Any European Defense Union has a problem the size of Turkey

A view of the Barracuda submarine in Cherbourg, western France, in an archive photo. [AP]

The AUKUS security pact has clearly served as a wake-up call for many leaders of the European Union. While the contents of the deal took many by surprise, the geostrategic pivot of the United States to Asia, and, more shocking to many, the cold shoulder given to the EU should not have been a surprise. .

The EU has still failed to show a tiny spark of dynamism in its security planning despite several serious challenges in recent years – be it Belarus and its blatant disregard and habitual international law, the civil war in Libya or the maneuvers of Turkey. in the eastern Mediterranean.

The call of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, for the creation of a European Defense Union is not new. This is only the latest in a long series of calls for a common European defense policy, or even a European army (despite the significant obstacles this project would face). However, her words also ring a little hollow because the “lack of political will” that she denounced exists even among the highest echelons of the European project.

Even the quickest of glances reveals that the EU faces potential risks to its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the unstable regions of the north-east and south-east. In either case, the volatility comes from two countries that don’t hesitate to rock the boat in what they see as their respective backyards, the Russian Federation and Turkey. However, the two situations are very different due to NATO’s presence and mission.

The vast majority of EU countries are also part of NATO, with 21 EU members also part of the Alliance. Even the traditionally neutral Sweden is moving closer to NATO membership under pressure from Russia. This is a practical alliance for the EU, as it provides security while forcing the US to do the heavy lifting, a convenience that EU member states may regret in the future, however. .

However, the key question is what position the EU takes when Greece and Cyprus, two EU member states, are threatened by a country that is part of NATO, and the US military is not. not involved. Currently, its position remains ambivalent at best. There are of course many reasons for this ambivalence, whether it concerns the question of refugees (which will only be exacerbated by the situation in Afghanistan), historical and economic links dating back to the 19th century, or even political maneuvering and complacency.

The EU had the opportunity to take decisive action in 2020 to take up the NATO mantra and affirm the conviction that a threat to one is a threat to all. Only France, the real loser of the AUKUS agreement in many respects, has taken a decisive step in favor of the defense of the EU by deploying significant forces in the region to deter any hostile posture. Unless the leadership of the EU as a whole is able to resolve its internal conflict over which position it should maintain against a hostile Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, any word on a common European defense union will remain. hollow.

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