Absent from discussions on international security Moscow-Washington-NATO, the head of European diplomacy tries to convince of the relevance of the defense policy of the EU, which he intends to guide by developing a « Strategic compass ».
Traveling to Brest to participate in the summits of the 27 Ministers of Defense, then of Foreign Affairs (from January 12 to 14), the head of European Union (EU) diplomacy Josep Borrell was invited by West France this January 12 to deliver his analysis of the situation in Ukraine, and more broadly of the political and military place of the EU in international issues.
By proposing two security treaties which aim in particular to ease tensions in Ukraine, one with Washington, the other with NATO, Moscow has placed the EU in front of a geopolitical reality that it cannot see: namely that the bloc is not considered as a necessary interlocutor on this file.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me very clearly that nothing will be discussed or granted without the participation of Europeans.
An observation that Josep Borrell does not share, however, convinced that the EU will have a say … thanks to Washington: « That the Russians want to divide us, by giving the impression of passing over our heads, do not no doubt. But I have the assurance that the United States will not play this game. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told me very clearly that nothing will be discussed or granted without the participation of the Europeans. «
Moreover, for the diplomat, the prevalence of NATO in security issues on the European continent does not mean that the EU is non-existent on the subject. Resolved to develop a “Strategic Compass” to guide the bloc’s defense policy, Josep Borrell nonetheless acknowledged that its orientation remained relatively vague for the time being: “Europeans should not develop military capabilities as a Union, but apply the treaty, which advocates joint military capabilities. Which ones? How? ‘Or’ What ? Why ? This is what our European defense policy must respond to, as well as the « Strategic Compass » that we are developing at the moment. «
Europeans must prepare for situations where the difference between war and peace is no longer clear: we go to war without it being declared
The head of EU diplomacy was still able to provide a line of thought, which he considers « the most sexy and visible ”: the capacity for rapid deployment. « Europeans, as a whole, should have the capacity to act immediately when a threat arises », he said, without saying more about the progress of the project. Noting that the conflicts had now evolved and no longer were fought only head-on, Josep Borrell also wanted his “Strategic Compass” to guide the EU countries in the future battlefields of cyberspace and ‘space.
“Europeans must prepare for situations where the difference between war and peace is no longer clear: we go to war without being declared. And the threat is not limited to the borders of Europe but can come from much further, ”he warned, hoping that the project would be approved during these summits.
Affirming that EU members were still « very Eurocentric », he stressed that the emergence of new powers – citing China – and the economic as well as demographic decline of Europe were challenges for the future: » We must prepare for a confrontation. Whoever has the best technology has the best capacities for production and above all for domination. Not just in the military sense. But also to deal with climate change which will upset the distribution of wealth and exacerbate conflicts. ”
An EU foreign policy inseparable from NATO?
On the situation in Ukraine, Josep Borrell did not deviate an inch from the Western line, deploring a « bellicose atmosphere on the front line », and expressing concern about the presence of Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian border. In an analysis which flirts with condescension, he also judged that the Russia of Vladimir Poutine was trying « to become again a regional power, or even more », while acknowledging that Moscow had taken a « decisive » action in Syria. « Russia has the means and the will to use its military force locally to assert its power, » he further noted.
The fact remains that the head of European diplomacy said he was open to a dialogue with Moscow. « Whatever our differences, we must speak, » he said before caricaturing the Russian position: « Moscow sets the prerequisites. What is not acceptable is to say: these are my conditions, if you do not agree, we have soldiers at the Ukrainian border… ”
In mid-December, Moscow handed Washington draft treaties aimed at rethinking the security architecture of European countries, which is largely based on NATO, a military alliance inherited from the Cold War. Among Russia’s main proposals is the commitment of the Atlantic Alliance not to expand further east.
These points were discussed earlier this week in Geneva, where the Russian-American negotiations lasted more than seven hours. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov, who was taking part in the discussions with United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, underlined that the United States had taken Russian demands « very seriously ». The negotiator added that the situation was « not hopeless ».
However, Wendy Sherman recalled Washington’s position. « We are firm […] in our opposition to security proposals which are quite simply inadmissible in the United States, ”she insisted, nevertheless arguing for a policy of“ open doors ”on the part of NATO.