The ‘Strategic Relations’ and Its Forms: An Attempt at Conceptualisation

Published date01 January 2024
AuthorMasoud Abdi,Seyed Abdolazim Mousavi
Date01 January 2024
Subject MatterResearch Articles
International Studies
61(1) 20 –45, 2024
© 2024 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817241234161
Research Article
The ‘Strategic Relations’
and Its Forms:
An Attempt at
Masoud Abdi1 and Seyed Abdolazim Mousavi2
‘Strategic Relations’ is a concept that has been used extensively in diplomatic
and journalistic contexts, but it has been less investigated in scientific studies.
Recently, concepts such as ‘strategic alliance’, ‘strategic coalition’, ‘strategic
partnership’ and ‘strategic competition’ has been introduced to use as other
forms of ‘strategic relationship’. However, the starting point of this study was
composed of the following question: what is a strategic relationship and how is
the concept related to a strategic alliance, coalition and partnership strategic
competition? To answer this question, a descriptive-explanatory study was
conducted. The data were collected through desk studies, interviews with
experts by Delphi technique and inferential analysis. This study theoretically
focused on concepts such as ‘cooperation’, ‘competition’ and ‘strategy’.
Strategic relations, alliance, coalition, partnership, competition, cooperation
As the main actors in the international system, states have no choice but to interact
with each other for various reasons, including achieving common goals and
interests and dealing with crises and common threats. Although sub-national and
transnational actors are also involved in these interactions, these actors gain their
legitimacy from the will of states which appears in the form of the modern political
entity of ‘nation-state’. These interactions, referred to as ‘international relations’
in scientific literature, involve a wide range of actions and reactions such as
cooperation, coalition, alliance, partnership, competition, (and even tension and
conflict) and bilateral or multilateral relations. Each of the new concepts
2Supreme National Defense University, Tehran, Iran
Corresponding author:
Seyed Abdolazim Mousavi, Supreme National Defense University, No. 96, First Street Daryano
St, Sattarkhan St, Tehran 1455693415, Iran.
1Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran
Abdi and Mousavi 21
introduced in the scientific literature of recent decades concerns a particular type
of interaction. Some of these concepts are ‘strategic alliance’, ‘strategic coalition’,
‘strategic partnership’ and ‘strategic competition’. These concepts have added to
the conceptual weight and significance of international interactions. Such concepts
refer to the relationship between these entities and affect the critical or security
areas of the member entities of the global system. This means that a new set of
concepts is emerging which seeks to delineate the conceptual boundaries of
interactions that are considered strategic. Therefore, the present study aims to
identify and describe different forms and features of strategic relationships and
their factors. To this end, the core concepts and terms of this study will be
described. Then the strategic relationship will be discussed conceptually, and an
initial conceptual model of a strategic relationship will be developed. The
following section will deal with the extraction of the concept of the strategic
relationship from the parameters of its different forms. The final section of this
study will be dedicated to the conclusion.
Research Method
Based on the research nature and purpose, three methods were employed in this
study. In the first method, known as desk studies, all books and scientific articles
related to the main concepts of the research were reviewed and analysed. When it
was found that the concept of ‘strategic relationship’ was not fully explained and
established in the relevant scientific literature, the Delphi technique was used
through purposive sampling to achieve an initial definition of this concept.
Accordingly, some interviews were carried out with researchers who have
published articles and books in the field of various forms of strategic interactions
or eminent figures in this field. These interviews were carried out based on the
data saturation technique. The interviewees were asked questions until the
researcher was assured that further data collection would yield similar results, and
interviewing more experts would not provide any additional content. The third
method employed in this study was the analytical-inferential method. The main
forms of strategic interactions, including ‘strategic alliance’, ‘strategic coalition’,
‘strategic partnership’ and ‘strategic competition’, were reviewed to achieve a
conceptual framework and extract the indicators. Other forms of strategic
relationships such as Entente and Alignment can also be examined, but because
each of them is close to these four main forms, they have been omitted from the
examination. Finally, the term ‘strategic relations’ was analysed based on these
indicators and their components.
Research Background
A literature review on strategic relationships indicates that the term ‘strategic
relationship’ has not been explained and conceptualized in the literature on
international relations. Although many articles have been published over the last
decade about the ‘strategic relationship between two or more countries’, these

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