Coupling or Decoupling? Spillover in the multi-order

This report uses developments in the counter-terrorism and nuclear regimes to assess how both have affected other issue-areas.

Into what direction is the international order developing? And to what extent will the ‘return of geopolitics’ lead to a more conflictual international order? One key insight is that international relations are often issue-specific: relations over terrorism or nuclear issues are fundamentally different from issue-areas such as energy and free trade. In this ‘multi-order’ the question is how developments in one field spill over to another field.

The surprising conclusion is that many developments tend to stay within each policy domain. Disagreements over nuclear issues have not had a major impact on other issue-areas. Similarly, increased cooperation on counter-terrorism has not really led to better relations and increased cooperation in other domains. Although some problems (like the violation of borders) have spilled over, this report thus suggests that the international order appears to be more adaptive than is often thought.


This Report has been commissioned by the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence within the PROGRESS framework agreement, lot 5, 2017. Responsibility for the contents and for the opinions expressed rests solely with the authors; publication does not constitute an endorsement by the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence.

Ministry responsible