Cracks in Red Sea alliance underline US-Europe division, embarrassment of US leadership
Published: Dec 25, 2023 08:18 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

"A just cause enjoys abundant support, while an unjust cause finds little support." No one feels this snippet of wisdom more deeply than the US now. A spokesman for Spain's defense ministry told AFP on Sunday that the country will not participate in the so-called Operation Prosperity Guardian, a US-led maritime task force in the Red Sea that aims to protect the passage of Israeli-owned and Israel-bound merchant vessels.

Obviously, the US' European allies are no longer willing to foot the bill of the US' selfishness. Operation Prosperity Guardian organized by the US has a strong political overtone, that is, safeguarding Israel's national interests. Israel's actions in Gaza have aroused the anger of the international community. More than 20,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, more than 50,000 injured, and much of Gaza has been destroyed. Some European countries have begun to diverge from the US on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The objective of the US creating the Red Sea alliance, on the one hand, is testing whether its allies share the same beliefs with it on this issue. On the other hand, Washington is levering multilateral diplomatic actions to cover up its unilateral support of Israel.

US allies always support the US and share its stance, but that does not mean they will unlimitedly support the frenzied positions taken by the US on all issues, especially when the US' position is contrary to their own interests. Take France for example. France's interests in the Middle East are multi-layered. The relationship between France and Lebanon has historical, cultural, and political dimensions. There are fundamental differences between France's relations with Arab countries and the diplomatic posture of the US in the Middle East.

For a long time, the US has had a bossy attitude toward its European allies, taking it for granted that the value of its allies is to serve its interests. So when US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin included Spain in the US-commanded Operation Prosperity Guardian, he did it "without prior notice," according to Spanish media outlet El Pais. The move displeased the Spanish government and triggered tension between Madrid and Washington. We could feel Washington's strong desire to control Europe and Europe's struggle to control its own destiny. To put it bluntly, the US treats Europe as a lackey.

Gao Jian, an expert on European studies at Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times that the US was deeply involved in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, and also took advantage of the irreconcilable contradictions between Europe and Russia to build the NATO-led European security mechanism that still exists today. Europe has paid a huge price for the transatlantic alliance. Europe hopes to gain strategic independence, but is not capable of doing so. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the past two years, the US has firmly tied Europe to the US alliance mechanism. Yet, France said its operation in the Red Sea would stay under French command, while Italy said its operation was not part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, according to Reuters on Friday. Europe may not want to turn nasty with the US, but its grievance toward the US will accumulate and the divergences between the US and Europe will widen, Gao noted.

The US' Operation Prosperity Guardian this time has exposed its embarrassment. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, believes that no matter it is the Iraq war, the Afghan war, or the current Russia-Ukraine or Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the US' performance has made it lose its credibility and leadership. US allies see clearly that the US only causes trouble, but it is not willing to bear the consequences. Instead, it lets its allies clean up the mess. The appeal of the US has declined, as the US that is used to being echoed is now being rejected. This is a true manifestation of "A just cause enjoys abundant support, while an unjust cause finds little support." The choice of Spain shows the cracks within the transatlantic alliance. The US will have to pay the price for its egotism and arrogance.