Now is the time for defense Europe to step on the accelerator. Europe – it is already known – is built through threat, and this time the fear is that the European Union will be left out of the geopolitical table opened by Vladimir Putin directly with Joe Biden on the question of Ukraine. The Kremlin’s fantasy is to return to an anachronistic post-war scenario in which the old power shared spheres of influence with the United States, and incidentally to make it clear that Washington is in charge, not Brussels, when the security of the United States is being discussed. Europe.
The EU’s concern is justified. The ambition of a strategic sovereignty set by Emmanuel Macron as one of the axes of the French presidency is put to the test in the meetings in which Washington overshadows the EU diplomatic service. The wake-up call was given by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, with a visit of strong symbolic significance to Ukraine, where the head of community diplomacy spoke clearly to the Kremlin: it is not possible to pretend to solve the strategic issues that affect Europe “Without counting on the Europeans.” But the bilateral format of the talks between Washington (and to some extent, NATO) and Moscow, which takes place this week, has been imposed by Putin to divide the transatlantic community and to bypass Europe. In that discussion, “beyond Ukraine, the entire European security architecture is at stake,” in Borrell’s words.
Although this vacuum is the responsibility of the Kremlin, in Brussels it would be advisable not to tear its clothes before looking up, because the truth is that Europe today is not in a position to defend itself and Putin knows it. The fear that Biden will leave the Union out as it happened with the departure from Afghanistan is justified, but the alert of the presence of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border came from Washington – which does not share a neighborhood with Russia.
Although Borrell is correct in saying that “any discussion on European security must involve the EU and Ukraine,” the opinion of the 27 has not always been unanimous. It is difficult to act as a bloc when divided by disagreements on how to deal with Russia. The position now is one of unity in the face of fear, but for different reasons. France wants to create a defense policy in Europe, and the Baltic countries and Poland fear that Biden will agree to something with Putin against them.
Half a year ago the club of 27 was horrified by the Franco-German proposal to open channels of communication with Russia. So Angela Merkel and Macron had to back down. Now, part of the neglect of the community institutions also occurs because both Paris and Berlin send diplomats to speak with Moscow in private while the High Representative asks for a single voice in his dialogue with Russia. But, as long as there is no common position in Europe, it is strange that Germany or France itself – which is the main military power on the continent and has always defended dialogue with Russia for historical and geographical reasons – have to wait for Lithuania’s consent to talk to Russia. The crisis with Ukraine may have served to make the 27 begin to accept the importance of maintaining a strong position in foreign policy and the urgent development of a strategic sovereignty that will avoid again catching Europe on the wrong foot.