The war in Ukraine mobilizes Europeans and frightens them in proportion to their identification with Ukrainians: would they be able to defend their territory and their independence in the event of military aggression and invasion by Russia? In the field of defence, the Europeans are not sovereign. Since 1949, they have chosen to be defended by NATO, of which only one member is able to dissuade the USSR and then Russia from attacking or invading European territory: the United States of America. The nuclear strike forces which the United Kingdom and France have acquired are likely to deter an attack on their respective national territories, but not on the territory of the rest of the European Union (EU).
→ READ. Why the nuclear threat agitated by Vladimir Putin is worrying
From Mitterrand to Macron, France is the EU’s most ardent promoter of a European security and defense policy. Since the Treaty of Maastricht, this has taken the form of several public policies and thirty civil-military operations. But this ESDP is not designed with the aim of putting an end to the choice to depend on the United States to ensure the defense of European territory within the framework of this military alliance that is NATO.
Does Russia’s invasion of Ukraine challenge this seven-decade-old collective preference? At the same time as the Twenty-Seven are showing cohesion in their support for Ukraine and their sanctions weakening Russia, their response is the subject of vigorous debate among them. Some Member States consider that the war confirms the raison d’être and the necessity of NATO. These include, from South to North, Romania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In Finland and Sweden, people are now considering applying for NATO membership to protect themselves from the expansionism and militarism of the Russian state.
→ GRANDSTAND. “How Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal”
It is remarkable that a debate is currently developing in Poland and in the three Baltic countries on the relevance of intervening militarily, in one way or another, alongside the Ukrainians to fight against the Russian attacks – the establishment of ‘a no fly zone, for example. For the promoters of this option, the Europeans must stop Putin by force to make his imperialism too dangerous and too costly. However, the Russian government could view this as a declaration of war and bomb EU territory in return. The paradox is therefore that this position is only possible with the prior agreement of the Biden administration, since it would commit the United States within the framework of NATO’s article 5 mutual assistance.
A European defense policy
For other EU countries, this war demonstrates on the contrary that the Europeans must be able to determine their defense policy independently within the framework of their alliance with the United States. France, Spain and Greece, in particular, support this position. The novelty is that Germany too. Angela Merkel had declared that Europeans must now take their destiny into their own hands: faced with the unpredictability, contradictory actions and flippancy of Donald Trump, Europeans could no longer be sure that the United States would be their allies. Macron, for his part, declared NATO “brain dead”.
Faced with the invasion of Ukraine, Olaf Scholz, the new Chancellor, decided to make defense a massive German budgetary priority. He also, like the French president and the president of the European Commission, weighed in with all his weight for the EU to supply Ukraine with 500 million to one billion euros worth of offensive and lethal weapons.
At the same time, the Europeans adopted their “strategic compass”: the fruit of two years of development, this document aims to define the vital and strategic interests of the EU as such and the industrial and military arrangements capable of guarantee some without depending on the United States – whose internal politics the Europeans, by definition, do not control. In particular, it is necessary to aim in the long term for capabilities that will deter Russia from any plan of aggression or invasion of EU territory.
The part of the EU that is pushing the fires of European sovereignty in the field of defense is also the part for which a military intervention in Ukraine is a romantic option: while Ukraine is not part of the territory of the EU, intervening would only add war to war and increase European dependence on US military protection and industry.
→ MAINTENANCE. EU: “To drop Ukraine would be a sign of cowardice”
Conversely, in this representation, the massive sanctions which deprive the Russian economy and State of the resources of globalization on the one hand, and the sending of combat weapons to Ukraine which is resisting the invasion of on the other hand, crystallize a European sovereignty already there: for thirty years the EU has achieved a high degree of autonomy by defining a large part of the rules, standards and purposes of globalization, and by living in peace on its expanding territory. For the past month, Europe has been using these specific capabilities to establish a balance of power and roll back a militarist and imperialist state that threatens it directly – Mr. Putin’s Russia. If it succeeds in this end, we can say that European sovereignty was born in the war between Russia and Ukraine.