The Material Roots of European Strategy: Beyond Culture and Values

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This article undertakes a critical examination of the analytical leverage provided by the literature on strategic culture in explaining the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It posits that patterns of progress and stasis in CSDP cannot be fully explained by processes of normative convergence and the resilience of national strategic cultures. Instead, the article argues that a focus on material power sheds greater light on the dynamics driving and hindering Europe’s quest for military autonomy. It highlights how the ‘balance of threat’ is fostering both convergence and differentiation in the defence policies of Britain, France and Germany. Through case studies of the development of British, French and German policy toward CSDP and NATO the article demonstrates the important roles played by energy dependency and geographical position in determining the willingness of European states to embed their defence policies in NATO/CSDP or pursue national strategic autonomy. The article argues that strategic culture can provide valuable insights to European defence cooperation, however, this contribution is best framed within the theoretical insights of neoclassical realism. By highlighting the nature of the variables determining the scope and depth of European defence cooperation the article raises a number of policy implications for European security.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-445
Number of pages26
JournalContemporary Security Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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