Costa Rica - An Army-less Nation Facing External Threats

Nana Dall, Lasse Hammer Holm, Kristina Kaas-Claesson & Eamonn Mccay Martinez

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project aims to explain how Costa Rica deal with external threats. Having abolished their military in 1948, the small state of Costa Rica situated in the conflict-ridden region of Central America, is internationally portrayed as an inspirational nation upholding peace and high morality. This has raised questions in regards to how Costa Rica upholds security in the event of threat. The project applies the International Relations theories of neo-liberalism and neo-realism to two cases: the drug trafficking issue and the maritime agreement it stimulated, and the ongoing border conflict with Nicaragua, particularly the disagreement in 2010 that spurred the conflict anew. Additionally, neo-realism has been combined with the concept of ‘Hard Power’, whereas neo-liberalism is supported by ‘Soft Power’. From the theoretical frames we have extracted specific concepts, which are considered to be the most applicable in explaining small state behaviour, and turned these into concrete patterns of which Costa Rican actions and rhetoric can be captured. After our analysis of these events, it has become clear that Costa Rica fit into patterns of action and rhetoric that both neo-liberalism and neo-realism can explain. The process by which this happens is a result of the geopolitical situation they are in, which forces them to use hard power means although they prioritise on using soft power means. Through showing that Costa Rica use a combination of powers and that they are unexplainable by any one theory, it becomes clear that in order to conceptualise contemporary actions and behaviours of actors in the international system, theories need to include a broader set of variables. In regards to the conceptualisation of a state’s power, we suggest Joseph Nye’s term of ‘Smart Power’, as an alternative approach with the ability to explain the complexity of the small state Costa Rica. Additionally, this project highlights the importance of further developing IR theories in order for them to be applicable to small states as actors in the international society.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato23 jan. 2013
VejledereMichael Friederich Kluth


  • small state behavior
  • neo-realism
  • neo-liberalism
  • Costa Rica