There are three different types of relations in the world of international politics.
First, there are those countries who are good neighbors, such as the Americans and Canadians, the Spanish and Portuguese, or the Germans and French.
Shared values can form the foundation to build true friendships, for instance between former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, German chancellor at the time.
When Mr. Schmidt tried to change his friend’s mind on an issue, for example in the fall of 1974 when they disagreed on how to reform the European Union’s treaties, he would just hop on the government jet, at the time on the way back from Washington, take a detour to land in Paris, and visit the Élysée Palace unexpectedly. That’s true friendship.
The second type of relations are the non-relations. Both sides hate and warily watch each other, but there’s basically nothing to talk about. The relations between Cuba and the United States had been frozen for decades. Relations between North and South Korea, or between Greece and Turkey, still are today.
When the Iranian president ranted against the United States at the United Nations general assembly, Americans and Israelis left the plenary. These non-relations are living off a balance of mutual contempt, which is why they are rather stabilizing for international relations.
Real problems emerge with those pairings that undergo emotional changes. An intimate connection, borne out of shared history and cultural proximity, is interrupted by frantic tantrums before another era of intimacy starts.
American psychologist John Gottman looked into the communication patterns of such conflict relationships among spouses and found the “four horsemen of apocalypse,” as he called them, who keep riding into battle.