This FIIA Working Paper explores current ideational trends in American grand strategic debates. At present, discussions on US grand strategy are more contentious than at any other point since immediately after the end of the Cold War. Three ideational trends in particular – termed i) from primacy to restraint, ii) from internationalism to parochialism and iii) from great power engagement to great power competition – can be discerned from academic and policy debates within American foreign policy elites, but increasingly in presidential administrations’ policy formulations and actions as well.

The paper argues that these trends provide a lens into the future trajectory of US global engagement, with attendant implications for US allies and partners. In particular, they pull the United States towards an approach to the world that is more cognizant of resource constraints as well as the inhibitions placed on international conduct by domestic politics and public opinion. For Europe in general, and Finland in particular, this means a transatlantic ally less concerned with European security in the long run, more worried about burden/responsibility sharing and more willing to push its own policy preferences upon allies when pursuing institutional cooperation and contesting great power rivals.

Senior Research Fellow