Robert Harneis – TDO – Speaking in the National Assembly, French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has replied to the recent interview given by Donald Trump, in which the US President-elect called NATO ‘obsolete’ because it was outdated and because only seven members paid their agreed share of the costs.
In what is clearly a hardening of French policy, the Prime Minster told deputies “it is our special duty, in Europe, to be able to vigorously defend our continent…’ In an obvious reference to Europe’s total dependence on the US military, he went on to say ‘that means we need European defenses, with European resources, with European financing, with a European capacity to project military force, which will make the EU and its people and its member nations independent, because it is through independence regarding other powers that Europe can affirm Its principles, its values and its identity and maintain a balanced dialogue with friendly peoples.”
His remarks followed comments by a clearly irritated President Hollande, in reply to the same interview. The President did not mince his words when he said that the EU did not need advice from outside to tell it what it should do. The US president elect had added insult to injury by referring to Germany as the key EU nation and making no reference to France. Hollande went on to say ‘I say it here, Europe will always be willing to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will determine its path on the basis of its own interests and values,’
In November, the European Parliament passed a motion calling for an EU defense union.
Now that Britain is leaving the EU France is its leading military power with the only independent nuclear deterrent. Britain has always opposed an ‘EU army’.
The statements from the two French leaders show a clear realization that the days when the EU nations could continue with the policy of accepting US hegemony whilst providing contingents for US foreign policy adventures, in exchange for protection and only having to pay 30% of the bills, are coming to an end.
The new US President with his ‘America First’ slogan has concluded that his country has made a bad deal in fighting endless small wars and in the process clocking up 20 trillion dollars of debt. If America is to end its current interventionist foreign policy it no longer needs the political cover and military contingents that NATO has provided. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep subsidizing the alliance.
It is therefore interesting to note the simultaneous remarks made by the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Denis Mercier. Far from contesting Trump’s remarks he said that parts of NATO are absolutely obsolete and that NATO is too focused on deploying troops abroad. Note that it is the United States that has continuously dragged NATO into deploying troops abroad and that Mercier is a French General.
Clearly the arrival of Trump, and to a lesser extent the departure of Britain, has triggered a major shift in EU defense thinking in a direction that General de Gaulle demanded in vain fifty years ago.