Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
My mixed feelings about this book written by two prominent members of US Council on Foreign Relations come from its blend of sharp thinking about the changing nature of international affairs and quite parochial advocacy of a party-political proposition. The latter proceeds from the argument on economic statecraft advanced by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton back in 2012 and aims at shaping an agenda for her presidency. While the analysis is elegantly presented and impeccably researched (90 pages of endnotes testify to that), the recommendations are no more exciting than her campaign performance. The thoughtful examination of application of economic instruments for producing beneficial geopolitical results – this is how the authors define geoeconomics – is altogether far more interesting. The growing impact of geoeconomics on the international system is explained as the interplay of three factors: a) the preferences of today’s rising powers for economic instruments; b) the great expansion of economic resources available to states for the pursuit of geopolitical interests; and c) the new power of the markets to influence political behaviour of states. This conceptual lens inevitably brings China into the focus of analysis as the most committed practitioner of geoeconomics – and it gets a special chapter in the neatly constructed volume. The authors emphasise this case throughout, but a more balanced examination could suggest that China’s experience is not that successful and may not be sustainable given the newly-registered weakness of its economy. The Gulf monarchies, another group of usual suspects, face a fast shrinking of their coffers, and a Russia hit by severe recession falls back on wielding military instruments. Geoeconomics is hardly the next big thing.