Europe May Be Done with Power, but Power Is Not Done with Europe: Europe During an Era of American Unipolarity and of Relative Decline

  • Paul Van HooftEmail author
  • Annette Freyberg-Inan
Part of the Global Issues book series (GLOISS)


Since the end of the Cold War, realism has received little serious attention within the European International Relations literature and has been dismissed as insufficient to explain the most important developments and events in Europe and the world. We argue that this treatment has been unfair. In fact, we consider realism a powerful theory that explains broad, long-term patterns of state behavior, as well as systemic outcomes. The key contribution of realism is its understanding of the constraining and enabling role of the international distribution of power, which represents a decisive initial sorting stage for the choices that states can make. However, in line with neoclassical realist authors, we argue that to explain and predict state behaviour more precisely, the domestic distribution of power, ideas, interests, and institutions need to be taken into account. In any case, power disciplines states and other actors when their leaders fail to adequately recognise their place in the international system. Unlike rival theories, the attention of realists to the impact of the disproportionate power of the United States on the international system allows them to explain a series of developments: the end of the Cold War; the transformation of the global order; the lack of major power conflict; and the re-emergence of inter-state competition in Europe and globally. We conclude by emphasizing the importance of considerations of power for policymaking within Europe.


Neoclassical Realism Foreign policyForeign Policy North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) European Security And Defence Policy (ESDP) Neoclassical Variety 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Art, Robert J. 1996a. “American Foreign Policy and the Fungibility of Force.” Security Studies 5 (4): 7–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ———. 1996b. “Why Western Europe Needs the United States and NATO.” Political Science Quarterly 111 (1): 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. ———. 2013. A Grand Strategy for America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Berger, Thomas U. 1998. Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Calleo, David P. 2011. Rethinking Europe’s Future. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Christensen, Thomas J. 1996. Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization, and Sino-American Conflict, 1947–1958. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dueck, Colin. 2008. Reluctant Crusaders: Power, Culture, and Change in American Grand Strategy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Duffield, John S. 1999. “Political Culture and State Behavior: Why Germany Confounds Neorealism.” International Organization 53 (4): 765–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Edelstein, David M. 2002. “Managing Uncertainty: Beliefs About Intentions and the Rise of Great Powers.” Security Studies 12 (1): 1–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feng, Zhang. 2009. “Rethinking the ‘Tribute System’: Broadening the Conceptual Horizon of Historical East Asian Politics.” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 2 (4): 545–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Freyberg-Inan, Annette. 2018. “Global Governance and the Continuing Relevance of Power.” Forum on Power Politics. International Institutions.Google Scholar
  12. Freyberg-Inan, Annette, Ewan Harrison, and Patrick James. 2009. Rethinking Realism in International Relations: Between Tradition and Innovation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  13. “Germany. White Paper 1994.” n.d. Accessed January 31, 2018.
  14. Howorth, Jolyon, and Anand Menon. 2009. “Still Not Pushing Back: Why the European Union Is Not Balancing the United States.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53 (5): 727–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ikenberry, G. John. 2002. America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Jones, Seth G. 2007. The Rise of European Security Cooperation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Judt, Tony. 2006. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  18. Kier, Elizabeth. 2017. Imagining War: French and British Military Doctrine Between the Wars. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kratochwil, Friedrich. 1993. “The Embarrassment of Changes: Neo-Realism as the Science of Realpolitik Without Politics.” Review of International Studies 19 (1): 63–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kühn, Ulrich, Tristan Volpe, and Bert Thompson. 2017. “Tracking the German Nuclear Debate.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  21. Kydd, Andrew. 1997. “Sheep in Sheep’s Clothing: Why Security Seekers Do Not Fight Each Other.” Security Studies 7 (1): 114–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Layne, Christopher. 1993. “The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Rise.” International Security 17 (4): 5–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 1997. “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy.” International Security 22 (1): 86–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. ———. 2006. The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lebow, Richard Ned. 1994. “The Long Peace, the End of the Cold War, and the Failure of Realism.” International Organization 48 (2): 249–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Levy, Jack S., and William R. Thompson. 2010. “Balancing on Land and at Sea: Do States Ally Against the Leading Global Power?” International Security 35 (1): 7–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liang, Qiao, and Wang Xiangsui. 1999. Unrestricted Warfare. Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House.Google Scholar
