Systems Analysis of International Relations: Theoretical and Methodological Criteria and Principles

Main Article Content


The article presents a review of general criteria and principles of systems analysis in international relations theory. The prerequisite for the emergence of the systems analysis methodology was the general system theory the purpose of which was to identify the general principles of system modeling in different areas of scientific research. In the 1950s and 1960s the systems analysis was frequently interpreted as an interdisciplinary or even a ‘supradisciplinary’ approach generalizing the methodology of studying complex technical and social systems.

In the international relations science the use of systems analysis led to the emergence of a universal explanatory theory allowing the interpretation of various stages and structural configurations in the sphere of multilateral interstate interaction. Following the rationalistic scientific tradition, the systemic approach opened wide opportunities for the conceptualization of international interaction, including the identification of logical conditioning, typological regularities of international relations and their verification with the help of empirical data.

The concept of an international system which was formulated within the framework of the structural-functional approach means a set of actors who are situated in a configuration of power (structure), and are involved in regular patterns of interaction (processes). In practice, the international system is implemented as a self-sufficient and self-regulating complex of interaction between the subjects of international relations at the level of states, international organizations, and non-state actors within the limits of the corresponding historically determined structure. The role of the main system-forming factor is performed by dominant and politically determined types of relations between the actors of the international system. The type of international system including multipolar, bipolar or unipolar has a significant impact on the modality and rules of interstate interaction, which form the basis of the relevant international order.

In the socio-political context the phenomenon of the international system is appropriately considered as a broad external framework within which the coexistence of different societies occurs and, accordingly, as a sphere of competition of relevant models and dimensions of social development.

At the same time the systems theory does not pay priority attention to ideological and values characteristics, in particular, dependence of political and foreign policy decisions on ideas, cultural preferences, and specifics of decision-making by the representatives of political elites of different state actors. The explication of impact of these aspects on international relations requires the application of interdisciplinary methods within the framework of political and sociological analysis.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Tolstov, S. (2023) “Systems Analysis of International Relations: Theoretical and Methodological Criteria and Principles”, Problems of World History, (23), pp. 18–66. doi: 10.46869/2707-6776-2023-23-2.
Author Biography

S. Tolstov

Tolstov Sergiy – Ph.D. in History, Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Transatlantic Research of the State Institution “Institute of World History of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine”


Peregudov, F.I., Tarasenko, F.P. (1989). Vvedeniye v sistemnyy analiz. Moskva: Vysshaya shkola. [In Russian].

Bertalanffy, L. von. (1968). General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. New York: George Braziller. [In English].

Bertalanfi, L. fon. (1969). Obshchaya teoriya sistem: kriticheskiy obzor. Issledovaniya po obshchey teorii sistem. Sb. perevodov. Moskva: Progress, pp. 23-82. [In Russian].

Kveyd, E. (1969). Analiz slozhnykh sistem. Metolologiya analiza pri podgotovke voyennykh resheniy. Moskva: Sovetskoye radio. [In Russian].

Parsons, T. (1991). The Social System. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. [In English].

Rapoport, A., Horvath, W.J. (1961). A study of a large sociogram. Behavioral Science, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 279-291. [In English].

Easton, D. (1953). The Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. [In English].

Easton, D. (1957). An Approach to the Analysis of Political Systems. World Politics, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 383-400. [In English].

Easton, D. (1965). A Framework for Political Analysis. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. [In English].

Easton, D. (1965). A Systems Analysis of Political Life. New York: Wiley. [In English].

Roskin M.G. Systems analysis. [Online]. Available from: [In English].

Kaplan, M. (1957). System and Process in International Politics. New York: John Wiley & Sons. [In English].

Morton A. Kaplan, renowned political scientist, international relations scholar (1921–2017). The University of Chicago. [Online]. Available from: announcement/morton-kaplan-renowned-political-scientist-international-relations-scholar-1921%E2%80%932017 [In English].

Kaplan, M.A. (1957). System and Process in International Politics. N.Y.: Wiley & Sons Inc. [In English].

Kaplan, M.A. (1957). Balance of Power, Bipolarity and Other Models of International Systems. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 51, No. 3, pp. 684-695. [In English].

Kaplan, M.A. (1969). Variants on Six Models of the International System. Rosenau J.N. (Ed.). International Politics and Foreign Policy. A reader in research and theory. New York, London: Free Press; Collier-Macmillan Limited, pp. 291-303. [In English].

Koppelʹ, O.A., Parkhomchuk, O.S. (2001). Mizhnarodni systemy. Svitova polityka. Kyiv: FADA. [In Ukrainian].

Sanders, D. (1999). Mezhdunarodnyye otnosheniya: neorealizm i neoliberalizm Politicheskaya nauka: novyye napravleniya. R. Gudina, Kh.D. Klingemanna (eds). Moskva: Veche, pp. 410-424. [In Russian].

Brecher, M., Ben Yehuda H. (1985). System and Crisis in International Politics. Review of International Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 17-36. [In English].

