This is the third “full” entry in our ongoing “X-Men Foreign Policy” series, a dynamic look at the nuanced politics in the recent X titles. You can find part one here, part two here, or if you haven’t already, the handy introduction guide.
The island of Krakoa is an astonishing achievement for mutants worldwide and appears to be a pleasurable place for its people. Even though it is an island nation made up of powerful superheroes, it is still a small state, and nations of this type often face considerable challenges pursuing their interests in the international realm. In this essay, we will look at what Krakoa can learn from small states, what they have done to guarantee their security and play a role in global power politics.
Small states have less resources to pull from. Their populations are smaller and thus can muster smaller military forces. Their smaller population also limits their diplomat core and are sometimes required to employ non-nationals as consuls in from time to time (Herring, 2009). Generally, smaller states have tinier economies as well, resulting in them being seen as less important members of the international community, limiting these state’s ability to use soft power in negotiations. Larger states are less likely to partner with smaller states on security issues as well, as they are seen to be more of a burden than an equal partner. For example, Iceland was not able to access U.S. Intelligence information during the Cold War because the United States did not feel the small nation had the resources and capacity to keep the information secure (Ingimundarson, 1996).
Understandably, Krakoa has advantages many of these actual states do not. It’s key resource, the Krakoan Flower, seems to be unlimited, valuable and incredibly rare. We have discussed how this resource might dictate the foreign affairs of Krakoa in a previous essay. The mutant homeland is made up of superpowered citizens that may negate the relatively small population in regard to military comparisons. The island is home to many geniuses and business masterminds; Krakoa may eventually become an extremely important (if not small) player in international economics. Having said that, Krakoa does face many of the same challenges that real-world small states encounter, and its leaders could learn a great deal from how nation’s similar in size and scale have navigated the international realm successfully.
Small States Need Free Markets
While the initial demands of Krakoa to the international community was simply recognition and peace, if Krakoa wishes to become more than a single-resource economy, it will need to have access to the markets of other nations. We have already seen that some nations are very antagonistic to Krakoa and mutants, making it unlikely they will allow Krakoan businesses to work within their borders. If Krakoa gets literally locked-out of international markets, it would regulate their small state to guaranteed poverty and insignificance.
In the Marvel Universe, this real-world factor is not always a reality. Wakanda has historically kept itself apart and remote from other nations and has seen incredible wealth and progress as a result. Since mutants are abhorred, it seems unlikely that Krakoa can chart this course however, as the constant threat to their people is real. Krakoa, unlike Wakanda, needs to integrate into the world economy for economic reasons as well as security ones.
Small State Security Strategies
Historically, small states have charted numerous paths to secure their countries in a system made of larger, more powerful states. There are a few commonalities, although it is unlikely that Krakoa will follow these precedents based on the historic (and ongoing) persecution of mutants around the globe and the current leadership on the island.
Small states almost universally remain neutral players on world affairs or subordinate themselves to a larger power. In the years after World War II, we have seen smaller states gravitate to the orbits of powerful ones (an approach called bandwagoning). Others worked to remain entirely neutral to power politics and made efforts to strengthen international institutions like the UN and EU to maximize their say in world affairs. In return for support from larger states or stability from international institutions, small states are expected to avoid being a disruptive force. Thus, almost all small states prefer working in a multilateral manner (that is, working in conjunction with other states). By doing this, small states “are able to develop issue-specific power to make up for what they lack in aggregate structural power. Small states can therefore develop power disproportionate relative to their size on the few issues of utmost importance to them” (Steinsson and Thorhallsson 2017). This is where Krakoa may have difficulty, as its current leadership seems unwilling to be subservient to other powers.
Krakoa could possibly build its own alliances and institutions to provide for its security if they are unable to join existing security alliances. Countries like Iran and Venezuela (not small states but also not global powers), have attempted to build regional and international alliances to pursue their aims. Iran created the Axis of Resistance, an alliance made up of a few states and a handful of proxy organizations, in an attempt to forgo bandwagoning or neutrality.
While a small nation like Krakoa would benefit from going with the flow set by major powers, there are scenarios where it could build alliances with other small, marginalized states in the MCU. Krakoa has already accepted mutant villains into leadership roles in their society; it is not a stretch to see them building a security arrangement with nations like Madripoor and Latveria. Though unlikely (especially when one considers how the Marauders have been at war with one of these countries), it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Krakoa would invest its efforts in building a new series of alliances to secure their interests.
Mutants are hated on Earth 616; there have been active attempts to discriminate and exterminate them. The very fact that numerous intergalactic worlds exist may lead to Krakoa looking to engage in intergalactic diplomacy (a relationship with the Shi’ar already exists) to secure their state’s existence. This variable gives the mutant nation a hand in negotiating entry into established security structures that brings up a whole series of questions for a future instalment in this series.
Herring, G. C. (2009). From colony to superpower: U.S. foreign relations since 1776. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ingimundarson, V. (1996). Í eldlínu kalda stríðsins [In the firing line of the Cold War]. Reykjavík: Vaka-Helgafell.
Steinsson, S and Thorhallsson, B. (2017). “Small State Foreign Policy”. The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (Oxford University Press).
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