Conceiving NATO as a democracy promoter: A Realist Foreign Policy Explanation

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room


NATO since the end of the Cold War has emphasized democracy as political rationale both in rhetoric and in action, not only with regards to enlargement and partnership policies but also, increasingly, in its approach to out-of-area missions and state-building. While enlargement, and thus the ability to promote democratic change is consolidating in the Western Balkans, NATO faces considerable challenges to its political agenda both in Afghanistan and in its Eastern neighborhood. The interesting question is: what drives an organization like NATO (after all, a collective defense alliance) to assume such ‘soft’ security responsibilities in face of these challenges? NATO represents an interesting amalgam of interests and motivations that can possibly explain democratization as a political rationale and how it has come to vary over time. The seminar has both an empirical and a theoretical goal: to introduce NATO as a case contributing to existing studies on Western democracy promotion that tend to focus predominantly on either the U.S. or the E.U.; and to offer a realist foreign policy explanation to democracy promotion in contrast to the dominant liberalist or constructivist literature on the issue.

Speaker Bio:

Henrik Boesen Lindbo Larsen is a CDDRL visiting researcher 2011-12, while researching on his PhD project titled NATO Democracy Promotion: the Geopolitical Effects of Declining Hegemonic Power. He expects to obtain his PhD from the University of Southern Denmark and the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) in 2013.

Henrik Larsen’s PhD project views democracy promotion as a policy resulting from power transitions as mediated through the predominant narratives of great powers. It distinguishes between two main types of democracy promotion, the ability to attract (enlargement, partnerships) and the ability to impose (out-of-area missions, state-building). NATO’s external policies are increasingly pursued with a lower intensity and/or with a stronger geographical demarcation.

Prior to his PhD studies, Henrik Larsen held temporary positions for the UNHCR in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congoand with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Denmark working with Russia & the Eastern neighborhood. He holds an MSc in political science from the University of Aarhus complemented with studies at the University of Montreal, Sciences Po Paris and the University of Geneva. He has been a research intern at École Militaire in Paris and he is member of the Danish roster for election observation missions for the OSCE and the EU.