You are currently viewing Defence Populism: The Fixation on Sovereignty and Its Effects on Security and Interoperability

Defence Populism: The Fixation on Sovereignty and Its Effects on Security and Interoperability

Written by Stef Clement

Edited by Miguel Reyes Castro

Supervised by Paul Dybjer

Right-wing populists are increasingly competing for government participation, occasionally with success. Austria, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Italy and Poland are just a few examples of European Union (EU) Member States that have seen populist parties as part of the governing coalition in recent years (Destradi et al., 2021, p. 663). While this kind of politics often seems far from military operations and their technical nature, they determine the resources and attention given to them. Populists often find other priorities than multilateral defence cooperation (Ivaldi & Zankina, 2023). This is particularly concerning at a time when European security is under threat. Less military support for Ukraine may, for example, directly affect the security situation in the rest of Europe.

This paper adapts the following definition of ‘populism’, in line with Müller (2016): populism is the use of anti-elitist and anti-pluralist rhetoric to achieve political ends. While the former focuses on the repulsion of the ‘EU elite’, through the latter populists claim that ‘they, and they alone, represent the people’ (Müller, 2016, p. 3). Regardless, it is always a form of identity politics. In line with Müller (2016), ‘defence populism’ is defined as using populist frames regarding defence matters. It is important to note that projected anti-pluralism may coincide with nationalism (Breeze, 2018). Populists tend to envision security in nationalistic terms. Multilateralism is often reputed as cosmopolitan and sovereignty-infringing. Any limitations to national sovereignty are opposed, prioritising self-governance (Jenne, 2021, pp. 325-328).

This Info Flash will investigate the impact of right-wing populism in EU Member States on defence and security matters, particularly on interoperability. To achieve this, I will first analyse the existing literature on defence populism. After that, these findings will be synthesised, tying them to EU security policies and the interoperability of land forces. At last, concluding remarks shall be made.