Is Europe freeing itself from the US?
By Fabio Massimo Parenti
"Europe can no longer rely on the US for its security," said French President Emmanuel Macron in his last speech in Paris. This is not new, it echoes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's declaration in May. Are France and Germany on the same page? In June, there was a proposal by eight European countries, plus the UK, about creating a "European Intervention Force." However, these steps are often considered inconsistent with the advancement of Permanent Structured Cooperation and NATO's policies in Europe. Indeed, Italy and other EU members expressed skepticism, while the US cannot see such an initiative in a positive light. In addition, we should keep in mind that convergence between France and Germany on security issues corresponds to differences in economic policies.
I do suggest three different perspectives on security issues: European, US and global-structural viewpoints.
First perspective. Europe's most powerful nations, France and Germany, with an imperialist tradition, are proposing a way to forge European strategic independence from the US. This goal is a result of US President Donald Trump's new policies, which show a tendency to shun the US' international responsibilities. It is well known that the Trump administration is reducing US commitments on climate cooperation and multilateralism. Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement and imposing a new package of sanctions on EU firms doing business with Iran led to concerted European resistance. The European irritation with the US was manifest in Germany and France's behavior on many official occasions. However, these two countries are still trapped in rhetoric now and are not drawing approval of other EU countries.
Other European nations, Visegrad group, Italy and others are girding to push back against EU economic and migration regulations, and they are particularly skeptical toward Germany and France, which due to different traditions seem willing to fulfill their own strategic agenda to control and dominate Europe and its repositioning dynamics in a new multipolar world.
We could certainly see positively Macron's declaration for an independent Europe and for opening up to Russia and Turkey to manage the Syrian crises, marginalizing the idea to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, Macron's ambitions to put France in the forefront of the European reform process cannot be accepted passively by many in Europe. This is for several reasons, for example, France's imperialistic tendencies on show in Libya and the Syria war, with its illegitimate interference into sovereign countries. Moreover, there is a new wind in Europe, which is not only populist, but also popular, against a failed European establishment; and Macron is part of it. In my opinion, the image of Macron as leader of European progressives against rising nationalism will soon implode.
Second perspective - traditionally, the US dominated NATO and tried to make European space subservient. Washington cannot accept, even though it would be wise, a strategically independent Europe in the Trump era. Moreover, the idea that Europe-Russia relations should be strategically strengthened could seem closer to Trump's open approach to Russia, but, at the same time, dangerous for NATO's hard stance on Moscow.
Macron said: "The history of these peoples [Russia and Turkey] is made with Europe. We must accept that there will be a large Europe - larger even than the European Union." This statement can be interpreted as an effort to develop new cooperative relations and open up to multilateralism. However, again this is seen as detrimental to US geostrategic plans to contain SCO consolidation and a wider consensus outside.
The third perspective says that according to a global, structural analysis, the above-mentioned dynamics are contradictory and chaotic. This is what I consider an unavoidable outcome of a wider structural transformation at the global level. I do think a multipolar world emerged and is here to stay; above all, thanks to the advanced diplomatic, cultural and economic approach displayed by BRICS and other emerging countries' organizations, clearly unsatisfied with the old West-driven international order.
Surely, the US and Europe should directly talk about a necessary reform of strategic relations, beyond NATO's framework and according to European claims for new independence. For instance, the US should accept and support a cooperative approach in Europe-Russia relations, the Western powers should give up military interventionism, and Europe should elaborate and implement economic and political development plans, based on reciprocity and cooperation with Middle East, Africa and Asian regions. When European citizens have been living under adverse economic conditions, Europe should focus on priorities other than "security" and "defense."
For these reasons, I do predict the continuation of contradictory movements within the Nord-Atlantic space and the emergence, in the next 30 years, of a post-NATO world order.
The author is associate professor of international studies at the International Institute Lorenzo de' Medici, Florence, member of CCERRI think tank, Zhengzhou, and member of EURISPES, Laboratorio BRICS, Rome. His latest book is Geofinance and Geopolitics, Egea. firstname.lastname@example.org