US Shift Towards ‘Smart Power’ and its Impact on the Transatlantic Security Partnership

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Series Details No. 2, January 2010
Publication Date January 2010
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Beyond the opposition ‘EU – civilian and soft power’ versus ‘US – military and hard power’, it is time to consider significant changes in foreign policy on both sides of the Atlantic. On the one hand, the EU is trying to develop its military capabilities; on the other hand, the US is aspiring to modernize and rebuild its civilian capabilities.

This paper focuses on the recent developments which have occurred in the United States as well as on the impact of these changes on the transatlantic security partnership. It asks to what extent the US turn towards ‘smart power’ constitutes a significant shift in US security strategy likely to have an impact on the transatlantic security partnership. Since the election of Barack Obama, the debate on US instruments of power and influence has become particularly relevant. In fact, a new foreign policy doctrine based on the concept of ‘smart power’ is emerging in Washington, D.C. This doctrine relies on the idea that the combination of ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’ will allow the United States to build an appropriate framework to tackle today’s unconventional threats.

The new US President intends to strike a balance between the three ‘Ds’: defense, diplomacy and development, by rebuilding the civilian diplomatic and development capacities. The emergence of American ‘smart power’ represents a significant shift in US national security strategy, and although it is too early to judge the extent to which the new US administration is willing to embrace this concept in practice, a new impetus is given to the transatlantic security partnership.

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College of Europe: Study: EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies: Research Activities: EU Diplomacy Papers [PDF]

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