In a U.S.-dominated post-Cold War unipolar international system, the possible power shifts between the second-tier great powers and the Americans, such as a systemic balance, will have great impacts on the existence and endurance of the current international system. According to the Realist theses, “balance of power” is a stabilizing factor that contributes to international security and regional stability as the great powers endeavor to prevent concentration of capabilities in one or a few nations through the process of distribution of power. However, it seems questionable when the conventional “balance of power" thesis, focusing exclusively on military balancing as a means to maintain military and strategic interests among the great powers, is applied to the interrelationship between the U.S. and its junior counterparts in the post-Cold War era. Among the post-Cold War second-tier great powers, the European Union plays a very special role. Despite the fact that the Europeans share key cultural and religious values with the Americans, the EU has gradually developed its own global strategic status by expanding the multiple dimensions of power, including its adherence to multilateralism that places the EU in opposition to the U.S when dealing with crucial global affairs. While the Europeans might place in harmony with the Americans on some global issues in the Cold War era, their differences over major disputes appear much more unbridgeable than ever before. The fact that the EU and the U.S. have been divergent on key international issues indicates that some form of balance may be emerging Yet, the conventional “hard balancing" theory cannot explain the non-military balancing exercised by the EU vis-à-vis the U.S. This article attempts to propose the “soft balancing” thesis, referring to a means used by the second-tier great powers that take non-military measures to achieve strategic interests by balancing the super power. The paper’s main purpose is to examine relations between the EU and the U.S. in the post-Cold War era in order to understand whether a soft balancing relationship between the two exists. This article begins by discussing the major theses proposed by the Realist “balance of power” theory, followed by the counter-proposal of “soft balancing” put forward in the post-Cold War era. It then examines some key international issues where the EU and the U.S. have had divergent positions, with an aim at finding the pattern of EU’s soft balancing vis-à-vis the U.S. The article concludes by proposing the applicability of the “soft balancing” thesis on the theoretic level, as well as its implications for policy-making concerning the impacts that the emerging soft balancing in an individual or a collective manner would have on the international system as a whole.
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