Illiberalism, geopolitics, and middle power security: Lessons from the Norwegian case
Middle powers have played a key role in supporting global governance, a rules-based order, and human rights norms. Apart from conveying and effectuating global solidarity and responsibility, multilateral cooperation has been an arena where middle powers seek protection and leverage relatively modest power to greater effect, sometimes as “helpful fixers” to great powers. This article argues that geopolitical revival and the contestation of the liberal order are challenging middle powers' traditional sheltering policies, based on empirical evidence from the Norwegian case. First, the weakening of multilateral organizations is making middle powers more vulnerable to great power rivalry and geopolitics, and Norway's relationship with Russia is particularly pointed. Second, existing shelters such as NATO and bilateral cooperation with the US are negatively affected by the latter's anti-liberal foreign policies, making looser sheltering frameworks important supplements. While Norway's and other middle powers' traditional policies within the “soft power” belt may continue, “doing good” may become less prioritized, due to the need for security.