The departure of Carl Bildt and Radoslaw Sikorski as foreign ministers of Sweden and Poland respectively is an interesting development for European foreign policy. The timing is awful. At a moment when Europe is faced with crises in the east and the south, Europe can ill afford to lose either its most experienced statesmen or the vision they bring to the table. Both leaders simultaneously believe in the strategic necessity of the EU and they are as comfortable in Washington as they are at home in Warsaw or Stockholm. With Bildt and Sikorski gone, the EU is also lacking any obvious hardliners on Russia. This may satisfy some in the EU but surely Vladimir Putin must be pleased with their replacements.
PARIS – While Europe’s citizens largely support the establishment of a common security and defense policy, most European leaders have demonstrated a clear lack of interest in creating one – including at last month’s European Council meeting. What accounts for this paradox?
One possible explanation is that financially strained European governments lack the means to fulfill their citizens’ expectations. But that is unconvincing, given that the issue was framed in almost identical terms three decades ago, when budgetary constraints were not a problem. In fact, it could be argued that such constraints should spur, not impede, the creation of a European defense structure. After all, member countries would then be able to pool their resources, harmonize programs, and rationalize costs, thereby reducing individual governments’ financial burden.
Another, far more credible explanation is that Europeans’ interpretations of “a more active and stronger security policy” differ widely. Indeed, current discussions in Europe concerning the use of force are dominated by three main perspectives, championed by France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Is British defense policy experiencing an East-of-Suez flashback?
The current situation has been compared to 1968 when, largely as a result of lacking resources, Britain had to adopt a more modest international role.
According to her, the future of the country’s defense role depends on its relation to Europe:
“Strengthening its European commitment could help Britain to align its global ambitions with the resources it needs to project a credible international role.
Pursuing European ways to achieve global ends however remains a domestically disputed strategic option.
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