Grand Alliances

The term grand alliance has been used at various times in the past to describe cooperative arrangements between military or political groupings who have different identities and missions, yet face a common obstacle before their separate missions can be achieved. Collaboration is justified by the common opponent generally being too powerful for any of the members on their own to resist or defeat. By pooling resources and providing complementary skills, the grand alliance accrues the power to compete with and defeat the common opponent.

History and, indeed, the present day, provides numerous examples, whether from war or politics, of how a grand alliance – a temporary but formidable coalition targeted at a common major threat – can be an unusually powerful force.

Some notable grand alliances in the past and the present

  • The grand alliance of Athens, Sparta and other Greek city states that formed to resist the Persian invasions of the 5thC BCE
  • The grand alliance of European countries against Louis XIV at the turn of the 18thC.
  • The grand alliance of European countries in the early 19thC to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • An important grand alliance in the 20thC. was the Allied forces against the Axis forces comprising the US, the Soviet Union, the UK and Commonwealth and the non-Axis countries of Western Europe.
  • Close cross-party cooperation, resembling a grand alliance is seen in the electoral coalitions formed recently in Israel, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
  • There are signs that similar thinking is emerging in response to the threat to US democracy posed by the pro-Trump Republican Party.
  • In each of these cases, and others, the alliance comprises members who, without the common opponent, would normally be in competition with one another, but until this opponent is defeated, they are unable to pursue their own agendas.

We do not wish to imply that the current situation in the UK is equivalent to any of the cases described above, beyond illustrating how the idea of a ‘grand alliance’ has been used in many contexts to pool effort and resources in order to support a shared objective: