Neorealist and liberal theories advance discrepant explanations for variations in wartime alliance cohesion. Neorealism claims that variations in cohesion are attributable to shifting international systemic conditions, while liberalism argues that cohesion is a function of the regime type(s) of the various alliance partners. I advance a synthetic neoclassical realist theory which proposes that a given ally’s inclination to minimize or maximize cohesion is a function of both international systemic conditions and the regime type of the state in question. I test the three theories in U.S., British, and Soviet alliance decisionmaking during World War II, and find that neoclassical realism alone accounts for the behavior of all three partners over the course of the entire lifespan of the “Grand Alliance” (January 1942-September 1945). The paper concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for the study and practice of alliance politics, as well as for contemporary United States foreign policy.
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