Tolstov, S.V. (2004). Systema mizhnarodnykh vidnosyn: vnutrishni zvʺyazky ta rehulyuyuchi mekhanizmy. Antolohiya tvorchykh dosyahnenʹ. Kyiv: Instytut svitovoyi ekonomiky i mizhnarodnykh vidnosyn, pp. 263-289. [In Ukrainian].

Young, O.R. (1968). A Systemic Approach to International Politics. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, Center of International Studies, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. [In English].

Waltz, K.N. (1979). Theory of lnternational Politics. Reading (Mass.), Menlo Park (CA), London etc.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. [In English].

Waltz, K.N. (1986). Anarchic Orders and Balances of Power. Neorealism and its critics. R.O. Keohane (ed.). New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 98-130. [In English].

Ruggie, J.G. (1986). Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Toward a Neorealist Synthesis. Neorealism and its critics. R.O. Keohane (ed.). New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 131-157. [In English].

Tsygankov, P.A. (1994). Politicheskaya sotsiologiya mezhdunarodnykh otnosheniy. Soderzhaniye i formy mezhdunarodnogo sotrudnichestva. Moskva: Radiks. [In Russian].

Hart, J. (1985). Power and Polarity in the International System. Polarity and War. A.N. Sabrosky (ed.). Boulder, Col.: Westview press, pp. 25-40. [In English].

Waltz, K.N. (1993). The Emerging Structure of International Politics. International Security, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 44-79. [In English].

Brecher, M., James, P., Wilkenfeld, J. (1990). Polarity and Stability: New Concepts, Indicators and Evidence. International Interactions, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 49-80. [In English].

Young, O.R. (1968). Political Discontinuities in the International System. World Politics, Vol. XX, No. 2, pp. 369-392. [In English].

Tikner, Dzh. E. (1999). Mezhdunarodnyye otnosheniya pod uglom zreniya postpozitivizma i feminizma. Politicheskaya nauka: novyye napravleniya. R. Gudina, Kh.D. Klingemanna (eds). Moskva: Veche, pp. 425-437. [In Russian].

Gallarotti, G.M. (2010). Cosmopolitan Power in International Relations: A Synthesis of Realism, Neoliberalism and Constructivism. Cambridge etc.: Cambridge University Press. [In English].

Fiammenghi, D. (2011). The Security Curve and the Structure of International Politics: A Neorealist Synthesis. International Security, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 126-154. [In English].

Williams, K., Lobell, S., Jesse, N. (eds.). (2012). Beyond Great Powers and Hegemons: Why Secondary States Support, Follow, or Challenge. Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press. [In English].

Vallerstayn, I. (2001). Mir, stabil'nost' i legitimnost', 1990-2025/2050. Analiz mirovykh sistem i situatsiya v sovremennom mire. Moskva: Izd-vo “Universitetskaya kniga”, pp. 347-370. [In Russian].

Mearsheimer, J.J. (2001). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. [In English].

Abu-Lughod, J.L. (1989). Before European hegemony: the world system AD 1250-1350. N.Y.: Oxford University Press. [In English].

Christensen, T., Snyder, J. (1990). Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity. International Organization, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 137-168. [In English].

Kaufman, S.J., Little, R., Wohlforth, W.C. (2007). The balance of power in world history. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [In English].

Brecher, M., Wilkenfeld, J., Moser, S. (1988). Crises in the twentieth century. Oxford, New York: Pergamon Press. [In English].

Wayman, F.W., Morgan, T.C. (1990). Measuring Polarity in the International System.. Measuring the Correlates of War. J.D. Singer, P.F. Diehl (eds). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 139-156. [In English].

Nye, J.S. Jr. (2010). The Future of American Power: Dominance and Decline in Perspective. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 89, No. 6, pp. 2-12. [In English].

Gaddis, J.L. (1992-1993). International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War. International Security, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 5-58. [In English].

Dogovor mezhdu Rossiyskoy Federatsiyey i Soyedinennymi Shtatami Ameriki o garantiyakh bezopasnosti. Proyekt. Ministerstvo inostrannykh del Rossiyskoy Federatsii. 17.12.2021. [Online]. Available from: [In Russian].

Soglasheniye o merakh obespecheniya bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii i gosudarstv-chlenov Organizatsii Severoatlanticheskogo dogovora. Proyekt. Ministerstvo inostrannykh del Rossiyskoy Federatsii. 17.12.2021. [Online]. Available from: vnesnepoliticeskoe-dos-e/dvustoronnie-otnosenij-rossii-s-inostrannymi-gosudarstvami/rossia-nato/1790803/ [In Russian].

Arkin, W.M. Exclusive: The CIA's Blind Spot about the Ukraine War. Newsweek. 07/05/2023. [Online]. Available from: [In English].

Kahanetsʹ, O. Yak Berns domovyvsya z Putinym pro pravyla napadu na Ukrayinu – komentar Andriya Illarionova. Narodnyy ohlyadach. 12.07.2023. [Online]. Available from: [In Ukrainian].

