The Role of Regional Powers in the Contemporary Complex Geo-Political Environment

By: LTC Kashif Ehtisham, Pakistan Army, CSAG CCJ5

24 February 2023



Since the late 20th century, the term ‘regional power’ in international relations has been used for a sovereign state that exercises significant power within a given geographical region. There is a broad consensus that a necessary condition for regional ‘power hood’ is that these states be powerful in terms of valued resources in relation to the other states within a geographic region. At the turn of the century, there was an expectation of a looming global power shift from the West to the East, and from the North to the South. The central dynamic related to the expected power shifts was a perceived weakening of the ‘West’ and the withdrawal of the US from several world regions, which created new space for regional actors. While the end of the Cold War set regions free from the overwhelming influence of the two superpowers and thereby gave regional powers greater room for maneuver, we have recently witnessed a further shift.

Key Points:

  • Reduced US concentration on several regions of the world created new space for regional actors to not only influence respective regions, but also to radiate their impact in corresponding neighborhoods.
  • Analyzing the criticality of the decisive decade, the US needs to consider the increasing leverage of ‘regional powers’, which may impact Strategic Competition and US interests.
  • The rise of regional powers is not a threat to the US, but an opportunity for a new era of prosperity and constructive problem solving. Post WWII, what matters now is the fluidity and adaptability with which the US seeks to work with the regional powers in addition to traditional treaty allies.
  • Strategic Competition poses great challenges for regional states in balancing their acts towards major competitors; engagement with the US and China is often described as a choice between ‘band wagoning’ and ‘balancing’. Having levelled relations with both the US and China, regional powers can afford better opportunities to bind both superpowers to the rules.
  • Regional powers, in view of their ‘greater status,’ are expected to be more responsible; need to look in to internal and external alleged poor policies impacting their regional ambitions e.g India, an aspiring regional power, needs to act more responsible/ rational with its neighbors, who repudiate Indian policies in the region.
  • Primarily, economic partnerships and asymmetric challenges (pandemics, climate change) have brought the world closer together and made it interdependent, entailing mutual action by different actors/ powers.


Read the complete paper here.

View other USCENTCOM Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) papers here.


The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.