Paris – The Ukrainian crisis intensified the international geopolitical blocs, and accelerated security and strategic challenges, especially for the European Union, whose war is taking place on its land and borders, and European countries found themselves for the first time since World War II between the jaws of the pliers of direct Russian military threats and the great economic challenges that threaten their social, political and diplomatic stability .
As a step to confront these geostrategic challenges, regional blocs and security threats, the heads of state and government of the European Union ratified a few days ago the “Strategic Compass” document for security and defense, which aims to enhance the bloc’s military presence with the return of war to Europe.
The document includes the establishment of a rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 soldiers who can be quickly deployed in case of crisis, and seeks to strengthen the European Union’s security and defense policy by 2030.
Regarding these challenges and strategic defense security questions and several other issues related to the repercussions of the Russian war on Ukraine, Al Jazeera Net interviews the international expert and head of the European Institute for Foresight and Security Emmanuel Dupuy, who specializes in European security issues and international relations, and was a prominent political advisor to the French forces in Afghanistan, and this Dialogue text.
To what extent is the Russian war on Ukraine a real existential threat to the European Union?
I think the threats exist, especially on the eastern side of Europe, but the first direct threat remains to Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia, and the threats also include countries that share borders with and neighboring Ukraine, such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
All of these countries are exposed to the effects of the Russian war on Ukraine and vulnerable to a Russian invasion at any time, as was the case for Georgia in 2008.
In the same context, we should not forget also Europe’s partners and neighbors from the Caucasus countries, such as Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the European Union countries that are not members of NATO, such as Finland and Sweden.
In sum, the Russian invasion of Ukraine deepened the security question for Europe, and re-established the relationship of European countries with Russia since the fall of the former Soviet Union.
After the European Union countries ratified the “Strategic Compass” document for security and defense, do you think it will guarantee the security of the Union countries in the face of the challenges facing Europe?
The strategic compass is not its mission to strengthen European defense, but its mission is to make European countries feel the importance of Europe’s unified defense agenda and strategy, as well as to explain the real security threats facing Europe until 2030, and push it to complete independence from Russia and think seriously to confront these security challenges and devise future solutions to them. The European Union has been aware of direct Russian threats since 2013, but it did nothing about these threats and did not prevent the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and here comes the importance of the strategic compass and the enactment of a serious defense policy for the countries of the Union.
But will this “strategic compass” actually achieve the security independence of Europe?
No, it is only a strategy because there is no European army, and it will only become effective when European countries realize this delay in defense policy, and realize the importance of creating a practical defense force in order to face challenges, and Russia is not the only challenge today.
The strategic compass is not an answer to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but an answer to all the security and strategic challenges posed to the European Union, such as terrorism, immigration, the energy crisis, cyber wars and the rising economic powers.
The strategic compass will contribute to the adoption and creation of a strategic identity for all European countries alike, and this does not exist now.
What is your opinion of those who see that this strategic security step came much later compared to the international geopolitical changes that the world has witnessed since the end of the Cold War?
It must be taken into account that this strategic compass is the result of several steps and previous European policies that are heading in the same direction for a unified defense policy.
The first step was in 2003, when a European defense strategy was voted on, then the steps were developed. In 2013, work was done to develop the first step through the “Solana Document”, which was in the era of European Union foreign policy representative Javier Solana at that period.
So, as a result, we see that the strategic compass is not completely new, but rather is an advanced stage of previous projects dating back 50 years, but the only difference is that European countries did not see the need to establish an independent defense force and a clear security strategy, especially with the presence of NATO, which was He believes that any European defense strategy should be carried out from within NATO and not from outside it.
Therefore, I do not think that this strategic compass came late, but rather the contexts and challenges that have changed. The wars that the European Union fought 10 years ago are not the same wars today, so the compass has evolved to emerge in its current form.
Can the establishment of the European military force be considered a strengthening of NATO’s strength, or a merciful shot at it that embodies President Macron’s statement last year, in which he declared NATO’s clinical death?
