Comparative analysis of strategic cultures in the US and the UK
Material posted: Publication date: 12-11-2017
The concept of "strategic culture" is not new in political science. It appeared in 70-ies of the last century in the work of the American researcher Dzh. Schneider. In his work, he compared the American and Soviet nuclear doctrine[1]. After John. Snyder concept of strategic culture continued to develop, many researchers, expanding the range of what can be included in this concept.


For example, American political scientist Colin gray defined strategic culture grows out of the national historical experience and the demands of national and cultural identity. In addition, strategic culture often has an impact on security policy.[1]

What is strategic culture? Colin gray defined it as an appeal to ways of thinking and acting in matters of use of force, rooted in the national historical experience, which reflects patterns of behavior in critical situations. [2] in Other words, this is the kind of model behavior in different situations, which is directly connected with the political consciousness and political behavior. The last two concepts together represent political culture. Accordingly, strategic culture is directly related to the culture of political.

In this article the author sets himself the goal is to compare the strategic culture in the US and the UK. A comparison will be made on the following parameters:

  • political system;
  • the factors of formation;
  • attitude to military force;
  • attitude to problem solving in international relations.

The political system

USA is a Federal Republic. According to the U.S. Constitution, power is divided between legislative, Executive and judicial branches.

The legislature

Executive power

The judiciary

Congress: House of representatives and the Senate + the state legislatures

Supreme court state courts

The President, Vice-President, administration of the President

The electoral process in the US is very complicated. For example, presidential elections are not direct. In the first stage, the population of States gives "voice" to the electors who promise to vote for a particular candidate. In the second stage each member of the electoral College determines the winner by one vote. To win a candidate must gain at least 270 votes. As in the United States has a system of "winner takes all" in a situation when the candidate And, for example, voted 5 electors, and for candidates In 8 electoral College, all votes received by the candidate, so we've got across the state on 13 votes.

Because such systems can be a situation where the winner is the candidate who would lose if the election were direct. In this case, often cite the example of the elections of 2000, when he beat George W. Bush, though nationwide the majority voted for al Gore. As for the last presidential election in the United States, they formed exactly the same situation. The victory was won by the Republican candidate, Donald trump, receiving 304 electoral votes, while the candidate of the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton received only 227 votes. If the elections would be direct, then Clinton would have won with 65.8 million votes against 62,9 million votes for trump.

As for the party system of the United States, it is a classic example of bipartisanship. The absolute forces in political life are the Democratic party and the Republican party. Both parties control the Congress, state legislature, presidential elections and so on.

The political system of the UK is different from USA. United Kingdom – constitutional monarchy, unitary state. Unlike the USA, the Constitution in this country is not codified, that is, there are both translation of non-written sources. The formal head of state is the monarch, at the moment this is Queen Elizabeth II. In modern times the Institute of the Queen and the Royal family as a whole rather is symbolic. For example, the Prime Minister appoints the Cabinet Ministers on behalf of the Crown, though in fact the Queen does not interfere in this process.

In the UK there is also a division into three branches of government.

The legislature

Executive power

The judiciary

Parliament: House of Commons and House of lords + local authorities

The government: the Prime Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers

The Supreme court, court of Appeal, crown Court, County courts, administrative courts

It is considered that in the UK also has a two-party system, but that's not entirely true, because in addition to the two major parties, Conservative and labour, there is also the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish national party, plaid Cymru (Party of Wales), the Democratic unionist party and so on. If we consider the principle of "who is in power" (who is the Prime Minister), it will be true. However, in the House of Commons represented not only the data of the party. Moreover, to get most of the party are forced to create a coalition. At the moment the ruling party is Conservative, but in recent elections it won a majority of seats in the House of Commons and was forced to form a coalition with the Democratic unionist party. And this is not a two-party system in its pure form.

The UK electoral system resulted from the reform repeatedly. At the national and local level, a majority system of relative majority (First Past the Post). Each of the counties represented in Parliament by one Deputy. Under this system, a candidate wins if he gets the most votes.

Thus, in comparison to the first factor as follows:



Presidential Republic

A constitutional monarchy

Indirect election

Direct elections

The system of "Winner Take All"

The system of "First Past the Post"

The two-party system in its pure form

The two-party system with reservations


Factors of formation

According to the Russian researcher O. Ivanov, the strategic culture of the United States were formed due to factors such as:[3]

  • continental isolation;
  • the remoteness of serious security threats partly in mind the weakness of the direct neighbors;
  • experience of development of border territories;
  • sustainable fundamental religious beliefs;
  • national substructure of immigrants.

