This article looks beyond the rhetoric in recent UK defence procurement policy to discuss factors that might impact on the practical implementation of buyer-supplier partnering. Various explanations of the difficulty of creating a partnership are identified. The principal explanation explored is that the likelihood of successful partnering is a function of the power relation between a buyer and a supplier. It is argued that partnering is most likely to occur under circumstances of interdependence when each party is highly dependent upon and vulnerable to the other. A case study from naval shipbuilding is used to examine the plausibility of this power explanation. None of the power relations in the supply network discussed is primarily characterized by interdependence and there is no evidence of partnering. This suggests that while the MoD and its suppliers may use the language of partnering, they often find it difficult to translate this into meaningful action.