7 Most Important Determinants Of Foreign Policy

In the modern world, no single state can survive on its own. Each state is bound by interdependence. This is why every state has to dream of good relations with other states. As a member of the international society, the relations of the states are determined and controlled by foreign policy. Several things also determine foreign policy and those things are called determinants of foreign policy.

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What is Foreign Policy?

Foreign policy is involved in international relations and activities. Broadly speaking, foreign policy is formed by the type of activities and behaviors associated with its own interests related to other states. It is the decision-making process for pursuing certain international activities.

Foreign policy refers to the summation of a state’s response to the international environment, the current and expected decision-making. The medium of meeting national interests and goals is intimately involved with foreign policy.

Determinants of Foreign Policy

Each state formulates foreign policy to meet specific goals in the international field. That policy is not solely dependent on the wishes and consciences of policy makers.

Foreign policy leaders have to decide on foreign policy issues after many considerations. They are influenced by many elements. The factors that influence foreign policy are called the determinants of foreign policy.

The determinants of foreign policy are many. Specific factors may play a key role in determining the foreign policy of a particular state. But this does not mean that a single entity can become a determinant of foreign policy. In fact, more than one element is spread over foreign policy. Some of them can be considered primary and some can be considered as a secondary component.

Major 7 determinants of Foreign Policy are:

  1. Geographical Location
  2. Population
  3. History
  4. Economic Resources
  5. Ideology
  6. The efficiency of Government and Nature of Political Leadership
  7. Quality of Diplomacy

1. Geographical Location

There are two aspects of the influence of geography on foreign policy – the geographical environment of the state and the political importance of its geographical location. The state’s geographical environment refers to its size, area, and climate.

The ideal geographical environments of the state are:

  • The size of the state will be such that it will help the residents to maintain a decent living standard.
  • The climate needs to be favorable to hard labor.
  • Terrain needs to be supportive of national resistance. Mountains, Rivers, sea-borne countries enjoy the advantage of being free from foreign invasions for natural reasons.
  • The shape of the state needs to be such that one can easily fast during the war period.

In nature, it is not possible to achieve the favorable geographical environment of a country. The geographical location of each country is particularly influenced by its foreign policy. Its insular position in Great Britain helps spread connectivity with other countries. Again the United States has succeeded in pursuing a policy of separation from Europe for its geographical location.

2. Population

The population is considered one of the important determinants of foreign policy. For a long time, the population has been regarded as an important criterion for measuring state power. In the past war, the massive infantry of the People’s Republic of China helped to resist the US forces.

The relation between population and foreign policy gains importance in terms of the capability of a state. The importance of the population to determine the policies of solidarity among all parts of the citizens, the development of political organizations, the quality of the public, the promotion of political consciousness, the spread of the political participation, the pressure of public opinion, the type of government etc.

However, its quality is particularly important with respect to population size. Citizens’ skills, abilities, and quality money help to spread national influence.

3. History

Each nation’s history is influenced by its foreign policy. The outline of the history of each nation is formed through the special circumstances of the chips and events. It is possible to identify its identity.

The geographical boundaries of each nation are determined through the constraints of historical events. Through the history of the development of a nation, many basic features of foreign policy are developed. In light of historical experience, each nation forms the basis of its foreign policy.

4. Economic Resources

The nature and style of foreign policy is largely determined by economic resources. The economic strength of a state is an indicator of its affordability. The effect of that ability is reflected in relations with other states.

The main objective of the economic structure is to utilize the country’s land, labor, capital and enterprises for production. Distribution of economic wealth produced, consumption, public welfare, improvement of living standard of the citizens etc. are also included in the economic activities of the state.

A country rich in natural resources can easily achieve its economic prosperity. For example, mineral oil has become one of the most important political hubs of Middle East international politics.

Natural resources and industrial development are the basis of the international status of a country. In the present world, each country’s resistance depends on the rate of industrialization and natural resources.

5. Ideology

Each state-system is governed by specific political ideologies. The values, policies, programs, objectives, and goals of a state are governed by that ideology. Ideology does not simply determine the internal policies and values of a state; is governed by foreign policy and those ideologies. So it can be considered one of the most important determinants of foreign policy.

For example, socialist states are convinced of the principles of international peace, friendship, mutual cooperation, refusal to interfere in the internal affairs of other states, etc.

In the end, capitalism maintains its existence through exploitation and oppression of home and abroad. It is for this reason that capitalist countries follow aggressive policies in economic, political, and cultural fields.

6. Efficiency of Government and Nature of Political Leadership

Government leaders are the main source and strength of foreign policy. The role of the state at any given time and the type of foreign policy to be followed depends on the quality of the decision makers.

On the basis of practical experience, it can be said that foreign policy cannot be separated from the nature of government leadership under any circumstances.

Foreign policy decisions are bound to be influenced by the leadership of the government, including psychological structure, political experience and foresight, personality, realization of world-politics. For this reason, it is possible to notice differences in political issues between leaders of the same political party.

7. Quality of Diplomacy

Quality of diplomacy one of the most important determinants of foreign policy. The success or failure of a state in international Politics depends on its diplomatic tactics and excellence. Each of the goals and objectives of the state is determined by the diplomatic ingenuity of the government.

All the goals of foreign policy are determined by the people involved in diplomatic activity. It is through diplomatic activity that the main linkages and differences with other states are resolved. Diplomats determine the mechanism for combining different interests.


From the above discussion on the determinants of foreign policy, it can be seen that foreign policy is influenced by many factors. In space and time, a particular element can gain importance in comparison to different elements. In many situations, any ingredient or determinant may seem irrelevant.

Again, due to the change of space or time, that element can play a major determinant. Also, some factors can influence joint foreign policymaking. Therefore, it is not possible to formulate a universal theory about the role of a particular determinant.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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