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Rising Power Alliances and the Threat of a Parallel Global Order

PI: Kelly Sims Gallagher, Tufts University

Year selected for award: 2016

Rising Power Alliances and the Threat of a Parallel Global Order

Principal Investigator: Kelly Sims Gallagher, Tufts University

Co-Investigators: Mihaela Papa, Tufts University
Years of Award: 2018-2021

Managing Service Agency: Office of Naval Research

Project Description:

Projections about the future of the global order have traditionally relied on two assumptions: that rising powers are gradually “rising from within” the existing global governance infrastructure and that U.S.-led institutions are robust. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries are engaging in revisionist coalitions and creating new institutions or, as some argue, a parallel system, challenging U.S. global leadership. This new geopolitical dynamics is already affecting U.S. security interests, and it raises concerns that the United States could be potentially forced to contend with new and broadly legitimate global norms that it had no part in making. While much of the existing debate is in extremes, either envisioning a possible new Cold War or ignoring rising power alliances as an analytical unit, our ability to analyze rising power alliances and their implications is limited. We lack theoretical frameworks that take into account rising powers’ own approaches to such alliances as well as empirical approaches able to capture their multiple, complex interactions.

This project addresses these research gaps by asking: What is the nature and the reach of rising power alliances strategically seeking to reform the U.S.-led global order? When and how do rising powers ally with one another and how robust are their alliances, especially the BRICS? How can the United States best seize the new geopolitical dynamics to safeguard its interest and sustain its global leadership?
We address these questions:

1)    Theoretically, by developing a rigorous multidisciplinary framework for defining and understanding alliances/coalitions in the contemporary global order. This project conceptually advances the study of alliances to capture new, unorthodox alignment types and revisionist mobilization. It reviews and directly engages with non-Western literature published in the languages of the BRICS countries.
2)    Empirically, by employing a mixed-method approach to investigate the robustness of rising powers’ policy convergence and coalition building and examine it against U.S. strategic priorities. This proposal collects an extensive amount of data on rising power alliances/coalitions and their interactions. Field research is conducted in the BRICS countries to examine BRICS mobilization in critical areas for U.S. national security. The project also conducts comparative case studies to examine the use of U.S. negotiation strategies to deal with rising power alliances/coalitions in global institutions.       
3)    Operationally, this study increases the government’s geostrategic situational awareness and explores how the U.S. government can respond to revisionist powers.