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UK-EU Security and Defence Cooperation: A Neoclassical Realist Approach

Lee Turpin

Although initially a key driver behind the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) at Saint Malo in 1998, the UK has since come to be criticized for paralyzing this aspect of the European integration project. This paper draws upon a neoclassical realist analytical framework (Rose 1998; Taliaferro, Lobell & Ripsman 2009), which in contrast to Waltzian neo-realism allows room for domestic as well as international variables to be taken into account, to examine the British approach towards the CSDP. This argues that EU member states have been pressured by the international system to engage with security and defence cooperation, but the scope and nature of this is impacted by unit-level intervening variables (Cladi and Locatelli 2015). This paper identifies UK Strategic Culture as one such important domestic factor through which British involvement in the CSDP may be understood. It argues that this has helped shape the UK’s role with regards to the CSDP, where it has acted as both a limiter and facilitator of its development. Furthermore, the paper argues that the impetus behind initial UK support for the CSDP remain and therefore we may expect continued British involvement in this policy area post-Brexit.

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