York profs launch book on international relations

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York University Professors Ian Roberge and Thomas Klassen – both at the School of Public Policy and Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) – in collaboration with Professor Nara Park at Yonsei University in South Korea, have co-edited a newly published book on international relations and the turbulent dynamics existing between neighbouring countries of disparate size and political influence.

Asymmetric Neighbors and International Relations Living in the Shadow of Elephants
Asymmetric Neighbors and International Relations Living in the Shadow of Elephants (2022)

Asymmetric Neighbors and International Relations Living in the Shadow of Elephants (Routledge, 2023) studies a multitude of relationships between a small country and its more powerful neighbour. Individual chapters examine Canada and the U.S.; New Zealand and Australia; Belarus and Russia; Qatar and Saudi Arabia; Colombia and Brazil; and others. The book opens with a chapter from Roberge, Klassen and Park explaining how relations between neighbours dominate the history of civilization, and follows with chapters by scholars from around the world, each describing a unique international relationship, with Roberge and Park contributing their own chapters as well.

According to Klassen, the title of the volume is drawn from a statement that Canada’s former prime minister Pierre Trudeau made regarding the U.S., stating, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even tempered the beast is, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Roberge highlights that this is a highly relevant and timely book, especially in view of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, that illustrates how smaller countries must deal with larger, more dominant neighbours. The book helps to elucidate the ways a less powerful country manages security, economic, trade and identity relationships with these bigger neighbours.

Park additionally explains that the book benefited from “the longstanding network of collaboration that has flourished over the years between faculty members at York University and Yonsei University.” The book is itself a physical manifestation of that collaborative tradition, which made possible a two-day conference in June 2022 at Yonsei University that brought together the contributors to discuss drafts of their chapters.

Ian Roberge (centre); Nara Park (far left); Thomas Klassen (far right) with contributors to the book at Yonsei University, June 2022

The writers of the book are drawn from every continent and bring both applied and academic knowledge of international relations. Several contributors are arriving in Toronto for the sixth International Conference on Public Policy, to be held from June 26 to 29 at Toronto Metropolitan University, which Klassen and Roberge will also attend. Klassen notes that, “There is more research to be conducted on relations between nations, especially in the changing global order. The book and the conference are ways to increase and share knowledge about how countries peacefully, and sometimes not, manage relations.”