Europeans are angry with America for withdrawing from Afghanistan, at least they are angry for not informing them. After their grumbling, it seems that they expected the Americans to announce their withdrawal at least a year or two in advance so that they could prepare in time for the evacuation under alarm. To discuss it in their institutions, to ask the member states and to wait for their consensus, maybe the European Parliament should discuss it as well. Thus, it is as if they conspired against the European Union, their main ally. Perhaps mostly because they withdrew from Afghanistan in mid-August, when there is no living soul in Brussels, because the entire EU is on vacation, so there was hardly anyone to write a statement, only the second day after the outbreak of chaos in Kabul.
Basically, the first German plane that flew to Kabul to evacuate the desperate associates of the Western Allies (the huge Airbus A-400 transport) managed to “pick up” seven people!? Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer justified herself by saying that the landing was “treacherous”, that there was chaos at the airport and that they had to go back as soon as possible. At the same time, American planes carry five to eight thousand people a day, and on Sunday behind us a record 10,000 people in 24 hours. From the same Kabul airport where chaos reigns, and with the same “treacherous” takeoffs and landings.
Anger erupted the most from the first European diplomat, Josep Borrell, it seems as if he slammed his fist on the table. “The time has come,” says the Spaniard, for Europe to develop its military capacities, ready to fight if necessary, and independent of America. He estimates that there will be more such crises, primarily in Iraq and the Sahel in sub-Saharan belt, and that the EU may be forced to react militarily there, without the support of the United States. He also talks about the need to create a European expeditionary military force of about 50 thousand people, ready to act in crisis situations, such as the one in Afghanistan.
It is possible, he should be trusted when he warns of the explosion of new hotspots in the world. But should we trust his, and not only his, story about creating a European army, especially about the urgency of that job due to the collapse of allied cooperation with America in Afghanistan? How can Serbia, but also all other Western Balkan countries that want to become members of the European Union, react to such plans, if they are realistic at all or are just an outburst of anger?
Josep Borrell is just one of the angry Europeans who these days is looking for a quick realization of “strategic autonomy”, a project that advocates a European “stand on your own two feet” in relation to its military and security dependence on America. There has been talk of this separation for several years. It started with Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the Sorbonne in 2017, when he asked for “European sovereignty”, in response to Brexit and Trump’s policy of humiliating Europe as an ally. Angela Merkel soon joined, describing the then Trump America as an “unreliable ally”, which all together started an avalanche of European search to “take their destiny into their own hands”. However, “European sovereignty” very quickly descended to a lower level of security independence from America, to the concept – “strategic sovereignty”. It’s as if an older teenager ran away from home, and after a few days he agreed to a compromise to continue eating, washing clothes and asking for money from his parents.
The European departure from the joint security house with America and the creation of its own security system, including the army, is a long-term job, if it is completed at all. Ten to 20 years, according to the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Provided that all the “holes” in this concept are filled by then, and there are plenty of them.
For those who are just preparing to join the EU, such as Serbia, it is already important to consider whether this would be the EU they really want to join. First – what values would this new, “armed” European Union defend without already doing it through NATO? How would the role of, for example, the Netherlands or Portugal, in some future military missions in the world, differ from their previous engagement through NATO? Is the future “armed” European Union really the same as NATO, minus America and Britain? And finally, why would such an EU be for Serbia, for example, a more desirable security “umbrella” than the current NATO – with America and Britain?
The European Union has already shown that it cannot be a framework for larger-scale security integrations, the best example being that the much-demanded system of the European Intelligence Service has never come to life. Quite simply, no influential member wanted to relinquish its sovereignty in that area and subordinate it to unity within the EU. On the other hand, in NATO, this division of sovereignty is quite acceptable for the same EU members.
Europeans are “calling to arms” under the strong emotions of their collapse in Afghanistan and the anger that the Americans, as Borrell says, “did not ask for their opinion”. And also, because they see in the American unilateral action in Afghanistan only the beginning of the loosening of the alliance within NATO. At the same time, they overlook that the United States is sticking to that alliance, even with small and weak members – Albania, Northern Macedonia, and even Kosovo (although it is not in NATO), which have accepted without a word the obligation to accept thousands of Afghans, potential migrants to the United States.
Plans for the European Union’s military independence from America, even if feasible, are not a framework in which Serbia should seek its own security perspective. These ideas put Serbia in a paradoxical position, to seek its security future within NATO, which it does not want to join, but within the EU, which it wants to join. Simply put, for a small country like Serbia, NATO with the USA, Britain, Canada and almost the entire EU, is a far more acceptable security-political framework than some future, “armed” EU. The values they defend are exactly the same, but the power, organization and influence in the world are incomparable.
Calls for a European army, frequent after the Afghan crisis, therefore discourage European enthusiasm among future members of the Union. What Borrell and his colleagues are looking for is not the EU to which Serbia has moved more than halfway. It is a confusing and irrational political projection, for which there are already better alternatives. Not to mention in 10-20 years.