Security and defense are suddenly back on Europe’s agenda. The United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan—which left European allies reeling over the perceived lack of consultation—and tensions with France over the Australia–United Kingdom–United States (AUKUS) submarine deal have sharpened European concerns that as Washington embraces the “pivot” to Asia, American priorities are shifting away, not just from Europe but also from the Middle East and North Africa. And although President Joe Biden’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5 pledge—to treat an attack against one NATO member as “an attack against them all”—remains ironclad, polling suggests that on both sides of the political spectrum, Americans’ appetite for military intervention to resolve conflicts in Europe’s broader neighborhood has waned in recent years.
Alert to this trend, European officials increasingly recognize that Europe must begin to take charge of its own security. On September 15, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Union will hold a summit on defense in the first six months of 2022, during France’s upcoming presidency of the bloc. But what makes this moment different is a shift, not in Paris or Brussels but in Washington. In meetings between French and American officials following the AUKUS spat—and then in an October 29 meeting in Rome between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron—the United States acknowledged the need for more robust European defense capabilities “complementary to NATO.”
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Former Senior Fellow