Europe did not need Vladimir Putin’s unexpected war on Ukraine to realize its dependence on the United States in its security matters.
It reminds me of the Balkans War in the 1990s. Through NATA’s active role in quelling the conflict, Europe would have been unable to address the situation effectively without American air support and boots on the ground.
A unique strategic relationship has evolved over decades following the US’s entry into the fray of the Second World War and the essential role it played in the defeat of the Nazis. There is an argument that as soon as Hitler decided to push east into the Soviet Union, he was a goner.
It sounds familiar with the West on one side and the Russians on the other. Only the Germans are now an intricate part of the confederacy of nations facing Moscow. Germany has also adjusted its military position and how it approaches security issues. It had no choice but to pull back from any actions that could be considered provocative following the Second World War.
Now the choice exists, and it is following the correct one: to ensure it plays a vital role in its security with its allies.
As it stands, the US is the dominant player.
NATO would not indulge in any military operation without US consent, whether in continental Europe or worldwide.
The recurrent European failure to develop institutional and operational capacities at the security level, divorced from American participation and influence, has accumulated the European feel of inferiority towards the US.
Washington has repeatedly exploited the European inability to install its independent security apparatuses. US administrations have recurrently attempted to divide Europe’s positions towards global affairs to preserve its dominance in one way or another.
Before Brexit, Washington targeted dragging London closer into its sphere of influence out with other European partners. American-British cooperation on several foreign policy issues has come at the expense of a unified European political position and, sometimes, military action.
The more European nations are divided on security issues, the more the US can extend its regional hegemony. Washington and London went into the 2003 Iraq invasion hand in hand, and despite the absence of a UN Security Council resolution needed to legitimize the military intervention. European countries did not support the invasion in any way.
Although the American-EU partnership has witnessed advanced stages of cooperation on several fronts, it remains perplexing why a rich continent with 500 million inhabitants relies on another state to preserve its security.
With Putin’s war on Ukraine, if anyone had doubts about the fragility of European security, now is the time to rest assured that he was wrong. Germany announced a $100 billion increase in military expenditure – a bold and unprecedented move. Others might follow suit as war comes knocking on European doors.
If Americans and Western Europeans have traditionally considered that their cultures are superior to others, this did not eliminate the fact that Europeans feel indebted to the US for the post World War II period when the decisive states of Europe were devastated and exhausted. Thus, they felt inferior to the US as a result.
Now Europe is at a crossroads. With challenges imposed by Putin’s unexpected military adventures, European leaders must make a crucial decision. Either the continent will remain hostage to America’s security and financial hegemony, or the time has arrived to develop its military and institutional mechanisms and frameworks.
When the Ukraine war ends, Europe will need to change tact depending on the new balance of power that will emerge. It must lose its inferiority complex towards the US and launch new strategic military policies that tackle threats against the continent.
With Macron shouting for a European Army, and a growing consensus for one, Washington will see its military and broader security influence on the continent diminish greatly.
Another factor is economic. Winston Churchill was highly pro-American, and as the British Empire crumbled, he had already seen the writing on the wall and viewed the US as the economic heavyweight to become the most significant ally. The UK dully did.
But as the EU continues to incorporate more member states, it is becoming an economic behemoth in its own right and one militarily capable of protecting itself without assistance from others.