The Underlying Causes of Strategic Surprise in EU Foreign Policy: A post-mortem investigation of the Arab Uprisings and the Ukraine-Russia crisis of 2013/14

Nikki Ikani*, Christoph Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The study of why and when governments are caught out by strategic surprise has been a major occupation of intelligence studies, international relations, public administration and crisis management studies. Still little is known, however, about the structural vulnerabilities to such surprises in international organisations such as the European Union (EU). EU institutions themselves have not undertaken rigorous investigations or public inquiries of recent strategic surprises, instead relying on internal review processes. In order to understand the most common underlying problems causing surprise in the EU context, this paper adapts and tests insights from the strategic surprise literature. It elaborates a theoretical framework with five hypotheses about why the leadership of EU institutions has been prone to being caught by surprises in foreign affairs: limitations in collection capacity, institutional fragmentation of policymaking, organisational culture, member state politicisation, and cognitive biases arising from collective ideas and norms. These hypotheses are tested using a post-mortem approach investigating two significant strategic surprises: the start and spread of the Arab uprisings of 2010/11 and Ukraine–Russia crisis of 2013/14.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)270-293
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Security
Volume32
Issue number2
Early online date11 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • Strategic surprise
  • EU foreign policy
  • intelligence
  • Warning
  • European Union
  • crisis

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