Why Europe needs to go strong on (its very) defence

19-2-19

Dear Partners in thought,

My generation has relied on Pax Americana and U.S. leadership in making the world safe for democracy and indeed the West, especially Europe throughout the Cold War and beyond. 

The younger generations, like the Millennials, not enjoying the same direct and indirect historical memory of World War II and the Cold War may not realise how key for peace and prosperity the Western Alliance and indeed NATO were for all of us year in year out so we could go on about our lives and building our own dreams.  

The Munich Security Conference this week (which my friends at Tortoise Media aptly described as “like Davos but for people who speak in three letter-acronyms (TLAs), have unusually detailed knowledge of Afghan mountain passes and CVs with suspicious gaps”) saw VP Mike Pence getting the frostiest of silences after offering Donald Trump’s best wishes to the participants, something which was repeated when he forcefully instructed Europeans to withdraw from the Iran deal. Only two people stood up to clap with excitement and admiration: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The contrast with Angela Merkel and her frank and unusually energetic assessment of the US approach to world affairs and its “America First” mantra, reminiscent of the 1930s and Charles Lindbergh, could not be more vivid as well as her exhortation for Europe to be the beacon of multilateralism in the world. 

While Joe Biden (which I hope will run, if only to offer a credible alternative against Trump in 2020, even for one term and to put things back on track if at all possible) and the legislative (Democratic) delegation stressed that they “will be back”, the time is now for the Europeans to take things in their own hands. They have for too long being complacent with their defence, relying too much on a benevolent America in what both sides saw as a win-win (which it was). While we should work with America when “it comes back” to its principles, Europeans should build their own defence and bear more of the costs of freedom when the Trump tragedy ends, hopefully in 2020. And regardless of what happens with Brexit, we should do so with our British friends, which combined with France, the other European defence player today, should lead the charge and ensure that Germany forgets its past and rise to the challenges of the day in building this crucial element of European strength and independence, together with the other 25 EU members states. Europe can no longer rely on America as Pax America is virtually dead now, as stated with sorrow by NYT’s Roger Cohen, but as America comes back, Europeans should act responsibly as strong and credible partners in the Atlantic Alliance in a true win-win way. This approach should start now with deeds and not only words. 

Warmest regards,

Serge 

PS: When I write that Germany should “forget its past” and rise to the challenge of the day, this is in the context of collective European defence in 2019. It is not about erasing its Nazi past from its national memory. Germany, the wealthiest EU nation, should meaningfully and at its level contribute to collective European defence. Germany should do so both in financial and actual military terms, something that it was always reluctant to do due to its militaristic past and while, under the American umbrella, it unwittingly channeled most resources to the building of its economic might, an area which admittedly has made the country as well as Europe strong at a different level.          

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