Invitations to Intervene and the Legitimacy of EU and NATO Civilian and Military Operations

Document Type


Publication Date



Political Science



Publication Title

International Peacekeeping


This article investigates the connection between invitations to intervene and the creation of legitimacy for European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations. By tracking the incidence and source of pleas for an intervention, this study finds that invitations are associated with most EU and NATO interventions, and identifies three different types of invitations – true, collaborative, and rigged – which denote greater or lesser degrees of demand for Western security services. This variability in demand for Western security services signalled by the three types of invitations impacts the level of legitimacy associated with an EU or NATO operation: true invitations confer the greatest amount of legitimacy, collaborative invitations generate weaker legitimacy, and rigged invitations create low levels of legitimacy. Moreover, both organizations have, at times, coerced external political actors into offering an invitation to intervene in order to manufacture stronger legitimacy for their interventionist designs. Ultimately, because invitations play such a large role in prompting EU and NATO interventions, international relations scholars and political leaders should carefully consider their quality and influence on the decision-making process when determining the initial legitimacy for an interventionist operation.


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