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Strategic autonomy. Recasting the Alliance around a European pillar (J. Howorth)

(B2) For Jolyon Howorth, the European Union will achieve strategic autonomy. It's inevitable...eventually. But the Europeans must think outside the box, recognize the current impasse of the CSDP as well as the functioning of NATO, and rebuild a 'New Alliance'

(credit: US

The original British researcher, Francophile to the point of having acquired French nationality, threw a stone into the pond during the third European defense interviews, on November 4, of which he was the 'great witness'.

Structural strategic autonomy

“Strategic autonomy is ultimately inevitable. This is not a Nostradamus prediction. This finding is determined by history and geography. History teaches us that between the United States and Europe, for nearly 250 years, strategic relations have constantly evolved. And geography tells us, according to Vidal de la Blache, that the interests of two continental blocks which in no way share the same territorial space, cannot be common, even less identical. Autonomy? What could be more natural then.

A transatlantic community based on a difference of interests

« The Atlanticist discourse that Americans and Europeans are linked in 'a community of destiny' is misleading. In the 19th century, American 'foreign' interests were primarily Asian and Latin American. It was not until 1941 that the USA have become seriously involved in European affairs. Without the Soviet threat, they would have withdrawn in less than a decade. The Atlantic Alliance was originally designed essentially as a temporary crutch, while the Old Continent pulled itself together after the bloodletting of 1939-45. We know what happened to it.

The CSDP marks time

“The CSDP is still well below the promises of Saint-Malo (NB: the Franco-British summit of December 1998 which launched the project for a European security and defense policy).

Far from strategic autonomy

“Already, around 2010, these were characterized much more by purely 'civilian' objectives than by slightly muscular ambitions. I have nothing against civilian missions. But let's have no illusions. They have nothing to do with strategic autonomy. The EU currently carries out six missions classified as 'military', three of which are only training missions for African forces. Again, I have nothing against it. Its very important. But this is not how the EU will achieve strategic autonomy. 

Weakness in the face of surrounding challenges

“Certainly, the two significant military missions (naval operations in the Mediterranean and the Gulf) could be considered 'strategic'. But, given the challenges truly geostrategic that surround Europe, from the Arctic to the Black Sea and from the Bosphorus to the Atlantic, is very little, really very little. Since 2014, only five new missions have been undertaken, including three in Africa. If the CSDP is what it does, I'm sorry, but that's hardly impressive. 

And the Covid-19 will not help things

“Most of the studies that are beginning to deal with the impact of Covid on European defense point to the many additional challenges that the virus brings up. Additional challenges but more limited means. The Covid crisis is aggravating the already perceptible weakening of the multilateral institutions of global governance. It exacerbates a destabilized environment in which powers like China and Russia hold better cards.

One solution: the merger between PSDC and NATO

“I persist in thinking that it will be more through cooperation, even through the merger between the CSDP and NATO — rather than through the differentiation between these two entities — that the European Union will achieve autonomy. I am convinced that the CSDP, to her only, is not the right instrument to forge autonomy. Two futures are possible for the Alliance, in the context of a victory for [Democrat] Joe Biden.

First option, NATO continues to function as it has always functioned

“Europeans would be less nervous about the credibility of Article 5 [of the Atlantic Alliance Treaty]. Inertia would again become the rule. The Americans will not want to cede leadership, and the Europeans will not dare risk pushing their autonomist ambitions too far. In the context of Covid, given a very serious budgetary crisis for the countries of the Union, the CSDP will return to the background (plan which it has never really left).

Second option, Europeanization of NATO

“This presupposes a considerable surge in the geostrategic imagination – both among Europeans and Americans. [And three conditions.] First, the Americans no longer wish to assume major responsibilities in Europe since the rivalry with China becomes their top priority. Secondly, the Europeans are realizing that the CSDP alone will never provide them with the guarantee of their regional security (especially as long as NATO exists) and that there is no point in multiplying European military players. Third, there is an 'analytical convergence'. The Americans do not stop asking the Europeans for increased efforts, to encourage them to assume strategic leadership in their neighborhood, to take their own defense seriously. The Europeans stop considering this role through the intermediary of the CSDP and agree to fully play the overhaul of NATO.

A new Alliance that goes in the direction of history

“The ultimate objective should be a return to the initial scenario designed by Acheson and Eisenhower: an Alliance in rebalancing, in which the Europeans would gradually take the lion's share and the Americans would play, for another two decades, rather a role of facilitators. It is in the interest of both parties to forge a new Alliance, not structured by dependence, even less by servitude, but by a truly balanced partnership in which the Europeans would achieve, with the support and encouragement of the Americans, strategic autonomy.

Go off the beaten track

"The first scenario respect the status quo, does not require great effort and is infinitely more comfortable for current players. But he would continue to postpone indefinitely any progress on the part of the Europeans towards autonomy.... [until the arrival of a new Donald Trump] who would force to pass to the second scenario. This second scenario goes in the direction of history and geography, but it is extremely demanding and supposes going completely outside the box. »

(Jolyon Howorth)

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2 thoughts on “Strategic autonomy. Recasting the Alliance around a European pillar (J. Howorth)"

  • Interesting idea but as Howorth says extremely demanding. In particular, the question of Turkey, which seems to be ignored by Howorth, must be settled.

  • Manuel Lopez Blanco

    Nothing new, repetitive banalities that we have heard from the side of the British, either Francophiles or Francophobes. Who cares, there is no equivalence between Francophile and Europhile.
    A copy, dinosaur, of the old school of geopoliticians who see in international relations only the military capacities of each other as well as the hysterical agitations of people like Erdogan or Putin. A thought that belongs to the years of the Cold War.

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