With AUKUS, Biden has given Europe a tough lesson in RealpolitikGerard Baker

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Emmanuel Macron with Joe Biden ahead of a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Cornwall earlier this year.  Photo: AFP
Emmanuel Macron with Joe Biden ahead of a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Cornwall earlier this year. Photo: AFP

Do you remember the terrible moment in the transatlantic relationship when Donald Trump shook Emmanuel Macron’s hand so hard that his arm almost fell off?

Happy days.

The governments of the European Union and their media supporters could not contain their joy when Joe Biden was elected president. “The Grown Ups are Back in Charge in Washington”, announced a jubilant headline at the end of November in the Financial Times, the European establishment’s body, which, as usual, channels the Paris-Brussels-Berlin worldview.

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There would be no more unpredictable unilateralism from a half-mad Republican president who had behaved so abominably in the face of the superior intellect and table manners of America’s European allies. The liberal international order would be saved by a new, deeper community between the United States and the European Union.

A special bonus for the European elites was that the British would finally get their support. After all those years of talking about the “special relationship” between London and Washington, Boris Johnson, who was seen by both Democrats and Europeans as a more comical version of Trump, would be frozen by the new president.

Ten months later, what would President Macron not give to an American president whose main crime seems to have been an overly macho handshake and a penchant for calling European leaders “nasty”?

The Biden administration apparently gained energy from their diplomatic triumph in implementing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and last week found a new way of appalling the European allies whom they claim to regard as their quick friends.

Flanked by video screens in the White House East Room with brilliant images of Johnson in London and Scott Morrison (or “that guy under” as Biden called the Australian Prime Minister) in Canberra, the president announced the formation of a new strategic alliance: AUKUS – a tripartite security , technology and intelligence exchange arrangements among the three countries.

Its first mission is to build eight nuclear submarines for the Australian navy, which is seen as an important step in starting to counter China’s growing self-assertion in the Indo-Pacific.

The deal was amazing help against the nation, both sides like to describe as America’s oldest ally. Just five years ago, Paris had signed a $ 70 billion deal with Canberra for a fleet of French non-nuclear boats, a deal that is now being terminated.

It’s not hard to understand the Galician anger. The timing of the announcement – with minimal warning – could hardly have been worse, the day after Macron announced that French special forces had killed a leading IS figure behind the killing of four Americans in 2017 in West Africa.

But the French like to see themselves as foreign policy realists, and they should understand that nations in the famous diplomatic phrase have “no friends, only interests”. According to Australian officials, the deal with France was already fraught with concerns about its suitability in a climate of heightened tensions with Beijing. More importantly, the kind the United States and its allies have inflicted on the French reflects the dramatically changed global security conditions in the world 30 years after the end of the Cold War.

In his honor, the Biden administration has largely signed off on the idea that the crucial issue of the 21st century will be the strategic rivalry between the United States and China. However, it accepted, and sprayed the usual democratic bromides, that containing China’s rise could best be done multilaterally, especially with allies in Europe.

But Europe has made it clear that it does not want to join that rivalry. France, too, which now, uniquely since Britain left the bloc, has the military capacity to project power globally, has shown its reluctance. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned the United States over the weekend: “We are seeing the emergence of a military strategy launched by the United States that is militarily confrontational. That is not our position. ”

This is because the EU continues to refuse to take any serious responsibility for global peace and security, preferring to see the economic and commercial opportunities in its relationship with China, rather than the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Germany, the economic bull in the EU, is the main driving force behind this. This recently led to the bloc’s efforts to sign an investment agreement with China. It has resisted US attempts to restrict Chinese telecom giant Huawei from developing its 5G network. German exports to China continue to be the source of millions of German jobs and in an uncertain international economic climate, German politicians have no intention of endangering them, as they have made clear in the election campaign to succeed Angela Merkel, who ends this weekend.

This is the existential problem for the EU revealed by Biden’s undiplomatic coup: there has probably never been such an imbalance between an institution’s economic weight and its political and military strength. Throughout its history, the EU has prioritized – to great success – its economic interest, certainly with the knowledge that the American security umbrella was there to protect it. Now that the United States really needs it to share some of the costs of that umbrella, the EU lacks action.

Wall Street Journal


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