Divergent understandings regarding the “strategic autonomy of the European Union”: a result of the plurality of strategic cultures among the member states
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In the recent years, the strategic autonomy of the European Union (EU) has become one of the buzzwords when it comes to the defence cooperation of the EU. However, even though that all EU Member States have agreed with the goal in a way that it can be found in the strategic documents, such as the Global Strategy of the EU, in practice the Member States seem to have somewhat different positions and understandings regarding it when it comes to implementation, yet it has received little scholarly attention. This study aims to tackle this issue and sets out to first, provide empirical insights to map the different understandings in an empirically grounded way and second, explain the occurrence of such differences through the various elements of national strategic cultures. In order to explore this link between the understandings of strategic autonomy and the specifics of national strategic cultures, this study relies on data collected through a series of semi-structured interviews with the security specialists and government officials from five EU Member States that reflect the whole spectrum of Europeanist/Atlanticist divide among the Member States when it comes to strategic orientation. The findings of this thesis show that first, the understandings of strategic autonomy are indeed different among the Member States to a certain extent and second, the differences in understandings and concerns can indeed be explained through the plurality of strategic cultures among the EU Member States. However, adding more nuance to the existing literature highlighting the differences in understandings, this study finds that while there are certain differences in understandings, there are more differences when it comes to fears and concerns regarding the possible outcomes of the goal. While all elements of strategic culture reflect in the understandings of EU (or European) strategic autonomy in a certain way, then the major driver for the division among the Member States is the strategic orientation (Europeanist/Atlanticist divide).