The populist challenge to European defense

Marina Henke, Richard Maher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This article assesses the consequences and implications of the rise of European populist parties for European defense cooperation. Focusing on six of the most prominent populist parties in Europe today, we examine their positions along three important defense-related issues: recommended national force posture; integrated military forces; and main national security threats. To determine their position on these three issues, we examine every party manifesto and, if available, official party document on security and defense policy since 2010. We argue that the rise of populism in Europe does not represent an inflection point for the future of European defense cooperation. Instead, our analysis reveals the following three findings: European defense cooperation will continue to be essentially ad hoc, functionally driven, and issue specific; populist parties’ attitudes and preferences regarding European defense cooperation both overlap with and diverge from those of other populists and non-populists in the EU; and populism over time may contribute to a shift in domestic preferences toward a Europe that more readily embraces military power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-406
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • European Union
  • European defense
  • international relations
  • populism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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