is anarchic, which means that in the international system the state has always been the strongest actor and will continue to be the strongest actor.


  1. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, YKY, 2007, s.117.
  2. “Devletler nasıl ortaya çıktı”,
  3. “Devletler nasıl ortaya çıktı”,
  4. “Devletler nasıl ortaya çıktı”,
  5. Oral Sander, İlk Çağlardan 1918’e, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1989, s.57.
  6. Oral Sander, İlk Çağlardan 1918’e, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1989, s.77.
  7. Oral Sander, İlk Çağlardan 1918’e, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1989, s.212.
  8. K. Waltz, Theory of international Politics, New York, Addison-Wesley Publishing
    Company, 1979, p.3.
  9. K. Waltz, Man the State and War, New York, Columbia University Press, 1959, s.80.
  10. Oral Sander, Siyasi Tarih 1918-1994, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1994, s.32.
  11. Oral Sander, Siyasi Tarih 1918-1994, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1994, s.33.
  12. “Birleşmiş Milletler Neden Başarısız Oldu”,’nin_Ba%C5%9F
    ar%C4%B1s%C4%B1zl%C4%B1k_Sebepleri (26.11.2019)
  13. Oral Sander, Siyasi Tarih 1918-1994, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1994, s.24.
  14. Oral Sander, Siyasi Tarih 1918-1994, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1994, s.183.
  15. Oral Sander, Siyasi Tarih 1918-1994, Ankara, İmge Kitapevi, 1994, s.184.



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