If we analyze the strategic culture of the UK, we can highlight the following factors of formation:

  • comparative isolation from nearest neighbors, and as a consequence the emergence of "island thinking";
  • the rich experience of colonial activities (mid XVI century until beginning of XX century);
  • focus on great power status (the legacy of Pax Britannica – the role of English in various fields worldwide; the winner country in world war II; permanent membership in the UN Security Council; its own nuclear weapons);
  • the dilemma of Atlanticism and Europeanism, that is, to be a strong political actor, but to have numerous allies on the continent.

Attitude to military force

Britain takes an active part in the fight against terrorism, and this is not surprising: over the past year, the wave of terrorist acts covered by the state head. One of those was in close proximity to the British Parliament. In addition, the UK actively participates in military operations abroad. For example, the government participated in the preparation of the overthrow of the ruling regime of Libya in 2011. The British authorities came up with the idea of creating a no-fly zone over Libya, aiming to block government aircraft. After the blame for the events in Libya put it on David Cameron, former Prime Minister of great Britain.

After Britain voted to exit the European Union, British politicians pay much attention to military matters. A few days after taking office, Prime Minister Theresa may in July 2016, the Parliament approved the allocation of 41 billion pounds on a program of modernization of Intercontinental ballistic missiles of the British nuclear deterrent. With regard to the use of nuclear weapons, then, according to Theresa may, the UK is going to use it as a "formidable force".[4]

However, to increase defense spending to London may be difficult in the face of declining economic growth, which will follow Brexton. First, the UK will have to pay a certain amount for an exit from the European Union. Second, the state would lose access to the single market for private goods.

After leaving the EU, Britain will go to even greater convergence with the US, while trying not to become dependent on your partner.

US feel quite independent, which is directly reflected in the doctrinal documents, such as, for example, the National military strategy.[5] According to the documents, the United States seeks to use the armed forces to protect and promote their own national interests. These include: the security of the United States, American citizens, American allies and partners; a strong, respect for universal values at home and around the world; the rules-based international order, provide the US-led and aimed at strengthening peace and security, and so on.

To ensure these interests, the National military strategy developed a comprehensive approach consisting of national military objectives: deterrence of the state of the enemy, preventing the achievement of its objectives and its defeat and strengthening of a global community of allies and partners.

Related to the solution of problems in international relations

Both countries are permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, and it means hundred and they have a direct impact on decision-making on sanctions, conflict resolution and so on. An important tool of influence possessed by the US and Britain in the Security Council is the veto.

The US and UK involved the process of resolving many global and regional issues, such as: negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program; North Korea's nuclear program; on the Ukrainian crisis; on the Syrian crisis and so on. Both States are part of the "big twenty" and "big seven". The US and the UK originally aimed for a peaceful resolution of world problems by negotiation, but the United States does not rule out military intervention, as stated in their doctrinal documents, the UK also openly not stated.

In conclusion, it should be said that the comparison revealed common and diverse features of the strategic cultures of the two under consideration.

To the total should be attributed to the similarity in the formation of strategic culture in its modern form. For example, the continental United States is isolated from strong States, and the UK is an island state, which also isolate it from the many "continental" problems. Both countries are directly involved in many negotiation processes, moreover, both are permanent members of the UN Security Council.

USA have experience in the assignment of border areas, exactly like Britain in the heyday of Empire had colonies in almost all parts of the world. In military matters the US and the UK are allies, but this Alliance the U.S. is a leader.

Despite the fact that, historically, States have borrowed a lot from the UK, there are factors in which both the States differ significantly. Apply to different political system, as for as the form of government, electoral systems and electoral principle.

Thus, we can conclude that the strategic culture of the US and the UK has a similar formation, but more importantly, what path evolved both States, which determined the modern state of strategic culture in both States.


  1. Ivanov O. American strategic culture. Obozrevatel-Observer. 1/2007. P.87.
  2. Theresa may is prepared to use nuclear weapons against Russia" // the Star Media group. 07.2016. URL:
  3. Gray C. National Style in Strategy: The American Example // International Security. — Fall 1981. — Vol. 6. — No. 2.
  4. The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription / National archives. URL:
  5. J. Snyder, The Soviet Strategic Culture: Implications for Nuclear Options. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation. 1977. P.

The National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2015// The United States Military''s Contribution To National Security. June 2015 URL: Parliament Website. URL:


[1] Gray C. National Style in Strategy: The American Example // International Security. — Fall 1981. — Vol. 6. — No. 2.

[2] Cm. 2.

[3] Ivanov O. American strategic culture. Obozrevatel-Observer. 1/2007. P.87.

[4] "Theresa may is prepared to use nuclear weapons against Russia" // the Star Media group. 29.07.2016. URL:

[5] The National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2015// The United States Military''s Contribution To National Security. June 2015 URL:



Tags: assessment , USA , A.Snesariev's competition , UK