By Randall Schweller

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Type 5. The Unbalanced Tripolar System: A > B > C, A < B + C Less obvious is the inherent stability of a tripolar system where all of the poles are of different strengths: A > B > C, and A < B + C. To illustrate the peculiar dynamics of this system, consider a tripolar system in which the power ratio among the three poles is A = 4, B = 3, C = 2. Let us further assume that all members of the system are revisionist powers. , one of the actors will be eliminated) and warprone, since any contest between two actors is decisive and any coalition is a winning coalition.

25 Because trust as well as power is an essential ingredient for present and future cooperation, allies rarely double–cross their partners, even though game–theoretic logic says otherwise. Type 1. The Equilateral Tripolar System: A = B = C This power configuration represents, ceteris paribus, the most unstable of all systems because a system of three equally powerful states cannot be balanced by alliance formation. While this is true of any odd– numbered system composed of equal units, the imbalance is proportionally greatest in this triad, where A and B combined possess 66 percent of the total resources, as against C’s 33 percent share.

Sometimes, the third member can act as a mediator or balancer; other times as an instigator or kingmaker. In the following passage, Georg Simmel notes this peculiar property: Where three elements, A, B, C, constitute a community, there is added to the immediate relationship which exists, for example, between A and B, the immediate relationship which they gain by their common relation to C. . Separations which the parties could not of themselves reconcile are accommodated by the third, or by their being included in a comprehensive whole.

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