Balancing against power and balancing against threats are the two interconnected strategies of international relations. The balance of power implies that the similar strengths and capabilities of states reduce the risk of conflict. In this situation, the military, political, and economic powers are considered the most significant resources. This type of balance aims to eliminate the dominance of one or several states and ensures that countries do not have enough strengths or opportunities to become superpowers. At the same time, this approach serves as the basis for the balance of threat theory. According to this conception, in addition to power, the ability and opportunity to behave aggressively are decisive in international relations.
The geographical proximity of the country, its offensive intentions, power, and capabilities are considered the elements of threat. In the framework of this theory, the more powerful nation-state balances against the less powerful. Therefore, the crucial difference between the two approaches is that balancing against power means that the influence is distributed between states, and alliances are based on their capabilities. On the contrary, balancing against threats implies that the aggression from other countries defines alliance behavior.
In order to demonstrate this difference, it would be appropriate to consider the example of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the USA. The latter country was more powerful and had more allies than the USSR, which proves that aggressive intentions are considered decisive in creating alliances according to the balance of threat theory.
From the perspective of the theory of power, the Soviet Union should have established more alliances with other countries in order to avoid the dominance of the USA. Therefore, the example demonstrates that these theories are different in what factors define the international security and alliance behavior and how the dominant state is perceived by other countries.