[Verbatim] Faced with global uncertainty: Europe must arm itself with tools of sovereignty

(B2) Does Europe have a future in a tormented world with the return of war in Europe, the birth of a serious economic crisis and the emergence of non-Western powers? Bruno Dupré is convinced that Yes. Provided that it transforms, relies on instruments of force and commits to renovating multilateralism.

Return to Toulon of the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier (Photo: DICOD / French Navy – B2 Archives)
  • Bruno Dupré is Defense and Security Advisor at the General Secretariat of the EEAS, the European diplomatic service. He intervened in Toulon during the strategic meetings of the Mediterranean in Toulon, at the end of September, organized by the FMES.

times of uncertainty

“We are in a great moment of uncertainty. An uncertainty about the war in Ukraine, about European unity, about the world economy, about the balance of power between the great powers, about the positioning of the countries of the South.

Ukraine's Least Credible Scenario Gains Ground

The least credible scenario in February, the victory of Ukraine, is no longer impossible. If Ukraine did not win the war. Russia has somehow already lost it, as the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said. But there remains a major uncertainty: can Russian President Vladimir Putin accept defeat? There is a significant risk for Europe, as we see today, of an uncontrollable escalation on European territory with general mobilization, the nuclear threat, or sabotage as on the gas pipeline Nord Stream connecting Germany to Russia in September.

The incredible European unit tested this winter

“There is also uncertainty about European unity. What has happened since February is incredible. We have witnessed an incredible unity, unique in the history of the European Union, with several packages of sanctions, three billion euros to finance armaments, 19 billion in all including financial aid. Russian President [Vladimir] Putin thought that the European Union would not dare: the Europeans would not dare to deliver armaments, would not dare to free themselves from the Russian energy grip. We dared! Yet unity is a fragile thing and we can already see how much it is tested within the EU. The moment of truth arrives with winter. »

Economic uncertainty

“Three cycles are confirmed: inflation, stagflation, recession. But is it an economic, financial or more structural crisis of capitalism as it exists today? The social house is burning, that of solidarity. And we look elsewhere. »

Power relations that seek each other between the great powers

“A strong alliance seems to be emerging between China and Russia (Russia is becoming a Eurasian continent). But is this alliance sustainable? Is it in our interest to antagonize China, treating it as a mere systemic rival as some are pushing us to do? Should we, even if Russia plunges us every day a little more into horror, break off all dialogue with Moscow, and let Russia drift towards Asia? » Basic points. “Especially since the 2024 elections in Russia as in the United States, and the XXe Congresses in China this year, suggest profound changes… Without it being possible to say in what direction. »

A wait-and-see South

"We were shocked to see the lack of support from countries in the South for the vote at the UN (with 40 countries opposing or abstaining), countries sometimes kept at arm's length by the EU for more 50 years” in General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia's attack on Ukraine, and the annexation of four oblasts. “Is it any wonder? This is not their war they say. And they are more concerned with the consequences than with the causes, accusing the Europeans of colonialism or their racism. Shouldn't we above all listen instead of trying to convert. Because despite everything that separates us from the South, we still share something strong: multilateralism. The South does not condemn multilateralism. The principle of "one nation, one voice" is for him the only way to be heard. »

A great opportunity for Europe

This time of uncertainty, of calling into question the concepts of democracy, sovereignty, capitalism and multilateralism is also a “tremendous opportunity” for Europe to “renovate itself”. An opportunity "to be less naive, more autonomous, clearer in the values ​​we defend and more effective in our determination not to be the playground of the great powers".

The beginnings of Europe in geopolitics

Get out of the logic of the check

“Europe is in its infancy of geopoliticization. Until now, it has mainly done humanitarian aid and development. He needs to make a full turn. There is a lot of work at the level of the European institutions to get out of a logic of checks and move towards the logic of the balance of power. Europe must emerge from the fog of peace. Because we are in economic, financial, commercial, military, systemic war. »

Reduce vulnerabilities

“We need to reduce our vulnerabilities, our dependencies in all key, sensitive sectors. Not only in the military, but also in critical sectors: space, energy, digital, transport, health. We must develop a common culture – as with the strategic compass”, the white paper on security and defense of the European Union adopted in March 2022. “Because these are all catalysts for an alignment of our policies, our values ​​and of our interests. It is very important to have a narrative: without a narrative there is no political vision and without a political vision there is no future. »

Acquire sovereignty tools

Not being naive, reducing dependencies, “this does not mean a Fortress Europe or protectionism”. Rather, it means "acting collectively whenever possible and autonomously whenever necessary." And having the tools for it. Europe has started work with the "control of foreign investments in European territory, the possibility of adopting anti-coercion measures, new industrial policies (rare materials, critical raw materials) or the protection of the internal market (surveillance of supply chains, strategic reserves, emergency reallocation of production capacities), etc. »

The new lithium battle

A leading example! “Lithium will soon be more important than gas. The problem is that a single country (China) controls almost the entire market. However, we must avoid a situation of dependence as currently on gas or oil”. Work is underway at European level with “agreements to be ratified with Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, those to be 'advanced' with Australia and India. »

European DNA: multilateralism

“We have to rely on our DNA: multilateralism. This is the heart of the values ​​of the EU, with respect for territorial sovereignty, the rule of law, human rights, the separation of powers. […] But current multilateralism has had its day. The UN Security Council no longer represents the global balance of power, the Development Goals (SDGs) are ineffective, [giving way] to mini-lateralism (G7, G20). It is up to us to renovate this multilateralism, to put in place a reformed political system which will govern international relations tomorrow. »

(Comments collected by Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, in Toulon)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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