Perspectives on international relations: Power, institutions, and ideas

Power, institutions, and ideas

Effective, timely communication is an important factor in international relations. Prior to World War I, the leaders of Germany and Russia exchanged telegrams in an effort to curtail the possibility of war. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Czar Nicholas II of Russia were cousins by marriage and sent what have come to be known as the “Willy-Nicky Telegrams” back and forth (Nau, 2017). Czar Nicholas sent a telegram to Kaiser Wilhelm asking Germany to encourage Austria (a German ally) to withdraw their declaration of war against Serbia (a Russian ally). They sent telegrams for three days trying to avoid certain war, but scholars believe there were too many outside factors and their efforts failed. While not necessarily effective in the grand scheme of things, the effort was timely and had the potential to stop the war if not for other issues.

Looking at World War II, it is also hard to find a great example of effective and timely communication between state actors. This lack of or breakdown in communication often leads to the global problems we’ve seen for the history of mankind. The formation of the League of Nations represented an effort to form an alliance that would allow for effective and timely communication between nations. In the League “all nations, great and small, participated in the League and decided collectively what constituted a threat to international peace and security” (Nau, 2017). Having existing diplomatic channels and predetermined common positions helped the participating countries communicate more quickly and effectively. The primary reason the League failed to prevent World War II is because the United States did not join and Russia joined late in the process.

Effective and timely communication is more easily seen during the Cold War era. The United Stated and Russia had been in a long-standing conflict the was eventually deescalated by good diplomacy. “Through an authentic and serious conversation, U.S. officials persuaded the Soviet Union to accept a reunited Germany and permit it to stay in NATO. The key arguments were that Moscow would be better off with a reunited Germany inside NATO than an independent one outside NATO and that Germany, once united, should have the right of self-determination, including the right to decide whether it wanted to join NATO or not” (Nau, 2017). These ongoing talks came at an important time in history. Germany was seeing rising conflict as Western ideas and culture became popular. The push back against Russian influence in East Germany was causing many issues. The series of conversations between the two powers eventually led to the fall of the wall dividing Germany and created the framework for the Germany we know today.

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