The shifting global balance, redistribution of power, geopolitical uncertainties, together with the doubts about the reliability of the United States as an ally are leading to the question of how independent the EU really is.
The answer to this question is particularly important these days, on the eve of the new EU Commission starting its work on November 1. Without answering it, it will be impossible to understand whose interests it’s going uphold and protect – those of the United Europe itself and its regular citizens, or the interests of the United States, that has grown accustomed to ordering EU politicians around over the past decades. To achieve this end, Washington has already started imposing sanctions on the EU to gain leverage on its elites.
Speaking about an independent Europe, we must define the notion of independence as the ability to set one’s own priorities and make one’s own decisions in matters of foreign policy and security, together with the institutional, political and material means to realize these choices, either in cooperation with third parties, or alone if need be.
Only the party that can describe itself as a strategically independent actor can set international rules, instead of being subject to other powers’ decisions.
For some time, Europe would enjoy varying levels of strategic independence. In trade, the EU has both the means and the will to exert international influence. At the same time, it must be recognized that European powers lack the necessary economic and financial sovereignty due to the financial layout known as the euro, with the sole Central Bank decided the monetary policies for all of the countries of the union, while it itself lives in the shadow of the Fed situated in New York. In addition, it must be recognized that treaties signed over the past 20 years by European countries have deprived national parliaments of their sovereignty, which no longer have the economic, financial or military leverage to take autonomous decisions in their own interests.
As for the military sphere itself, the gap between European ambitions and realities is deep and wide. European countries do not enjoy military sovereignty, as they are subjected to NATO’s chain of command in this matter. Since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, all of the EU members, including neutral countries, were forced to recognize NATO’s primacy in the military matters.
The Austrian publication known as Contra Magazin noted in April that EU states were forced to marched after Washington into all of its military adventures, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen like true vassals. Therefore, Europeans bear the same responsibility for the recent American wars as the US itself, including the responsibility for the famine in Yemen, which was triggered by the broad military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the US-led coalition.
At the same time, Washington remains the uncontested leader of the military block, so should the Pentagon decide to use sanctions to subvert a potentially hostile economic center of power, Europe is bound to follow in its wake.
In this regard, the reaction demonstrated by Donald Trump to the call voiced by the French leader Emmanuel Macron to create an independent armed force in Europe was particularly telling. Trump described this proposition as offensive on his Twitter, suggesting that France must increase its spendings on NATO needs before proceeding with the creation of a pan-European army.
Earlier, Angela Merkel commented on the idea of creating an independent European army, noting that Europe must have a vision about the establishment of a real European army. Moreover, she believes, the times when Europe could rely on others parties for its security needs are long gone. According to the German chancellor, old allies are now questioning the proven ties.
The rationale behind the words of Angela Merkel becomes particularly clear against the backdrop of direct US threats to leave the European Union without military support should Brussels continue defying its military orders. Such statements, in particular, were made last May, during the meeting of EU military and political representatives with Michael Murphy, who is responsible for maintaining relations with Brussels in the White House. According to this US official, when the crisis comes and EU defence fails, its citizens will not be very impressed with the fact that Brussels was only acquiring weapons from its own manufacturers. Thus, the United States has actually presented Europe with a difficult choice: to ensure the security of its borders alone or to strengthen its military capabilities within NATO. What was Europe’s response to Washington? Well, that’s hardly a secret.
As it’s been noted by the Foreign Policy, Washington’s decision to walk away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action underlined Europe’s strategic irrelevance, and its leaders’ collective inability to either stand up to the United States or alter its thinking on an issue of paramount importance. According to this publication, the practical result of all this sucking up was disastrous, as the top European powers had effectively caved in to the Trump administration’s view that the Iran deal is inadequate and has to be either replaced or supplemented by additional agreements.
Washington’s undisguised negligence towards Europe as if it was nothing but an old vassal is evidenced by the document drafted by the Atlantic Council of the United States – an organization whose activity is recognized as undesirable in the Russian Federation. This document was prepared by Washington in anticipation of the new European Commission launching its work, headed by Ursula von der Leyen. This paper outlines to the senior European authorities all of the immediate steps that are to be taken for the EU to effectively pursue policies beneficial to the White House. In particular, the European Commission is demanded to adhere to its prior policies, promoting undisguised Russophobia, creating obstacles in the construction of Nord Stream 2, providing assistance to Ukraine in its alleged fight against the so-called “Russian aggression”, taking the behavior of the Polish authorities as a gold standard that all of the European countries must follow. The “recommendation” on using Poland as a role model in the relations between Europe and Russia are based on the fact that a significant part of the ruling Polish elites remain pathologically suspicious of Russia, as Warsaw is led by a party that has transformed its hatred of the Russian Federation into an ideology, and it’s hardly a secret that the spread of such policies across the EU will incite more hatred and lead to the destabilization of the European space.
At the same time, Washington is trying to promote its own interests in Europe, regardless of the needs of its European allies. Indeed, these days French and German politicians are not the only ones who speak about the need of pursuing better relations with Russia. According to the head of the German Foreign Ministry, Heiko Maas, cooperation is the only path towards sustainable peace in Europe. This statement was made in anticipation of the plenary session of the Russian-German forum known as the Petersburg Dialogue.
Sergei Lavrov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, has recently confirmed Russia’s interest in the complete restoration of the damaged relations with the European Union:
“We are still open for the long-promised, long-proclaimed common goal of the creation a unified humanitarian and economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In a broader sense, we see the prospect of a larger Eurasian partnership.”
Valery Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook’