Foreign Policy | Definition & Forms Foreign Policy of Nations May Assume

Foreign Policy is defined according to Professor F.S Northedge, as the “use of political influence in order to induce other states to exercise their law making power in the manner desired by the state concerned” (1968).

To assess the usefulness of this description we have to look at its major outlines and then its susceptibilities. The Northedge point of view outlines three main points:

  • That foreign policy has to do with relationship between one state and another state.
  • That foreign policy has to do with the exercise of political influence, which means of course, that it involves the application of state power aimed at persuading or coercing other states to behave in a particular manner.
  • That the objective is always invariably either to alter the behavior of other state.

Problems with Northedge Definition

The first is that it is conservative (state centric) in the sense that foreign policy can be directed towards non state actors. In this regard we are all living witnesses to Nigeria foreign policy directed at the attraction of foreign capital in pursuit of the structural adjustment programme (SAP).

Therefore, foreign policy is the action or decision of a state. Secondly foreign policy is not just about influencing and inducing other states, a lot of the foreign policy of state concerns with reacting to the external environment.

As Professor Akinyemi puts it, there are situations were all a state can do is react. Thirdly, even though the legislative arm of government is not an unimportant force in the foreign policy of a nations, the volatility of the external environment and the need for fast decision have conspired to making foreign policy more of an executive than a legislative matter.

In foreign matters many actions are taken without recourse to due process of the law or legislative niceties.

The Northedge point of view is elitist and parochial in character; this is because it goes about describing foreign policy from the point of view of the great powers. It does not take into account the foreign policies of smaller and lesser powers. In this regard, it is important to note that a state foreign policy may consist of resisting the influence of other states to behave in a particular way.

According to Dr. Asobie H.A, he described foreign policy thus “a programme of action as well as calculated inaction designed by a state either to mobilize external resources for national development or to protect internal resources from undue exploitation by external actors.

It includes but not restricted to decision to act or not to act by a state to deal with development and problems arising in the external environment. Any set of measures sometimes coherent but often by no means intrinsically consistent adopted by a state to deal with problems which arise in their relations with all external actors  comes within the purview of foreign policy.

The Various Forms Foreign Policy of Nations may Assume.

It may consist of domestic policy directed outward:

This captures the situation whereby states adjust an existing domestic policy or comes up with a new policy or set of policies in order to deal with developments and problems arising in the external environment. To get the point clearly, let us think about the following issues:

  • In a bid to acquire foreign investment, foreign aid, foreign trade concession the Nigeria government turned into structural adjustment programme (SAP) policy.
  • As a result of the dwindling foreign exchange available to the nations and as a result of the vagaries of international crude oil market. The Nigeria government is now pursuing the policy of diversifying the basic of the economy.
  • It is said that when Europe sneezes, Africa catches cold. Now, Gorbachev came with his reform and the “wind of change”. Thus African one party regime started adopting the multi party system in order to fall in line.
  • Anti drug law of most of the third world nation was adopted in order not to draw the anger of the United States. The position now adopted by Nigeria in connection with 419 crimes is because of its implications and impacts upon foreign investment, which Nigeria’s SAP put a high premium upon

External Policies Directed Inwards:

In this connection, a state may form alliance with other states in order to protect the government against internal subversion, rebellion or revolution. For example, at independence, Nigeria and Britain signed a defense treaty popularly dubbed, Anglo- Nigeria defense pact. The pact was not necessary focused on external problems but more on internal problems such as preventing coup d’etat or rebellion, keeping the army off governance and allowing British intelligence to operate in Nigeria and keep an eye on trouble makers in Nigeria.

Babangida visit to Germany, Britain and Ike Nwachukwu visit to Czech and Slovakia (March 1992)  all to get external assistance to help us acquire foreign investment, trade and appreciate technology and so on, to help pull the economy out of the quagmire. Under here we bring the 1992 February visit of George Bush to Japan and South East Asia, all in a bid to do something about America economic recession.

External Policy Directed Outward:

For example, a state may enter into alliance to protect another state or other states from external aggression. Examples in regards to external policies directed outwards include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led by the United States and the defunct Warsaw Treaty Organization led by the defunct Soviet Union.

Policies directed outwards may be directed at changing the status quo in regard to the sphere of influence or maintaining same. Policy directed outwards is not the exclusive preserve of the great and super powers. In this connection, after some unsavoury experience the third world nations in a bid to do something about the impact of the storm and stress of super powers rivalry and more importantly, the unfavourable dynamics of the politics of international economic relation by drawing some demarcating lines between the North and South.

The assumption is that the dividing lines between the North and the South need to be recognized and solidarity of the South pursued against the exploitation of the North. In the end, it is hoped that by so doing they would move out of the then two bloc and become relatively free participant in the politics of international economic relations

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