Intra-allied Competition and Alliance Durability: The Case for Promoting a Division of Labour among NATO Allies

Andrea Locatelli, Michele Testoni

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NATO is by definition the most successful alliance in contemporary history. Yet, contrary to perceived wisdom, we believe that NATO’s achievements should not be measured only in terms of its life-span or its development: the Alliance’s most striking result is the successful management of intra-allied competition. Why is this so? Drawing on insights from mainstream political realism, in this paper we suggest that NATO, having been forged as a bipolar alliance, still depends for its effectiveness on an asymmetric division of power resources, which in turn provides the allies with a wide bargaining space. Increasing the cost of defiance, asymmetry reduces intra-allied competition by raising incentives for NATO members to prolong the convergence of their different political interests. This situation allows states to pursue some autonomous foreign policy goals, but not at the risk of weakening the alliance’s overall cohesion. In light of this theoretical model, we formulate some policy prescriptions. In particular, we argue that, along with the new agenda outlined in the recent Strasbourg/Kehl Summit, the US and European countries should continue developing their own particular areas of expertise – i.e. coupling the force with a sort of functional division of labour. So, contrary to widespread opinion, we conclude that the huge transatlantic military gap shall not be conceived as a burden, but rather as key asset for the preservation of NATO’s effectiveness.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)345-362
Numero di pagine18
RivistaEuropean Security
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2010


  • NATO
  • Unione Europea
  • teoria delle alleanze


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