In the tradition of European historical memory of the 20th century, the mention of Munich reminds us of the 1938 agreements between Germany, France, and Britain on the future of Czechoslovakia. It is symbolic that the Munich Security Conference is now also expressing its ideas for the future of Europe, Member of the Lithuanian Parliament Arvydas Anušauskas writes.
The President of France, E. Macron, has undoubtedly become the leader here, continuing his 2017 Sorbonne tradition, further drawing new lines of initiatives. He has restated his purview in some matters and adjusted others. Macron was not the first to speak about the new arms race, where “European countries cannot remain in the audience”, “can quickly be confronted with new races in traditional weapons, even nuclear weapons, on their land.”
In this situation, in the absence of the existing restrictive international treaties (the U.S. – Russia agreements on the limitation of nuclear forces), France has seen its role as the only nuclear state in the European Union (E.U.). This role would include “strategic dialogue” with partners in Europe, from which Germany and Poland are distinguished.
In this way, Macron hopes to strengthen the links between France, Germany, and Poland after Brexit. Macron has called for a new “Weimar Triangle” summit between the two nations and Germany, which would “strengthen the European project”. Criticism of the Polish judiciary and other reforms implemented by the governing party is, for now, put to the side.
The French President continued his line of thought, perhaps in a somewhat gentler tone: “also think European”, because “it will not always be possible to go through the U.S.”. He invited Germany, firstly, as a strategic partner, engaging in a strategic dialogue on the French nuclear weapons policy, to have a “strategic autonomy” in the E.U.’s foreign and security policy. Not being able to change NATO without the nuclear force of the United States and the U.K. withdrawing from the E.U., Macron would prefer “bigger ambitions”, and a “much stronger European defence”.
Having already been faced with the negative prejudice of the countries of Eastern Europe in the past for the deterioration of Euro-Atlantic ties, he tried to clarify: that his European vision of defence or “greater European military cooperation” is required “for sovereignty” and “is not a project against NATO or its alternative”, but it would give Europe credibility and space for manoeuvres. “Europe’s security has two pillars, and one of these pillars is NATO, and the other is European defence,” Mr Macron said this time. However, these claims have not yet been confirmed and, to date, have been more focused on the French internal political game.
If it is clear to Mr Macron and the German defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, that Europe and the U.S. also have different interests and need to develop their strategy, then those reasons are not understandable to everyone. According to E. Macron, “There are ideals that we must defend. A Mediterranean policy: that is a European matter, not a transatlantic matter, and the same goes for Russia – we need not only transatlantic politics but also European politics. The use of E.U. instruments for this purpose can be accelerated in the short term if Germany and France find not only common interests but will also translate it into a common political will. “A failure in the tandem of France and Germany in the E.U. would be a “historic mistake,” warned Macron.
Progress has been made over the last few years in the development of Franco-German military cooperation. However, in my understanding, the countries’ highest politicians are more aligned in their close approaches to relations with Russia. Macron said that Europe must strive for a better relationship with Russia, and so far, he does not propose to abolish sanctions, although, in his view, the sanctions have not substantially changed anything in Russia’s behaviour. On the other hand, the German President, Frank Walter Steinmeier, accused Washington, Beijing, and Moscow, on February 14, of creating a dangerous international order. Placing a NATO ally (the U.S) into the same rank as undoubted Western opponents (China and Russia) does not yet appear to be a very balanced European policy.
In the meantime, at the same Munich security conference, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said that the claim that the U.S. refuses to cooperate is incorrect, and he urged the Western partners to oppose China, Russia, and Iran jointly.
However, this call challenges the proposals of the Macron policy towards Russia, the essence of which is to renew dialogue and resolve disagreements. According to the French President “There is a second choice – to insist on and renew a strategic dialogue with Russia, because today we are talking very little, and the number of conflicts is growing, and we are unable to solve them.” (Let’s understand this statement to mean that – we cannot solve them without Russia).
The thesis of the French President raises the question of whether the disregard of the role of the United Kingdom, which has withdrawn from the European Union (but not from Europe), in European defence policy, the revision of transatlantic relationships with the United States, and the negotiation of proposals for the Weimar Triangle, will lead to a stronger Europe. Or will it lead to ordinary concessions for Russia, which consistently divides European countries and seeks to undermine Euro-Atlantic links?