  28. Mastanduno, Michael. 1997. “Preserving the Unipolar Moment: Realist Theories and US Grand Strategy After the Cold War.” International Security 21 (4): 49–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mearsheimer, John J. 1990. “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War.” International Security 15 (1): 5–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. ———. 2001. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  31. Meijer, Hugo, and Marco Wijss, eds. 2018. The Handbook of European Defence Policies and Armed Forces. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Ministry of Defence. 1998. “Strategic Defence Review.” HM Government.Google Scholar
  33. Narizny, Kevin. 2017. “On Systemic Paradigms and Domestic Politics: A Critique of the Newest Realism.” International Security 42 (2): 155–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Posen, Barry R. 1986. The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  35. ———. 2003. “Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of US Hegemony.” International Security 28 (1): 5–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. ———. 2006. “European Union Security and Defense Policy: Response to Unipolarity?” Security Studies 15 (2): 149–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. “Quadrennial Defense Review.” 2014. Accessed February 1, 2018.
  38. Rathbun, Brian. 2008. “A Rose by Any Other Name: Neoclassical Realism as the Logical and Necessary Extension of Structural Realism.” Security Studies 17 (2): 294–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ripsman, Norrin M., Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, and Steven E. Lobell. 2016. Neoclassical Realist Theory of International Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Risse-Kappen, Thomas. 1994. “Ideas Do Not Float Freely: Transnational Coalitions, Domestic Structures, and the End of the Cold War.” International Organization 48 (2): 185–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rosato, Sebastian. 2015. “The Inscrutable Intentions of Great Powers.” International Security 39 (3): 48–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rosecrance, Richard. 2006. “Power and International Relations: The Rise of China and Its Effects.” International Studies Perspectives 7 (1): 31–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. “Russia’s 2000 Military Doctrine | NTI.” 2000.
  44. Rynning, Sten. 2002. Changing Military Doctrine: Presidents and Military Power in Fifth Republic France, 1958–2000. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  45. Schweller, Randall L. 2006. Unanswered Threats: Political Constraints on the Balance of Power. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Schweller, Randall L., and William C. Wohlforth. 2000. “Power Test: Evaluating Realism in Response to the End of the Cold War.” Security Studies 9 (3): 60–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sheehan, James J. 2009. Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?: The Transformation of Modern Europe. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  48. Silove, Nina. 2016. “The Pivot Before the Pivot: US Strategy to Preserve the Power Balance in Asia.” International Security 40 (4): 45–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Snyder, Jack. 1991. Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Sterling-Folker, Jennifer. 2013. Making Sense of International Relations Theory. In Neoclassical Realism: Domestic Opportunities for Great Power Intervention, ed. J.W. Taliaferro and R.W. Wishart. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  51. Stokes, Bruce. 2017. “NATO’s Image Improves on Both Sides of Atlantic.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project (blog). May 23, 2017.
  52. Tang, Shiping. 2010. A Theory of Security Strategy for Our Time: Defensive Realism. Basingstoke: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. “The 2011 Defense Policy Guidelines.” n.d. Accessed January 31, 2018.Google Scholar
  54. Toje, Asle, and Barbara Kunz. 2012. Neoclassical Realism in European Politics: Bringing Power Back In. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Van Hooft, Paul. 2015. “The Future in the Past: Victory, Defeat, and Grand Strategy in the US, UK, France and Germany.” Unpublished, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  56. ———. In preparation. The Future in the Past: Victory, Defeat, and Comparative Grand Strategy. Google Scholar
  57. “Völkerrechtliche Verpflichtungen Deutschlands Beim Umgang Mit Kernwaffen Deutsche Und Europäische Ko-Finanzierung Ausländischer Nuklearwaffenpotentiale (013/17) — wd2 — Sehrgutachten.” 2017. Wissenschaftliche Dienste, Deutscher Bundestag. Accessed January 15, 2018.
  58. Volpe, Tristan, and Ulrich Kühn. 2017. “Germany’s Nuclear Education: Why a Few Elites Are Testing a Taboo.” The Washington Quarterly 40 (3): 7–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Walt, Stephen M. 1987. The Origins of Alliance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Waltz, Kenneth N. 1996. “International Politics Is Not Foreign Policy.” Security Studies 6 (1): 54–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. ———. 2000a. “NATO Expansion: A Realist’s View.” Contemporary Security Policy 21 (2): 23–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. ———. 2000b. “Structural Realism After the Cold War.” International Security 25 (1): 5–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. ———. 2010. Theory of International Politics. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  64. Wohlforth, William C. 1999. “The Stability of a Unipolar World.” International Security 24 (1): 5–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zakaria, Fareed. 1999. From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.European University Institute (EUI)FlorenceItaly
  2. 2.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations