Institutionalization, path dependence and the persistence of the Anglo-American special relationship

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Series Details Vol.92, No.5, September 2016, p1207–1228
Publication Date September 2016
ISSN 1473-8104
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Non-Chatham House members can subscribe via Wiley-Blackwell. Electronic access to the full text of the article via the source url above is only available if you (or the network by which you access ESO) already subscribes to Wiley-Blackwell and your network uses a link resolver.One of the remarkable phenomena in post-Cold War world politics is the persistence of the Anglo-American special relationship (AASR) in spite of recurrent announcement of its death by pessimists. Current scholarship on Anglo-American relations largely draws on interests and sentiments to explain the persistence of the AASR, ignoring other important contributing factors such as institutionalization. This article is the first to give serious consideration to the role of institutionalization in influencing the persistence of the AASR.

By using the concept of path dependence, this article argues that the high-level institutionalization in Anglo-American intelligence, nuclear and military relations plays a seminal role in contributing to the persistence of the AASR in the post-Cold War era. The institutionalized intelligence relationship is exemplified by the relationship between the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the US's National Security Agency (NSA), which is underpinned by the UKUSA Agreement. The institutionalized nuclear relationship is exemplified by a variety of Joint Working Groups (JOWOGs), which is underpinned by the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement. The institutionalized military relationship is exemplified by routinized military personnel exchange programmes, regular joint training exercises and an extremely close defence trade partnership. The high-level institutionalization embeds habits of cooperation, solidifies interdependence and consolidates mutual trust between the UK and the US in their cooperation on intelligence, nuclear and military issues.

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