Show them the flag: status ambitions and recognition in small state coalition warfare

Rasmus Brun Pedersen, Yf Reykers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Why do small states actively contribute to US- and NATO-led military operations? The small state literature has recently developed a novel explanation, referring to their dependency upon the alliance hegemon. The logic is that the small states aim to improve their status and reputation in order to remain relevant and to receive protection. This article contributes to this literature by moving away from this fear of abandonment motivation towards more positive status incitements. It shows how such status motives actually guide and shape small states’ military contributions in US- or NATO-led operations. It does so by using recent innovations in process-tracing methodology to create a status-seeking mechanism. Using the case of Belgium’s participation in the military coalition against ISIL, this article goes beyond the usual Scandinavian suspects in the small state literature and demonstrates that status motivations have relevance for a wider group of small states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-32
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Security
Issue number1
Early online date14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Status
  • realism
  • United States
  • NATO
  • Belgium
  • process-tracing


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