Vulnerability of small nations to foreign intervention

Other Names:
Plight of small states within the world-system
International insecurity of small states

Small nations without the resources to withstand foreign influence are vulnerable to intervention, interference in their affairs, economic coercion, diplomatic and political pressure, external attack and possible annexation. Although they may play the superpowers off against each other to obtain favourable terms and the maximum degree of independence, and although most are likely to remain at least nominally independent, they tend to be very heavily influenced by one superpower in political, economic, social and ideological matters. Others may be coerced into obedience (such as Czechoslovakia after 1968). The international community does not always respect their independence nor feel an obligation to provide effectively for their territorial integrity. Four security problems generally exist for small states faced with either external attack or internal uprising: a lack of trained security forces; a lack of arms and training in their use; inadequate surveillance of exclusive economic zones and/or illegal trade such as drug-running; and an inability to gather and process information and intelligence.


Third world nations are at the greatest disadvantage regarding infringements of their independence. They may be heavily in debt to countries which invest in their natural resources and may be unable to maintain national unity. In extreme social and national disintegration recourse may be had to armed forces which will be supplied from a foreign power. If a faction wins power in this way it will owe allegiance to the foreign power and be dependent on it for its strength (such as South Korea).

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST