Great Powers and Grand Strategy

Great PowersIn a world that has returned to great power rivalry, understanding the grand strategy of these powers is crucial. The United States, the established power; Russia, the declining power; China, the rising power; and the European Union (EU), which isn’t quite sure whether it wants to be a power: they are today’s great powers, i.e. those whose actions have global impact.

How they interact will determine the course of world politics in the first half of the 21st century. Are their ends mutually exclusive or can they co-exist? Will they pursue them in a confrontational or in a cooperative way? Do they have the means of their ambition?

Great power politics is not all that matters. If we don’t mitigate the consequences of climate change, nobody will be able to maintain their chosen way of life.

But while we are working on the solutions, it is important that we don’t kill each other in a great power war first. And without the involvement of the great powers, the solutions to global problems may perhaps be found, but are unlikely to be implemented.

It is very tempting to develop a black and white picture of a world of great powers. If there are other powers, surely they must be our adversary? But if China is our adversary, then why are Europeans and Americans buying Chinese phones and laptops? And why is Europe importing Russian energy if Russia is the adversary? And if the US is Europe’s ally, then why is it imposing tariffs on its trade?

Our research seeks to offer a nuanced analysis of the competition, and cooperation, between today’s great powers, and will explore which strategies can contribute to a peaceful and stable world order.

In addition, we focus on the place of Belgium in this challenging environment and the contribution that its foreign and defence policies can make. Every state can influence international politics, if it focuses on areas in which it has interests at stake, expertise to offer, and means to contribute. What does that mean for Belgium?


The GIIS research agenda focuses on:

-       The concept of grand strategy

-       The development of grand strategy in Europe

-       Relations between the great powers

-       Geo-economics: how powers pursue their interests through economic instruments

-       The building of European defence and the implications for NATO

-       The foreign and defence policy of Belgium