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Emergent Strategic Culture: Post-Cold War Europe Navigating Great Power Relations with the U.S., Russia, and China


Contemporary strategic culture research views strategic cultural change as a product of subculture competition. These competitive models can overlook "latent" subcultures and have difficulty explaining how subculture dominance relates to time. I argue that strategic subcultures are dynamic conceptual spaces shaped by material and ideational factors, which overlap with ill-defined boundaries. It is impossible to describe one subculture without referencing another. This interconnectedness resembles the behavior of quantum entangled particles.

I apply quantum-theoretical approaches to open up innovative conceptual tools for strategic cultural analysis. Entangled subcultures generate an emergent macroscopic strategic culture. Once a strategic culture emerges, its irreducible macroscopic properties affect strategic behavior. I explore my novel strategic cultural approach by considering the strategic culture of the EU in the post-Cold War period.

I assert that European strategic culture is not an amalgam of Member States' strategic cultures. Instead, it is a unique culture that transcends nations and institutions, emerging from subcultural interaction. European strategic culture as an emergent social system considers the influence of all strategic subcultures, unlike contemporary approaches that focus only on dominant subcultures arising from competition with other subcultures.

I use topic modeling of EU documents to identify latent patterns in the ideational landscape in which subcultural interaction occurs. Once generated, I coded the topics based on strategic cultural dimensions, including civilian power, normative projection, multilateralism, and transatlanticism. Using these dimensional profiles, I characterize the emergent macroscopic strategic culture.

I identify four periods marked by shocks to the international system to explore how European strategic culture emerged. These periods are the end of the Cold War, the September 11 attacks, the global financial crisis (GFC), and the rise of right-wing populism marked by Brexit and the election of American President Donald Trump. I consider how the EU's emergent strategic culture helps explain Europe's relations with other major powers, including the United States, Russia, and China.

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