First, President Macron’s statement and his acknowledgment of the clinical death of NATO must be contextualized for that period. Today, the historical stage has changed after February 24, the date of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Today, NATO is in its strongest state as a result of the Ukrainian crisis, and it is moving and presenting the evidence that it is an important military force, as it has placed 40,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian borders, and has 120 warplanes ready to take off from aircraft carriers, and there are 100,000 soldiers on all European soil, With an additional 10,000 troops from the United States on high alert.
On the other hand, it should be noted that NATO is not an independent organization, but rather a group of states united and mutually supportive of a specific defense policy. Therefore, strengthening the defense policy of Europe is also a force multiplier for NATO and not against it. There are no two different positions for European countries and NATO, but there is a consensus Full in the positions and in the defense policy of both sides.
Is the military independence that Europe is planning capable of making it achieve political independence from the United States and diplomatic dependency on it?
On paper, this is possible, because the goal is for Europe to be less dependent on American weapons and equipment, but the strategic independence of the European Union must go through the development of the union’s technological capabilities and industrial capacity in the field of arms, and this fact has not yet been achieved on the ground.
The second thing is the inability of European countries to be satisfied with the European market in their military equipment, as most of the Union countries buy weapons from the United States, and the most prominent example of this is the orders made by Germany a few days ago regarding the purchase of American F-35 aircraft. 35), while it is an active partner with France and Spain in the “Scaf” project for the manufacture of warplanes.
Therefore, the inability to achieve defensive independence leads to a lack of political and diplomatic independence, because when you buy American weapons, there is a binding clause in the sales contract that requires the buyer to use this weapon only with the approval of the selling country, and not to export it to other countries, and thus the condition of political and diplomatic independence is negated. .
How do you read the strong return of Germany in the arms market and the exit from the state of neutrality it has taken since the end of World War II?
I think that the strong German re-armament constitutes a real problem for France, because Germany is now outperforming its defense budget, which amounted to 52 billion euros this year, over the French defense budget, which is around 50 billion euros.
In addition, Germany has decided to triple its defense budget for the next two years, by allocating 100 billion euros to them, and this means that it will continue to stockpile and purchase weapons with a strong frequency, especially from the United States, which is at the same time a weapons-producing country.
Therefore, German arms manufacturers have become day after day the biggest competitor to the French companies specialized in this field, and in light of the presence of many German-French joint projects such as “Scaff” and “Airbus”, this competition is expected to create future political crises between Germany and France.
Can the massive military support and armaments of the United States and Europe to Ukraine, as well as the influx of Western European fighters into Kyiv, be considered an undeclared World War III?
I do not agree with this point of view, and I do not consider that we are facing a third world war, even in an indirect way, the world war will be between the states and Russia, and we do not see this on the ground, in addition to that these two countries do not want this war, and this does not mean that what is happening Today on the Ukrainian territory is not a devastating, dangerous and touching war.
I believe that all world powers are doing everything in order not to turn the Ukrainian crisis into a major world war outside the Ukrainian territory.
On the other hand, we can talk about a global cold war, geo-strategic blocs, and confrontations at the economic, diplomatic and political levels.
Is the nuclear scenario on the table today in the Ukrainian crisis? What is its danger and consequences if it occurred?
I do not think that the nuclear scenario is on the table today in the Ukrainian crisis. Even if Russia says that it has put its nuclear forces on alert, it will not risk using this deadly weapon.
Nuclear weapons are a strategic weapon for the great powers, and it is a means of achieving geopolitical balance rather than a military weapon that can be used at any time, and Russia knows this, so its statement about nuclear weapons is a political maneuver and a warning to other powers not to cross the red lines set by Russia in its battle with Ukraine.
And if this nuclear weapon is used, it is simply the end of the universe. This weapon has existed for decades in some countries, but no one dares to use it no matter how tense and complicated international relations are, because whoever uses it will sign its end and its demise before the end of his enemy and the end of the universe.