“Krashche sʹohodni, nizh zavtra”: shcho hovoryv Putin u vystupi pered svoyimy voyenachalʹnykamy. TSN. 21.12.2022. [Online]. Available from: [In Ukrainian].

(2022). Yakym bude svit pislya svitovoyi hlobalʹnoyi kryzy? Analitychna dopovidʹ. Kyiv: АРРС/Ascolt/UP Foundation. [Online]. Available from: [In Ukrainian].

Tolstov, S.V. (2022). Yaku rolʹ u pidvyshchenni oboronozdatnosti Ukrayiny vidihraye inozemna viysʹkova dopomoha? Za identychnistʹ i nezalezhnistʹ. Viyna Rosiyi proty Ukrayiny: istorychni peredumovy ta heopolitychni realiyi / Uporyadnyky H. Boryak, O. Yasʹ. U dvokh kn. Kn. 1. Kyyiv : TOV vydavnytstvo “Klio”. [In Ukrainian].

Tolstov, S.V., Fesenko, M.V. (2023). Dynamika konfliktnoyi vzayemodiyi u vidnosynakh SSHA z SRSR ta Rosiyeyu: porivnyalʹnyy analiz. Konfrontatsiya ta spivrobitnytstvo v mizhnarodnykh vidnosynakh: teoriya i praktyka. Zb. nauk. pratsʹ. Kyiv: DU “Instytut vsesvitnʹoyi istoriyi NAN Ukrayiny”, pp. 116-155. [In Ukrainian].

Tolstov, S.V. (2012). Perekhidnyy etap evolyutsiyi mizhnarodnoyi systemy. Problemy mizhnarodnykh vidnosyn, 5, pp. 49-75. [In Ukrainian].

Tolstov, S.V. (2012). Teoriya evolyutsiyi mizhnarodnoyi systemy: osnovni kryteriyi ta zahalʹni polozhennya. Doslidzhennya svitovoyi polityky, 2 (59), pp. 3-37. [In Ukrainian].

Wohlforth, W.C. (1999). The Stability of a Unipolar World. International Security, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 5-41. [In English].

Layne, Ch. (2009). The Waning of U.S. Hegemony–Myth or Reality? A Review Essay. International Security, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 147-172. [In English].

Ukraine war is most 'acute threat' to international order enshrined in UN charter – Blinken. The Guardian. 13 Sept. 2023. [Online]. Available from: world/live/2023/sep/13/russia-ukraine-war-live-updates-sevastopol-shipyard-fire-crimea-missile-attack-injuries [In English].

Yayboke, E., Harding, E., Ballard, S., Nzuki, C. (2022). Global security forum 2021. A Report of the CSIS International Security Program. Washington, DC: The Center for Strategic and International Studies. [In English].

Brooks, S.G., Wohlforth, W.C. (2023). The Myth of Multipolarity: American Power's Staying Power. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 102, No. 3, pp. 76-91. [In English].

Bedareva, N.I. (2019). Diplomatiya partnerstva KNR: urovni partnerskikh otnosheniy. Problemy Dal'nego Vostoka, 2, pp. 114-125. DOI: 10.31857/S013128120004645-0 [In Russian].

Ley Shuan. (2020). Kontseptsiya partnerstva v sovremennoy kitayskoy diplomatii. Oykumena. Regionovedcheskiye issledovaniya, 4, pp. 113-123. [In Russian].

Kapitonenko, M. Nova liniya heopolitychnoho rozkolu. IPG - Mizhnarodna polityka ta suspilʹstvo. 15.09.2023. [Online]. Available from: [In Ukrainian].

Chzhao Khuashen, Kortunov, A. (2020). Novaya bipolyarnost' i posledstviya yeye stanovleniya: vzglyady Kitaya i Rossii. RSMD. 7 dekabrya. [Online]. Available from: [In Russian].

Chzhao Khuashen. (2020). Bipolyarnost', odnopolyarnost' i mnogopolyarnost' v sovremennom mire. RSMD. 28 oktyabrya. [Online]. Available from: [In Russian].

Pakhomov, Yu.N., Pavlenko, Yu.V. (2006). Global'nyye transformatsii sovremennosti. Tsivilizatsionnaya struktura sovremennogo mira. T. 1. Kyiv: Naukova dumka. [In Russian].

Focus 2050. Our key Consensus Forecasts for the next three decades. FocusEconomics. [Online]. Available from: 16885500729YUcd4f3/FOCUS_2050_2.pdf [In English].

Kastner, J., Wohlforth, W.C. (2021). A Measure Short of War: The Return of Great Power Subversion. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 100, No. 4, pp. 118-131. [In English].

Haass, R. (2008). The Age of Non-polarity: What will follow US Dominance? Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 3, pp. 44-56. [In English].

Haass, R. (2019). How a World Order Ends. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 98, No. 1, pp. 22-30. [In English].

Reyes, A. The current context: Understanding China and Eurasia in the Multipolar World Order 2.0. HAL open science. [Online]. Available from: [In English].