Balancing in unipolarity: who is afraid of balance of power
Through a critical bias, this article aims to analyze the implications of unipolarity for balancing behavior. In order to do so, it discusses the dynamics of balance of power theory, assumed to be inoperative in the post-Cold War period by main academic debates over unipolarity: i) unipolar stability; ii) balance of threats; iii) soft balancing; iv) liberal institutionalism. We argue that these approaches, including the unipolar illusion view, tied to the balance of power theory, overestimate the effects of unipolarity on balancing behavior of other states. In this sense, we assume here that issues related to the unipolar moment are directly connected to discussions on hegemonic interregnum. Concluding that balance of power dynamics, especially those of hard balancing, are still observed in the post-Cold War era, we criticize two main conclusions from the literature: i) that balancing became inoperative and; ii) that the only available strategies to other states are soft balancing and bandwagoning. In sum, this conclusion has directly implication on strategies available both to the United States and to its main competitors.