The Personal Chemistry of Trust in International Politics

Professor Nicholas Wheeler

In March 1970, the West German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, travelled by train to meet with his East German counterpart, Willi Stoph, in the East German town of Erfurt. Brandt, the architect of the Ostpolitik policy that led to a relaxation of tensions between West Germany and East Germany, believed it was important that leaders ‘get a smell of each other’.Brandt appreciated that personal chemistry matters in international politics and if personal relationships are strong between state leaders, then it is possible to make progress on substantive issues, including, as Brandt and Stoph showed, the de-escalation of conflict between two adversaries. Brand’s intuition is a common one among leaders in adversarial relationships. President Ronald Reagan wrote in his memoir that he had come to believe that if the United States and the Soviet Union were ever ‘going to break down the barriers of mistrust that divided our countries, we had to begin by establishing a personal relationship between the leaders of the two most powerful nations on earth’ (quoted in Wheeler 2018: 1). But if state leaders recognize the potential for personal chemistry arising out of their face-to-face interactions, the discipline of International Relations (IR) has not properly theorized the conditions under which some face-to-face encounters lead to bonding of this kind, and equally importantly, why others lead to disappointment and failure.

Responsibility to Protect implementation in Libya and the State of International Society

Aslihan Turan Zara

Libya’s intervention constitutes an important example and represents an evolution, not only for responsibility to protect (R2P) and the humanitarian intervention, but also for the transformation of the international society. The latter is one of the systemic forms used by the English school scholars to interpret world politics with the international system and the world society. While the international system consists in the interaction among states that constitute it, the world society asks for common values and interests that build a link between members of the human community, where the universality of morality and of rules are essential in the quest of justice and the respect for human rights[i].

Battles for legitimacy: The arrest of a former Prime Minister and what’s next after Malaysia’s historic election

Scott Edwards

Malaysia’s historic election, which saw the first change of government since independence, was met with widespread optimism. Former Prime Minister Najib’s recent arrest for charges related to corruption was also hailed as a vindication for this optimism. While this is justifiable, the arrest and other related events raises questions about just how the new government under Pakatan Harapan (PH – Alliance of Hope) will overcome a plethora of challenges, especially revolving around race and religion.

BISA@ 40 and beyond

A series of commentaries on the state of the

discipline to mark the 40th anniversary of

BISA's founding

 

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