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Free Riding or Restraint? Examining European Grand Strategy

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The major U.S. allies seem to be content to let the United States shoulder the burden associated with assuring the security of the West and promoting freedom and democracy around the world, passively free riding on the security provided by the U.S. taxpayer. A different explanation is available, if rarely discussed: Perhaps the Europeans great powers are not merely passive consumers of free U.S. security guarantees; perhaps instead the decisions they have made with regard to their own defense are part of active, coherent, logical, rational grand strategies. Perhaps the choice to pursue strategic restraint is not due to the stability provided by U.S. hegemony but a conscious response to declining threat. This article seeks to explain the grand strategies of some of the great and potentially great powers of the post–Cold War world. Far from being irresponsible international actors, our allies are acting quite rationally in a world virtually absent of serious threat, at least compared to all those that have come before.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science,Tulane University, New OrleansLouisiana, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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