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The Perception of Power: Russia in the Pre-1914 Balance

William C. Wohlforth
World Politics
Vol. 39, No. 3 (Apr., 1987), pp. 353-381
DOI: 10.2307/2010224
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2010224
Page Count: 29
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Abstract

If "power" is translated into state policy through the perceptions of those who act on behalf of states--the most likely causal explanation--a direct examination of those perceptions may be a contribution to the literature on the relationship between the distribution of capabilities in the international system and the onset of war. In the present case--the perception of Russian power before World War I--such an investigation reveals that the numerical estimators often used to test various power theories do not correspond to perceived power. Unless the case of World War I is unique, this finding suggests that such estimators do not provide an adequate basis for testing the various contending propositions about the balance of power and the onset of war (including that the two are unrelated). The perceived balance of power does explain important aspects of the coming of the war in 1914 that are often attributed to organizational and other factors.

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