The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Why do nation-states mistrust one another?

By: Saleem Kakar

International relations among states are usually characterized by a pervasive undercurrent of mistrust, a complex phenomenon shaped by historical, cultural, economic, and political factors. Understanding the origins and perpetuation of this phenomenon requires delving into various dimensions that shape the interactions among states on the global stage. One significant contributing factor is the presence of unresolved historical animosities. Many states have experienced conflicts, wars, or imperialistic actions in the past, creating deepseated animosities and mistrust. Historical grievances often linger, shaping perceptions and influencing diplomatic relationships. Besides, competing national interests which form the spirit of current states further fuels this skepticism. States, driven by selfinterest, engage in a constant struggle for advantage in the international arena. The pursuit of national interests can lead to suspicions, with nations questioning the motives behind each other’s actions. Power asymmetry plays a crucial role in shaping mistrust, as disparities in economic, military, and political power can lead smaller nations to fear exploitation by more dominant actors. This pursuit can breed competition and suspicion, as each state endeavors to secure its own advantage, leading to a perpetual cycle of mistrust. Furthermore, ideological and cultural differences between nations have significantly contributed to the complex web of mistrust. In fact, diverse cultural norms, values, and historical narratives lead to misinterpretations of intentions, reinforcing stereotypes and preconceived notions that erode trust among nations. As a matter of fact, the culture, ideologies, and traditions exercised by most people in the East of the world is completely different than that of the people in the West given how the current world has been intertwined together after the vast spread of globalization following the end of Cold War. Moreover, lack of transparency in international relations is another key element leading to mistrust. Instances of secrecy, hidden agendas, or opaque decision-making processes have fueled suspicions regarding true intentions, contributing to strained relationships. The international system’s inherent anarchy, marked by the absence of a centralized governing authority, forces governments to rely on their own capabilities and alliances, fostering insecurity and mistrust. The geopolitical rivalries also contribute to mistrust. Strategic considerations, territorial disputes, and regional influence often prompt states to view one another with suspicion, especially in regions where multiple powers vie for dominance. Likewise, economic rivalry has formed an additional layer of complexity. Competition for resources, markets, and economic dominance fosters an environment where states may view each other as economic rivals, potentially leading to trade disputes, sanctions, or protectionist measures that further deepen mistrust. Conversely, the concept of nationalism and populism in some countries has created an “us versus them” mentality, fostering divisiveness and exacerbating mistrust – Donald Trump serves as a prominent example of such populism who usually taunts the “America First” motto during election campaigns. Given what was elaborated above, one could conclude that no current nation-states have permanent foes and friends because the international relations between states are based on pragmatic and self-interest approach, leading to mistrust. Likewise, a survey conducted by Edelman Trust Barometer shows that the world is facing a crisis of trust in institutions across all sectors that shows no sign of abating. According to this survey, in 20 out of the 28 countries surveyed this year, average trust in institutions is less than 50%. In conclusion, the roots of mistrust in international politics are deeply embedded in historical grievances, power dynamics, economic competition, cultural differences, and geopolitical rivalries. Such mistrust has impeded international cooperation, hindering effective responses to these pressing issues. Overcoming this inherent mistrust necessitates concerted efforts towards transparency and mutual understanding. Building a more cooperative and stable global order demands a commitment to addressing historical grievances, fostering open communication, and acknowledging the interconnectedness of the world’s challenges.

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.