The two-day NATO leaders’ meeting just ended in London, UK. It coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO. The theme of the summit should have been “show unity” and set the direction. However, it conveyed the “Europe and the United States” “And other discordant voices have cast a thick shadow on European and American security and defense cooperation and the future development of NATO.
The differences between France and the United States and the gap between Europe and the United States
At present, the focus of the “Europe and the United States” is mainly focused on the differences between France and the United States, and the fight between French President Macron and US President Trump. In response to U.S. unilateral withdrawal of troops from northern Syria, Macron publicly criticized the lack of coordination and cooperation within NATO, claiming that NATO was in a “brain dead” state. French Secretary of Defense Parry accuses the United States of America not to force NATO members to buy US-made weapons. Trump was greatly annoyed by this, saying that Macron’s NATO “brain-death” remarks were “very bad” and “rude.”
Apart from the French-US disputes at the national level, the differences between Europe and the United States on the NATO issue are also very obvious. France and Germany have always advocated the establishment of a common European independent defense force, while the United Kingdom and some small Central and Eastern European countries have relied on the United States-led NATO to maintain European security.
In view of the strengthening of European independent defense forces, it will greatly threaten the core interests and influence of the United States in Europe. The Trump administration of the United States has started from three aspects to exert pressure on European NATO members in order to succumb to the United States. Take orders from and benefit the United States.
First, the United States continues to create the “Russian threat theory”, which makes European countries worry and even fear. In order to grab Central and Eastern European countries, the United States “shows muscles” to these countries through NATO military exercises, so that they understand that only the United States can guarantee their security.
Second, the United States, on the grounds of “sharing responsibilities” and “expanding in combat readiness”, demanded that European allies such as Germany pay for themselves “from Russia.” At present, many NATO member states, such as Germany, have made compromises, reducing the annual NATO share of the United States from 22% to 16%, and the remaining holes are mainly filled by Germany.
Third, the United States continues to force NATO members to buy its weapons under the pretext of the Russian threat. This method of “blackmailing” arms sales has made the United States tried a lot in recent years, and Japan, South Korea, India, and European countries Denmark have all been “generous.”
Germany is awkward
In response to the US government’s “one stone, three birds” strategy, Macron took the lead in the NATO leadership meeting. In addition to claiming that NATO was “brain dead”, he also emphasized that Russia is no longer an enemy of NATO and called on NATO members to contact Russia. Only the EU-Russia dialogue can ensure the security of the European continent.
Macron’s remarks can be described as far-sighted, and also contain France’s strategic intention to lead the construction of European security and defense forces. From the perspective of the defense forces of the major Western European powers, Britain’s military strength is not as good as before, and it will be further discounted after Brexit. Germany’s defense force is very limited and subject to the relevant provisions of the Federal Basic Law, it is unlikely to expand its armament vigorously. Therefore, the backbone of European security and defense is France. France’s existing military strength dominates Europe. In addition, it has always pursued an independent foreign policy, and it is not surprising to stand up against the United States. In addition, the French government has a potential plan to sell French weapons to European allies, and is reluctant to see the United States monopolize the European arms market.
Judging from the proportion of NATO’s military budget, Germany and many Central and Eastern European countries have now made concessions to the United States. Does this mean that European countries will make greater compromises with the United States in the future?
Some people say that Germany’s concession was to hold back the United States and avoid dismissing NATO at this time. Because Germany’s economic development is now stagnant, and France’s pull in Germany to establish European independent defense also wants Germany to pay for it. As a result, Germany has chosen a more realistic approach to security issues, that is, concessions to the United States. This view is not unreasonable, but it is not comprehensive.
As far as the German leader Merkel is concerned, it is the German-French consensus to work with France to build an independent European security and defense system. But in the face of the aggressive high-pressure policy of the US government, except that the government has relatively sufficient funds, Germany does not have the same capital as the United States. The German government knows that advancing the building of European security and defense forces is a long-term goal, which cannot be achieved overnight.
Germany is restricted by its arms expansion clauses, and it cannot match France in many military research and development projects. The ambitious Macron has a lot of talk, but lacks research and development funds. Germany really wants to participate in the construction of European independent defense forces, and it is difficult to act as a core leader. It can only play a leading role in military spending. Therefore, it is a temporary “wise move” to choose to compromise with the United States. After all, NATO’s current annual military budget is only $ 2.5 billion, and Germany’s full commitment is not a big problem.
How to go for European and American defense cooperation
In addition to the European and American fighting methods and European internal strife at the NATO London Summit, there is another issue worthy of attention involving China. For the first time, the summit included “China’s Rise” as a formal topic, discussed how European and American nations responded to China’s “growing influence,” and formally approved the inclusion of space in NATO defense. This point precisely reflects the strategic intention of the United States. Like creating the “Russian threat theory”, the United States is determined to introduce the “challenges and threats brought by China” into the NATO agenda. This will undoubtedly give the “rare” NATO a reason to continue to exist, and it will also help the United States draw NATO into Europe. Member countries curb China to create conditions. We should be alert to this.
What kind of relationship will Europe and the United States form in defense cooperation in the future? It may depend on several related elements.
First, whether France and Germany can work together to firmly advance the building of European independent defense forces. For the time being, Macron is ambitious but unable to bear huge military expenditures; Merkel has a consensus but is unwilling to spend huge sums of money and is not willing to over-stimulate the United States. If the French-German axis cannot be united, the European common defense system will be difficult to build.
Second, can the independent defenses led by the United States and NATO be mutually dependent and complementary. If Europe and the United States are jealous of each other in addressing security issues such as the “Russian threat”, the gap may also deepen, and NATO and the European independent defense system may become independent.
Third, in the long run, it is inevitable that European countries will gradually get rid of US and NATO control. Only when NATO truly builds a common security and defense system and can independently safeguard its own interests will NATO end its life.