MOSCOW, 24 Sep 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the holding of a special European Union defence summit in 2022. It will be organised in France, which will become a head of the EU in the first half of 2022. According to Leyen, “it’s time for Europe to move to a higher level” in order to “protect itself from cyber attacks and to act at places where there is no NATO and the UN, and to manage crises in a timely manner.”
The European Union has tried four times to agree on a decision to create its own army, but all four times it failed to do so because of the difference in the positions of the 27 EU member states. France is more interested in the success of the project than others, since it has serious foreign policy ambitions, and after Brexit it remains the only European country with nuclear weapons, which will automatically lead it to the first roles in the EU army. In other words, Paris will become in it the same as Washington in NATO.
If we proceed from today’s realities, then the Europeans may succeed for the fifth time. Firstly, the US’ withdrawal of its military contingent from Afghanistan showed that the Americans intend to focus on the security of their country. This means that it will become much more difficult for other states to convince Washington to perceive threats to their national security as directly affecting the United States. Since, according to Washington, its main priority today is China, the Americans will offer their allies to be more active and solve their problems themselves.
Secondly, the EU was strongly and unfavourably impressed by the recent story of Australia’s termination of the contract with France for the supply of 12 submarines, which fell on the creation of the AUKUS defence alliance by the Australians, the British and the Americans. The conflict, the instigator of which Paris considers to be Washington, today begins to grow from a dispute about submarines to talk about the “death of NATO”.
French President Emmanuel Macron already spoke about the large-scale crisis of the North Atlantic Alliance several years ago in the context of the unilateral approaches of then US President Donald Trump to Turkish President Recep Erdogan. But now it turns out that Joe Biden is no better, and that distancing from European NATO allies is a strategic concept of the United States.
Thus, France has prospects to convince the EU member states that they all need a European army, because the North Atlantic Alliance is no longer working. What does this portend for Russia?
To begin with, Paris will have to convince such anti-Russian countries as Poland and the Baltic republics to join the project. In return, they will demand that the constituent agreement on the creation of the European army identify the factor of the “Russian threat” and the need to confront it.
In addition, Poland and Lithuania, as the main ringleaders in this Russophobic ensemble, will have chances to drag Ukraine into the European army, which is not yet allowed to join NATO. The Americans will also convince the Europeans of the need to defend themselves against a “possible Russian invasion” in order to exclude any prospect of a rapprochement between Europe and Russia.
The European army will need its own developed military-industrial sector for strategic autonomy. This is a huge amount of money that will have to be taken out of the pockets of taxpayers. In this case, European governments and industrialists will want to recapture some of the spent money.
The military-industrial complex of the European Union will begin to work more actively in foreign markets, competing for new contracts. Accordingly, the EU will use all its available resources to win tenders for supplies, which threatens the interests of Russian defence workers.
As a result, a paradoxical situation may arise when an amorphous NATO will be more preferable for Moscow than a European army cleansed of American influence. Today, the North Atlantic Alliance is in any case subordinate to Washington, which is withdrawing from Europe and concentrating around China.
However, the Europeans do not automatically become easier partners for Moscow. It is enough to look at the behaviour of Paris in Africa. As soon as Russia began to return to the Black Continent, one problem after another with the French arrived. Recently, another aggravation occurred in Mali, where the Paris government issued an ultimatum not to cooperate with Russian PMCs.
These circumstances should be taken into account. The question is how much time is left for Moscow. The fact that the EU member states have not been able to agree among themselves so far should not lull us. It seems that after Afghanistan and the formation of the AUKUS bloc, German politicians, who had previously hesitated during discussions about creating a European army, made a difficult decision to support the project. This means that Russia faces new serious challenges in the foreseeable future.