US seeks to block continent’s potential strategic independence

By Cui Hongjian Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/17 17:08:41

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up his Europe tour on Saturday. This was the second time in a month that he visited Europe. 

With an eye on Central and Eastern European countries, the US is touting the so-called security issues to woo these countries to confront China and Russia. But actually the US is aiming to drive a wedge in Europe.

A strong, unified Europe does not suit US interests. This was true for the US even when it started to flex its muscles after World War II. Indeed, it looked with a wary eye at growing strength of Europe after the end of Cold War. Today, the Trump administration is trying to draw into its orbit a Europe that is making great effort to become strategically independent.

A unified, independent Europe means that all countries will hold the same diplomatic stance with independent and strategic awareness. Refusing to be the US' diplomatic pawn and strategic vassal and eradicating economic, technological and psychological overdependence on the US are key criteria for Europe to realize its own strategic independence.

Once the US loses its control of Europe, it will lose a strategic tool to intervene in world affairs. It will lose the frontline to contain Russia, and the base to create chaos in the Middle East and Africa. It will lose discourse platforms to build up ideological alliances. The US will by no means give up Europe as long as it does not give up its hegemony.

The US' key strategy for Europe is to create and expand divergences within the continent by hyping up security agendas: geo-strategic issues, cyber and energy. These were openly promulgated by Pompeo on his recent two Europe trips. The US hopes to take advantage of 5G security issues that resonate in the UK and other European countries. It suppresses Germany by withdrawing troops from the country while offering Poland a "carrot" by sending more soldiers there. By talking about the Three Seas Initiatives (cooperation among the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black), the US is trying to overthrow the power balance and reshape European geopolitics.

In the face of multi-layered US strategies, Europe can hardly form a singular stance. Strategic independence is only a long-term vision. Therefore, some European countries side with the US in 5G matters, while some depend on the US for security. Others sway between European and US interests. 

A Europe which follows the US lead but does not take orders from Brussels is the very ally that caters to Washington's wills. Even when the US cannot draw all European countries to its side, as long as Europe is trapped in internal fighting which adds pressure that polarizes Germany and France and stymies Europe's ability to rise as an independent actor, the US is happily waiting in the wings to watch. Pompeo and his ilk are working toward this direction.

Meanwhile, China has been unfairly blamed for dividing Europe. Cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative projects and the 17+1 cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European countries are exaggerated as examples by some Westerners about Beijing's divisive nature in the continent. Some Europeans turn a blind eye to the US sabotage of Europe. For those indulged in the trans-Atlantic partnership, the US is one of "them." But China is an "outcast" - although China has done a lot in the interests of the Europeans.

This narrow worldview is leading some European countries to become chess pieces of the US. Others, which keep an alert on the US and also guard against China at the same time, lack the courage to break the deadlock. But actually, cooperating with countries other than the US will not only help Europe expand its strategic vision, it will add strategic strength to it. 

If the tip of a major power competition is the balance of power, cooperating with China and Russia will raise Europe's strategic position and value to the US. It will eventually help it achieve its goal of strategic independence. Europe is facing a choice.  

The author is director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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