0354 GMT January 19, 2022
European countries have been seeking to realize their dream of establishing a military capability independent of the United States for decades – this issue recently came under the spotlight after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban militant group and subsequent chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan.
During the tenure of former US president Donald Trump, Washington reached an agreement with the Taliban militants to end its longest war in its history. The deal resulted in US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and actually handing over the country to the militants with whom the US fought for 20 years.
Washington’s unilateral decision to pull out its troops plunged its European NATO allies into chaos and sparked Europe’s outrage. European officials tried to hide their anger over the issue but finally they complained the manner in which Washington chose to put an end to NATO’s long, fruitless and failed presence in Afghanistan.
The European countries denounced Washington for its refusal to consult with its allies about the withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan.
As the US’s most important military ally, Europe now wants to free itself from US dominance in order to handle the crises in which Washington does not want to be involved.
Days after the US evacuation from Afghanistan, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, in an interview with AFP, hinted at the EU’s need for the creation of an independent military force.
“Some countries are going to have to ask themselves questions about an American ally which doesn’t want to fight other people’s wars for them.”
“The Europeans don’t have a choice. We must organize ourselves to deal with the world as it is, and not the world that we dream of.”
The top European official pointed to the Afghanistan debacle as a case that has created a breakthrough.
He has urged the European Union to create a rapidly deployable force to deal with situations like that in Afghanistan in August, 2021, and subsequently reduce dependence on its unreliable ally.
EU military committee chairman, Claudio Graziano, has also pointed to the creation of such a military force, saying, “Now is the time to act”.
But the creation of such a military force has been facing obstacles in the continent for years as the European countries are reluctant to spend too much on defense programs.
It seems that France, one of the key policymakers in the European Union, is the main supporter of such a force in Europe, with President Emmanuel Macron recently talking about Europe’s “strategic autonomy”.
No matter how successful the French initiative would turn out to be, the move points at deep tensions between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
For years, the Western block of the group (the US, the UK, and France) kept the appearance of presenting a united front against the other two, Russia and China. The move, however, betrays the fragility of the Western block.
The French president had sounded the alarm months before tensions emerged between Europe and the US over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
During an Atlantic Council forum in February, he called on the European countries to raise their defense spending, saying that “the Middle East and Africa is our neighborhood, not the US’s.”
Macron, who wants to show the world that his country has not lost its global power, was critical of the fact that the European countries have no say in the big decisions being made on their own defense.
In fact, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which raised the ire of its European allies, was not the first time that Washington had put its interests first, ignoring its allies’ concerns.
In October 2019, former president Trump ordered the withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria, where US forces had been cooperating with French and British troops in their so-called war against the Daesh terrorist group. Following the US decision, France, which was a favorite target for Daesh terrorists in Europe, warned officials in the White House over the withdrawal from Syria and the resurgence of the terrorist group.
Another issue which has inflamed tensions between Europe and the US, and is prompting Europe to consider an independent military force, is a trilateral security alliance, dubbed AUKUS, unveiled by Australia last year.
In fact, the announcement of the alliance shocked France which was the main loser of this cooperation. The deal triggered an unprecedented diplomatic tension between the two countries.
Australia scrapped a $90-billion submarine program with France and instead signed a new contract with the US and UK for nuclear-powered submarines, under the framework of the AUKUS pact reached between the three countries.
In response, the EU announced its Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at boosting cooperation with the countries in that region.
Measures by the EU and remarks by its officials in recent months indicate that the European bloc is determined to establish its own military, but it’s hard to say how successful it would be.
* Javad Mohammad Ali is a staff writer at Iran Daily.