Von der Leyen calls a summit with Macron to relaunch European defense after the Afghanistan fiasco

The world has entered a “new era of hyper-competitiveness“, marked by” regional rivalries “and in which some great powers (read China and Russia) are willing “to do whatever it takes to gain influenceWhether it’s promising vaccines and providing high-interest loans, or resorting to heavy weapons and misinformation. “ This is the crude diagnosis that Ursula von der Leyen made this Wednesday of the new world order after the Afghanistan debacle during the State of the Union address.

In this context of increasing polarization, the EU needs to relaunch its own common defense in order to guarantee its strategic autonomy and be able to intervene where the United States or NATO does not want to go. “Europe can (and clearly should) be able and willing to do more on its own,” says the President of the Commission. A greater independence that in his opinion is fully compatible with the Atlantic Alliance.

In this sense, Von der Leyen has announced the call together with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, of an extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government of the Twenty-seven in order to relaunch the European Defense Union. The meeting will take place during the first half of 2022, coinciding with the French presidency of the EU. “The time has come for Europe to go to the next level,” he explained.

In his opinion, the main problem now is not to define the strength of a possible European ArmyIt is about developing in the EU a will to act collectively, which has never existed in the past. “In the last few weeks, there have been a lot of discussions about military forces. About what kind and how many do we need: battalions or express-entry forces. This is certainly part of the debate and I think it will be part of the solution. But the most important problem is why this has not worked in the past, “said the president.

“We may have the most advanced forces in the world, but if we are never willing to use them, what are they for? What has held us back so far is the lack of political will. And if we develop that political will, there is a lot we can do at EU level, “says Von der Leyen. Specifically, the 27 should focus on improving intelligence cooperation, strengthening interoperability between military equipment and developing a European cyber defense policy.

NATO rejects a European Army

The fiasco in Afghanistan, where the Europeans were unable to guarantee the security of the Kabul airport after the United States left, has relaunched the debate on the creation of a European Army. The head of community diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has proposed launching a multinational rapid intervention force staffed with 5,000 soldiers. However, Europeans remain deeply divided on defense issues.

And it is that in terms of security and defense, the EU is divided into three camps. In the first place, there are the Member States that are firmly committed to European sovereignty, such as France or Spain. Others give more important to cooperation with NATO and the transatlantic relationship with the US, such as Germany or the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Finally, there is a group of neutral countries such as Austria, Finland or Malta. This division hinders any progress in the creation of the European Army.

In addition, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, has expressed its opposition to a European Army. “Any attempt to weaken the link between Europe and the United States will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe itself,” Stoltenberg said in an interview on the United States. New York Times.

“We have pressured the European allies to do more in defense, but not as an alternative but as part of NATO. Any attempt to establish parallel structures, to duplicate the command structure, will weaken our ability to work together because with scarce resources we must avoid duplication, “says Soltenberg.

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