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Acculturation of the Core Concepts of European Security

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper

Andrew Scott Corbett, Annamarie Binednagel-Sehovic

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNATO Science and technology Organization
ISBN (Electronic)978-92-837-2219-9
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2019


King's Authors


Deterrence is a psychological process designed to influence the decision making of a potential adversary; it works best prior to the decision being made. Current NATO definitions of deterrence and other key terms such as resilience appear very carefully constructed but deliberately ambiguous in order to accommodate differing national interpretations of how deterrence works, and what resilience means in that context. In practice, these ambiguities in policy curtail the Alliance ability to conduct a coherent deterrence strategy, and significantly inhibit the ability to integrate all deterrence elements once a crisis has been recognised. Public use of these ambiguous definitions enables development of ostensibly coherent public policy in both deterrence and resilience, while creating serious tensions in the development and implementation of strategies for either. European NATO Allies and EU members would benefit greatly from an acknowledged, if not necessarily common, understanding of the use of key terms in their own security lexicon, or at least from a more honest acculturation of the key elements of their security strategies.
Based on research conducted with practitioners in NATO and EU, and experience gained within the NATO strategic HQ, this paper examines the understanding of deterrence in theory and practice in the Alliance, and describes an embryonic research project designed to investigate the nature of terminology in decision- making and practice, focusing on contemporary acculturation of key terms such as deterrence and resilience in the reactions to the activities of a newly assertive Russia across Europe’s Eastern borders from the Mediterranean to the High North.
Differences in understanding of deterrence appear to have become manifest in an Alliance inability to adapt strategy to the re-emerging salience of deterrence as a policy issue in the European security environment after the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Alliance should address this shortcoming in order to enhance its strategic messaging of resolve and resilience quietly and consistently to deter an increasingly assertive Russia. Early outcomes from this project suggest that this does not require escalatory brinkmanship with Russia, simply a more considered and coherent linkage between the various terms used in deterrence policy and strategies available to the Alliance leadership.

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