For better security, EU needs more unity and a global strategy
THE EUROPEAN Union plans to adopt a “Global Strategy” for its foreign and security policies (EGS) at its June 22 summit. The document is the result of years of reflection on the increasing complexity of Europe’s external relations and interconnections, writes World Review expert Dr. Uwe Nerlich.
A fundamental problem for the EU is that neither its individual member states nor the bloc as a whole possess the capacity and authority to react effectively to global threats. Europe’s individual nations may be indispensable, but none has the outreach and resources to act as a great power. The union has wide authority on specific global matters such as trade, but foreign affairs are kept outside its purview.
For Europe, the point of having a global strategy is to enable it to help shape the long-term conditions affecting the EU as a whole, while preserving the bloc’s advantages in global competition. The continent risks being overtaken by rivals able to project power globally – even on an individual, ad hoc basis. That means Europe must surmount internal differences to protect its economic, political, cultural and demographic identity.
The format diplomacy used to contain the Ukraine conflict and Iran’s nuclear program is one way to combine the weight of Europe’s leading nations with institutional heft of the entire EU – at least for as long as the United States refrains from “big-twoism” or unilateral action. Although it may seem paradoxical, the more European nations achieve a consensus on a common global orientation under EGS, the better their chances of preserving a strategic consensus with their counterparts in Washington.
The adoption of a European Global Strategy could help Europe recover some ability to take strategic action in its own interest – and that of nations inside and outside the EU. Europe is now facing a choice between renewed national assertiveness and the EU’s supranational sovereignty. The choice will weigh on Europe’s fluid identity, shaped by history and geography, and on the continent’s hope for future viability in an increasingly competitive global environment.
A global strategy for Europe, therefore, needs to be geared to the interplay of these various ambitions, which will hardly ever translate into a firm doctrine that prescribes policy decisions. Today’s unprecedented snarl of multiple crises underscores this more than any situation since the end of the Cold War.
Take the interlocking Middle East and migrant crises. To better control the migrant stream, the EU cut a tentative and controversial deal with Turkey. As part of its action plan, naval forces from other European NATO members would jointly patrol the Aegean Sea with Greek and Turkish warships. At the same time, Russian air bombardment of Aleppo in Syria threatens to increase the refugee flow – prompting the U.S. and Russia to agree on terms for a cease-fire. Yet Turkey continues to bomb Syrian Kurds allied with the anti-Islamic State coalition, while Russia has forward-deployed an air force contingent in Armenia, near the Turkish border.
An armed conflict between Turkey and Russia would change everything. Any request from Ankara for NATO Article 5 assistance would impose awkward choices on both the U.S. and Europe; the Russian deployments in Armenia are consequential in light of the delicate Turkish-American relationship.
The U.S. needs to be prepared to choose between its NATO commitment to Turkey and the need to include Russia in any Syrian settlement. President Lyndon Johnson’s (1963-1969) refusal back in 1964 to protect Turkey in the event of a Cyprus crisis with Russian involvement sticks in Turkish memories to this very day.
The EU, on the other hand, must balance its need for Turkish cooperation in reducing the migrant stream against the essential role Russian diplomacy must play in resolving the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.