The European Union member states need to define their relationship with the U.S. To do that, they should be clearer about what they want.
It may be understandable that France canceled a meeting that it had planned with the U.S., Great Britain and Germany during the U.N. General Assembly meeting, in the aftermath of the conflict over the Indo-Pacific security agreement. Emmanuel Macron’s administration is again demonstrating how upset Paris is about the diplomatic damage and loss of the deal to sell submarines. The French are thus raising the price for potential compensation on the diplomatic trading floor.
It would have been more reasonable, however, to reach an agreement with the British and Americans. Then the European representatives from Germany and France could have confronted the U.S. about its contradictory foreign policy.
Europe Has No Shared Response
When U.S. President Joe Biden called in his speech before the United Nations for joint action, for instance to combat climate change, France and Germany could then have reminded him of the lack of cooperation in the Afghanistan withdrawal and in the shared strategy for ending the COVID-19 crisis. That would, however, require the Europeans to want to do it.
The Europeans still have not found a shared response to the Biden administration’s policies. Biden wants to reverse some of his predecessor Donald Trump’s policies, but he does not want to return to the time before Trump. He also does not want to get bogged down in the details. He wants to revive multilateralism and is thus committing to the U.N. and NATO. But during it all, Washington is choosing its partners according to the issue at hand.
The Europeans are no longer the most important allies, as they once were; they are now one partner among many. Europe’s security is still relevant to Washington, but Biden’s administration is more focused on limiting China’s influence. And that explains why the alliance with Great Britain and Australia was more important to the U.S. than the dispute with France and its European partners.
Europe Is Able To Defend Itself Militarily
Germany and the other European Union member states would thus do well to finally accept this changed role and to interpret it to fit their own interests. They should conduct the debate over greater strategic autonomy not only verbally, but also by executing it in practical policies.
Europeans do not need to be anxious about doing this. In the conflict with the Trump administration about tariffs, the EU members maintained a surprisingly united front. The same can be said for the Brexit negotiations with London. And they do not need to worry about a gap in security. Europe is in a place to be able to defend itself militarily — including with help from the U.S. and NATO.
Instead, the Europeans should combine their military forces to avoid duplicating equipment and thus incurring unnecessary costs. They will need all available means to continue to combat climate change and execute the necessary reconfiguration of the economy in a socially responsible way.
Europe Needs To Define Common Goals
Here, too, they are on the right path with their agreement on climate change. But it is already clear now that the agreement will have to be expanded to be able to make the transition in transportation, agriculture and industry, and to become climate-neutral as soon as possible.
In addition, the Europeans need to develop a joint strategy regarding China. It will not be sufficient to just continue trade relations with Beijing and turn a blind eye to China’s occasionally aggressive foreign policy or its dehumanizing treatment of the Uighurs. One does not have to react as harshly as the Biden administration and essentially portray China as the new enemy. After all, climate protection is only possible with Beijing on board.
But the EU member states need to define common goals for a joint foreign policy. They are far from this. At present, different capitals follow distinct strategies. But that weakens the EU as a whole. Beijing can play the various countries against each other. The same can be said for the Biden administration, which is looking for partners for its projects. If the EU members want to be immune to that, they need to adopt a joint stance.