Date of Award/Publication


Document Type



International Studies


Western Europeans in the post-Cold War era enjoy unprecedented security at home, and undertake very little strategic action abroad. The object of this paper is to explain why they nonetheless maintain large military forces, mostly in Europe, configured and armed primarily for territorial defense. Three general factors contribute to Western European force structure. First, despite supranational integration and other encroachments on its authority, the state retains control over defense policy and substantial armed forces because these – and not international institutions -- remain the ultimate guarantors of its independence and sovereignty. Second, in contemporary conditions, Western Europeans face increased risk of strategic abandonment by their superpower Ally, the United States. To avoid encouraging a U.S. withdrawal from Europe, and to prepare for the consequences of such an eventuality, the European Allies must maintain capabilities for self-defense and for regional strategic action. Third, manpower-intensive territorial defense forces apply military spending disproportionately to pay and personnel benefits, and are therefore compatible (in a way that expeditionary militaries would not be) with the primary welfare role of the European state.