In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron told economists that Europe can no longer rely on NATO for defense and must become a geopolitical force in its own right.
“What we are currently experiencing is brain death NATO,” he said, becoming the infamous quote.
A series of crises since then — the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the associated energy crisis — have strengthened Europe’s strategic energy autonomy.
European Union ban coal in russia and what is oil Transition to renewable energy sources Faster than ever before.
But fundamental differences still divide Europeans over security, raising questions about whether the Ukraine war will ultimately make the European project stronger.
“What I call the core of Europe is weakening – the Franco-German axis, Italy underneath.” [former prime minister Mario] Draghi – There was a trio who agreed on foreign policy, had similar concerns and were always champions of European integration,” said George Pagoulatos, director of the European and Foreign Policy Foundation in Greece. rice field. ,think tank.
Draghi resigned last July after losing a confidence vote and was replaced by far-right euroskeptics Giorgia Meloni.
Germany suffered as Mr Macron led a minority government in parliament in last April’s elections severe damage Its reputation is affected by its seeming reluctance to equip Ukraine with tanks, despite supplying a lot of defensive weapons.
“The moral high ground has changed.”
“The moral high ground has moved from the center of Europe to the northeast of Europe. They have said it more clearly than anyone else,” Pagoulatos said.
By contrast, Macron and his German counterpart Olaf Scholz made frequent and lengthy phone calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin early in the war that appeared to miscalculate his malice. It was mainly noticed in
“The Baltic, Nordic, and Central European countries were more Atlantic-oriented in their foreign and defense policies. It has never played such an important role in the region,” said Minna Orlander, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
That became apparent in 2003 when Eastern Europe broke ties with the European majority to support George W Bush’s Second Gulf War.
Even after President Bush’s policies failed, President Macron strategic autonomy Orlander told Al Jazeera.
“In any case, the concept was not very likable, but now it has become an illusion and it has become clear that it cannot be done immediately. We are dependent on the United States and it is I have to admit it.”
During US President Joe Biden’s visit to Warsaw last Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said, “America can maintain the world order.”
‘Europe isn’t strong enough right now’
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO has promised to quadruple its emergency response forces stationed in Eastern European countries to 40,000, move more equipment there, and increase its readiness force to 300,000.
Europe, by contrast, has pledged to build a 5,000-strong force that will be operational in 2027.
Even before the Ukrainian war, Europe did not show unity or effectiveness in defense.
Only two other EU member states sent troops to France’s Balkan campaign to defeat armed groups in the Sahel, and those forces disbanded last year without achieving their objectives.
President of Finland Sanna Marin told Think Tank Last December in Sydney, I spoke about the word-action gap.
“To be honest, Europe isn’t strong enough right now. We would be in trouble without the United States,” she told the Lowy Institute. We have provided Ukraine with a lot of humanitarian aid, but Europe is still not strong enough.”
The EU officially acknowledged NATO’s superiority in a January joint statement, calling NATO “a cornerstone of the allies’ collective defense and vital to Euro-Atlantic security” and that Europe’s defense is “a complement” to NATO. I mentioned.
Main hurdles to overcome
EU leaders point to what has been achieved in a short period of time.
“The war in Ukraine has awakened us into a kind of adulthood,” EU High Representative Josep Borrell said at the Munich Security Conference on February 19.
“We have rediscovered the brutality of interstate warfare on our borders. It is becoming.”
The EU has unanimously passed a package of nine sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine shipped $12 billion worth of artillery, armored vehicles and air defenses to Ukraine last year, making it the first cross-border delivery of lethal weapons. He also called on Ukraine and Moldova to start accession negotiations within weeks of receiving their applications. Normally, they would have intervened for years.
But to become, in Scholz’s words, a “more sovereign and geopolitical Europe,” the EU must overcome obstacles.
One is the requirement for unanimity in foreign policy decision-making, as foreign policy divides Europeans by geography and history.
A December Eurobarometer poll found that 74% of EU citizens approved, on average, of supporting the bloc’s Ukraine, but just below 50% in Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia, Cyprus, Hungary, Romania, Austria.
Some of these countries are overwhelmingly Orthodox.
A poll by Euroskopia in January showed that most people in Austria (64%), Germany (60%) and Greece (54%), and 50% in Italy and Spain, voted for a land for peace with Russia. was in favor of an early compromise.
“The risk of individual countries vetoing and preventing all others from moving forward increases with each member state,” Scholz said last August in a speech at Charles University in Prague. said in “Therefore, I proposed a gradual transition to majority rule in our common foreign policy.”
This is probably not easy.
The first attempt to introduce qualified majority voting (QMV) at the Nice Summit in 2000 fell through in a heated debate over how to form a majority. Subsequent attempts to include the QMV in the European constitution were defeated in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005. And with relentless federalist sentiment, Britain left her EU in 2016.
Europe also undermines attempts by France and Germany to regain leadership roles because their defense budgets are too small to wield what Borrell spoke of as “hard power.”
Scholz famously boosted Germany’s defense budget by €100 billion ($106 billion) after Russia’s invasion, but that money has barely been spent, leaving the German military in chaos. His defense minister resigned this year as it was revealed.
Macron, who was the first to raise the bar for strategic autonomy, has faced weeks of protests on the streets of France as he introduced a law raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.
‘Strategic autonomy is probably dead’
But perhaps the biggest challenge to Europe’s strategic autonomy has to do with attitudes toward Russia.
This is not a problem in the United States, which has hitherto had bipartisan support for Ukraine.
“The majority of right and left [in the US] We see this as a chance that Western NATO forces will not die, but we can step into Russia’s throat and make sure they never again pose a direct threat to us,” Dale said. Colonel Buckner said. A special forces commander who runs the security consultancy Global Guardian.
“There is no way to stop this, whatever your political stance,” he told Al Jazeera.
Only the most staunch opponents of Russia agree to this in Europe.
“[Germans] Leading this trend of the EU towards integrating Russia into some sort of security structure that ensures that Russia does not repeat aggression against other countries and seeks to resume economic relations after the war is over. ”
Germany did not refuse to send German tanks to Ukraine, nor did it partially allow other countries with these tanks to do so. Since then, Berlin has become unforgiving.
Then there is the question of whether separating European command and control capabilities would weaken NATO.
Panayiotis Ioakimidis, Emeritus Professor of Political Science: “When it comes to security, what Macron had in mind when he mentioned strategic autonomy was to promote independence from the United States and NATO. , Strategic autonomy is probably dead,” Science at the University of Athens told Al Jazeera. “What we are talking about now is a strong EU security pillar within NATO.”
Some don’t think the problem ends there and welcome what they see as an overdue calculation within the EU.
“The EU has been in perpetual crisis for the last 15 years or so. increase.
“Does it always rely on French and German motors, or does it work the other way around?”