Making Europe Defend Again: The Relaunch of European Defense Cooperation from a Neoclassical Realist Perspective

Keywords: European defense cooperation, neoclassical realism, Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), European Intervention Initiative (E21), Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), European Union (EU)


This article examines the relaunch of European defense cooperation since 2016 from the perspective of neoclassical realism, a theoretical approach to the study of foreign policy which explores how domestic political and ideational factors shape national foreign policy responses to international systemic pressures. It argues that while Europe’s changing geostrategic and security environment has created incentives for increased defense cooperation, explaining the form and content of this cooperation requires understanding the preferences of key European states, especially France and Germany. The article focuses on two new forms of European defense cooperation: PESCO and the E21, the former inside the EU institutional framework and the latter outside of it. The article argues that these initiatives are explained by the contrast between French and German preferences on defense cooperation, which in turn reflect their divergent national security priorities but also their different strategic cultures, including their differing perspectives on European integration.

Author Biographies

Michael Baun, Valdosta State University, USA

Michael Baun is Marguerite Langdale Pizer Professor of International Relations at Valdosta State University. He has published widely on the EU and European politics, including numerous book chapters and articles in such journals as Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Common Market Studies, Journal of European Integration, Publius, German Politics and Society, German Studies Review and Europe-Asia Studies. He is co-author with Dan Marek of The Czech Republic and the European Union (Routledge, 2010) and Cohesion Policy in the European Union (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Dan Marek, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic

Dan Marek is Associate Professor of European Politics in the Department of Politics and European Studies at Palacký University. He is the author of several books and numerous academic journal articles, including publications in the Journal of Common Market Studies, Regional and Federal Studies, Europe-Asia Studies and Publius. He is co-editor with Michael Baun of EU Cohesion Policy after Enlargement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and The New Member States and the European Union: Foreign Policy and Europeanization (Routledge, 2013).

Research Articles