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Prestige-Seeking Small States: Danish and Norwegian Military Contributions to U.S.-led Operations


In the project we broaden the conventional understanding of prestige and show that prestige-seeking played a major role in the Danish and Norwegian decisions to provide military support to post-Cold War US-led wars. Both countries made costly military contributions in the hope of increasing their standing and prestige in Washington. Both governments regarded prestige as a form of soft power, which they could later convert into access, influence and US support. Our findings are far from trivial. They make a theoretical contribution by demonstrating that small powers understand and seek prestige in ways that differ fundamentally from the ways great powers do. They also help to explain why smaller US allies made costly contributions to the Balkan, Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan wars at a time when there was no direct threat to their national security and their security dependence on the US was low. The high value that small US allies attach to their visibility and prestige in Washington suggests that it is far easier for the US to obtain military support from smaller allies than Realist studies of burden-sharing and collective action problems would lead us to expect.


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