Drifting Apart: International Institutions in Crisis and the Management of Dissociation Processes (DRIFTS)

  • Brexit, US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement under President Trump and the demise of security cooperation between Russia and the West are reminders that international cooperation is fragile. States dissociate themselves from international institutions – either by formally withdrawing their membership, by ignoring their commitments or by creating alternative institutions. The DRIFTS project, coordinated by HSFK, explores the tensions between states that result from these dissociation processes.
    Leibniz Association, 2019-2021


    Dr. Sinan Chu

    Research Fellow

    Prof. Dr. Sandra Destradi

    Ehemals Associate

    Dr. Matthias Dembinski

    Dr. Dirk Peters

    Mikhail Polianskii

    Prof. Dr. Elke Seefried

    Dr. Agnes von Bressendorf

    Susanne Maslanka

    Prof. Dr. Frank Bösch

    Dr. Daniel Walter


    Prof. Dr. Heike Holbig

    Senior Research Fellow / Redaktion GIGA Focus Asien


    Prof. Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff


    The project seeks to establish how processes of dissociation from international institutions contribute to the rise or mitigation of tensions between states. It focuses, in particular, on the role that the management of these dissociation processes plays and compares its significance for tension levels during past and present dissociation processes.

    Beitrag zu internationaler Forschung

    The project makes a contribution to existing research on international institutions by focusing on a so-far understudied aspect: the drifting apart of states from such institutions, which can take a range of different forms. The project takes an interdisciplinary approach by including political scientists and historians. All participating institutes are internationally recognized and well-connected centers of excellence in their respective fields.

    Forschungsdesign und Methoden

    Given the nascent state of the field, this project has an explorative character. It seeks to establish, through the comparison of in-depth case studies, the effect that the management of dissociation processes has on the level of tensions between states. It does so by tracing the interaction processes during periods of dissociation to reconstruct how states contributed to the rise or the mitigation of tensions. The five in-depth case studies are:

    - Iran's dissociation from cooperation with the West since the late 1970s (ZZF)
    - Russia's dissociation from European security cooperation since the 2000s (PRIF)
    - The Soviet Union and the Dissociation of East Central European states from the Warsaw Pact (IFZ)
    - China's dissociation from global financial institutions since the 2000s (GIGA)
    - The UK's dissociation from the European Union since 2015 (PRIF)

    The project examines these five cases in what Alexander George (1979) termed the method of "structured, focused comparison". The dissociation processes are studied in detail but according to a common structure so as to make it possible to compare the results of the case studies and identify cross-case patterns. The individual case studies will employ process tracing – a method that is amenable both to case-oriented political scientists and historians.

    Vorläufige Ergebnisse

    China’s dissociation from the global financial architecture represents a case of alternative institution building. The GIGA's ongoing case study explores how this process of dissociation influences the US-Chinese relationship and contributes to the tensions between the two rivals.

    Historical Social Research - Historische Sozialforschung | 2022

    Dissociation via Alternative Institutions: The Establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and US-China Conflict

    How does the nature of a dissociation conflict affect its management by parties on opposite sides and, consequently, the interstate relations between the parties? In this paper, Dr. Sinan Chu seek to address this question through a case study of the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

    Dr. Sinan Chu

    Research Fellow


    Der Aufbau alternativer Institutionen durch die BRICS-Staaten in der internationalen Finanzkooperation

    Workshop 10.03.2020


    Contested Multilateralism vs. Contested Balance of Power: China's Alternative International Institutions and the United States

    Workshop 17.06.2019


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