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The Promise of European Power

While some in Europe beat the drum of “strategic autonomy” and set their sights on faraway regions, the specter of renewed nationalism and war still stalks the bloc’s immediate neighborhood. A serious EU security and foreign policy would address these nearby threats before venturing farther afield.

BERLIN – In light of ongoing global political changes, there is much discussion in the European Union about the need for “strategic autonomy.” The thinking in EU institutions in Brussels, and among leaders in Paris and some other capitals, is that the global rebalancing of political and economic power away from the North Atlantic requires Europe to develop a more forceful security and defense policy so that it can engage in the geopolitically ascendant Indo-Pacific.

But the Indo-Pacific is far from Europe. Even if France still believes that it has strategic interests there by dint of its overseas territories, the same most certainly does not apply to Europe as a whole. Moreover, even if France aspires to be a Pacific power, it no longer has the requisite strength. Its foreign-policy ambitions must be recognized as mere echoes from a bygone era.

This is not the eighteenth or nineteenth century. If a twenty-first-century Pacific power really had aggressive designs on one of France’s far-flung Pacific territories, France would be unable to muster an effective defense. It would be in the same situation as Great Britain vis-à-vis Japan during World War II: totally dependent on the United States.