Four years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron called on Europe to create “opportunities for autonomous solutions” to security problems.
Most European leaders did not take Macron’s idea seriously.
“We need to put an end to the illusions about European strategic autonomy,” German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp – Karrenbauer said at the time.
But after the withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition troops from Afghanistan, its position changed.
Last week, she said it was time to make “the European Union a player to be reckoned with.”
It is not alone in rethinking the future of transatlantic security.
European publications are full of columns of politicians and security advisers who advocate that the continent should become less dependent on Washington.
European leaders have condemned the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan on the orders of President Joe Biden as hasty and complained that Washington did not consult enough with NATO allies.
Even such a pro-American British politician as former Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the UK should strengthen its military partnership with Europe because in the United States, in his opinion, “there are now significant political restrictions on military intervention.”
However, there is no consensus in Europe about what should be understood by strategic autonomy.
Central European leaders are nervous about the weakening of any defense ties with Washington. They are still not sure that they can rely on Western Europeans in the event of a confrontation with Russia.
Skeptics doubt that Europe is really ready to bear the necessary costs to become a serious independent strategic player.
On average, EU countries spend about 1.2 percent of their GDP on defense. At the same time, Russia spends 4.3 percent, and the United States – 3.4 percent.
Lawrence Freedman, Professor Emeritus of military studies at King’s College London, suggested that the surge in the talk about European strategic autonomy is a hasty reaction.
“There is always a temptation to draw big geopolitical conclusions from individual events, but this is usually unwise, no matter how dramatic and disturbing they may be,” he said in a commentary for the Times of London this week.
According to him, the main strategic alliances of the United States in Europe and even in Asia have previously experienced many failures and disputes.
“These alliances are unlikely to be set aside because the Biden administration incorrectly conducted the final part of the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan,” he added.
Some diplomats suggest that the current talk about strategic autonomy will subside when the shock of the withdrawal of troops passes.
“However, it will take quite a long time for the West to recover from this, to restore our reputation, because this is a failure, a catastrophe for the West as a whole, and not just for the UK and the U.S.,” Kim Darroch, a former British ambassador to the U.S. and the EU, told the BBC.