Painful experience, rational contemplation lead Europe to reflect on ‘blindly following the US’
Published: Jun 26, 2024 06:55 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the EU's reliance on and alignment with the US has shown an upward trend due to changes in the geopolitical environment. However, there are recent signs that some European countries are engaging in a degree of reflection and policy revision regarding "blindly following the US" in various policies.

On strategic issues within the continent, France and Germany are strengthening their consensus to jointly defend European interests. During his state visit to Germany in May, French President Emmanuel Macron, alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, published an article entitled "We must strengthen European sovereignty." In this piece, the two heads of state proposed deepening cooperation within the EU and strengthening "European sovereignty" in economic and industrial fields by improving economic competitiveness, thereby injecting strength into the EU's response to geopolitical shifts.

Additionally, some European countries have made fair and independent choices in the Palestine-Israel conflict. For example, Norway, Spain and Ireland have successively announced their recognition of the Palestinian state. This decision by the three countries shows that more European countries have shifted from favoring Israel in the Gaza conflict to the just and effective "two-state solution."

The two events both suggest that more countries and people with insight in Europe realize that Europe's internal and foreign policies should be firmly based on its own reasonable and legitimate interests as well as international fairness and justice. Only then can Europe's international influence and "normative power" be widely recognized by the international community and better adapted to the changes of the times and the trend of multipolarization.

In fact, Europe's reflection on blindly following the US' hegemonic strategy is the result of its painful experience and rational contemplation. Since World War II, Europe has long been an important part of the US alliance system and it's also an important "battlefield" in the Cold War. However, the "security depends on the US" pattern formed over decades has made Europe, to a certain extent, pay a heavy price.

For instance, Europe has to bear the consequences when the US intensifies geopolitical conflicts in Eurasia, the Middle East and other areas. It is also forced to get involved in these conflicts. At the same time, Washington has used the leverage of security alliances to force Europe to cooperate with it in containing geopolitical opponents in the economic, political, technological and other fields. This also makes it difficult for Europe to truly safeguard its own interests. The "Trump shock" has made Europe recognize that the US has unabashedly sacrificed and betrayed the interests of its allies to realize the vision of the "America First" policy. This has also given a strong impetus to the concept of "European sovereignty," which has been put forward by some insightful Europeans, including Macron.

Since then, although the US has turned back to the rhetoric that "allies are the greatest asset" when the Democratic Party came to power, for Washington, the essence of taking Europe as a stepping stone for its hegemony has not changed. 

From fueling the flames of the Ukraine crisis and making profits from the war, to implementing the Inflation Reduction Act that directly or indirectly plunders European industries and jobs, the EU that has been shouting "Europe-US unity" has suffered many bitter consequences.

Looking ahead, the EU may face the influence of the "America First" policy again due to the upcoming US election. However, it has realized that only by strengthening its own strength and resolutely safeguarding its own interests can it get out of the vicious cycle of being a cat's paw for the US.

Nevertheless, the EU's "decision-making autonomy" is limited by various factors. In the context of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, some European countries and people still regard the US and NATO as "unshakable cornerstones." The EU still has a long way to develop its own independent military power.

Therefore, Europe's strategic autonomy still faces various difficulties, and the continent is anticipated to gradually strive for more independence in decision-making while making a phased "swingback" from time to time.

The author is a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn