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Emergent Strategic Culture and Coexistence: Can a CSDP Based on Lowest Common Denominator Agreement Be Strategic?

Simon Sweeney

Strategic culture has undergone significant change since the end of the Cold War, embracing a new and comprehensive security concept (Norheim-Martinsen, 2011; Biava et al, 2011). The EU Common Security and Defence Policy may lack strategic coherence (Biscop, 2009; Biscop and Coelmont, 2010; Biscop and Norheim-Martinsen, 2011; Howorth, 2010) and it struggles to convince in terms of capability (Witney, 2008; Menon, 2010), but nevertheless it is operational and has made a significant contribution through 27 missions. The European Security Strategy called on the Union to develop a strategic culture, and while this remains a work-in-progress, it is emerging in a novel form of coexistence with pre-existing member state strategic cultures, themselves in a state of flux. This paper uses evidence from interviews with ESDP/CSDP actors and experts to argue that the Union is developing a unique post-national strategic culture based on civilian/soft power and peacekeeping, accompanied by developing CIV-MIL cooperation. Security and defence cooperation tends to be on an issue-by-issue basis, an enduring feature of ESDP/CSDP. The military weakness and lack of strategic focus is an unresolved weakness of ESDP/CSDP, but it also enables flexibility and inclusiveness without which ESDP/CSDP would not have managed its modest but by no means insignificant achievements. CSDP depends on both flexible application and tolerance of different perspectives as regards strategic culture.

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