After Afghanistan: Talk about EU army, EU Indo-Pacific Strategy and the role of France

After Afghanistan: Talk about EU army, EU Indo-Pacific Strategy and the role of France

The military dependence on the USA for the evacuation mission in Afghanistan is fueling the discussion in the EU about the establishment of a rapid deployment reaction force. At a defense ministers‘ meeting in Slovenia on Thursday, numerous participants campaigned to draw conclusions from the events of the past few weeks and to develop European defense capabilities. One idea is to quickly implement an initiative for an intervention unit with at least 5,000 soldiers. „The sober truth about Afghanistan is: We Europeans hardly resisted the decision of the Americans to withdraw because we couldn’t afford one due to lack of our own capabilities,“ commentedGerman  Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The correct conclusions must now be drawn from the dependence on the USA. The takeover of power by the militant Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan was a „severe defeat“. At the same time, the CDU politician warned against only talking about a new military unit. “The European debate cannot stop on the question of whether we want a ‚European reaction force‘ or not,” she commented. The question is not whether to build up an extra EU force, but how to finally use existing military capabilities jointly. Specifically, Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested that “coalitions of willing” could go ahead after a joint decision by all EU states. This would be possible under Article 44 of the EU Treaty. In addition, from the perspective of the German minister, it should be examined whether the EU states could not define “regional responsibilities for security”. The aim would then be to jointly train special forces and jointly organize important skills such as strategic air transport. With the statements, Kramp-Karrenbauer apparently reacted to the resistance against the French intervention force plans. Countries like Poland and Lithuania consider the initiative superfluous in view of the existing capabilities of NATO and fear a possible weakening of the transatlantic defense alliance. The Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said on Thursday: „It’s not about troops, it’s about political will.“ At EU level, one should first answer the question of where the battlegroups were last. Pabriks was alluding to the fact that the EU has had crisis reaction forces for a long time, but that they have never been deployed. The previous considerations for the new unit envisage integrating the battlegroups into the new force. They usually consist of two units, each with at least 1,500 soldiers, who are alternately provided by different EU countries. According to the Slovenian EU Council Presidency, the new reaction force could also be significantly larger and comprise up to 20,000 soldiers. advertisement In any case, it should be so strong that it could theoretically take over a military operation like that of the Americans to secure the airport in Kabul. After the Taliban came to power in mid-August, the United States made evacuation flights possible with around 6,000 US soldiers. Because of their departure, however, the Europeans then had to stop their rescue flights for people in need of protection earlier than actually desired. The need for additional European defense capabilities has never been as clear as it is today, said EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell in Slovenia. He hoped that after the events, more committed concrete results and decisions would be sought. Ideally, decisions could already be made in the first half of next year as part of the adoption of a new strategy concept for EU defense, according to the EU’s External Action Service.

Strange discussion: You have to have an EU reaction deployment force in order to be able to carry out evacuations like in Afghanistan yourself, preferably this sort of argument is aimed at home consumption, so as not to have to deal with unpopular things like strategies, other combat missions and deployment scenarios, especially none offensive missions. Sounds like the modern variant of well drilling propaganda. Also sounds like you have to make sure that you can run away if things go wrong again. You think your strategy from a Exit stratgey and not that much from a perspective of capabilities, goals of a mission. Sounds very trustworthy. But interssting is the idea of regionalization of the areas of operation. Sounds like glocolization ala Domroese or Dr Kulikov.

Former NATO General Domorese commented:

“Yes, everything is deja vue. In order to be able to „rule“ the neighboring regions independently i.S. To do something independently, Europe needs a lot more. Ships, airplanes, land forces etrc. Then training & exercises. But above all LEADERSHIP / HQs with leadership-funds … In short: we know that. Nobody could be surprised that we can do little or nothing on our own.”

Actually, these are already plans from the 90s. There was already talk about an European pillar in NATO and troops proposals between 50 000 to 200 00 for an EU army , but the result were some much smaller battle groups. But they were never deployed and there was no political consent to deploy them anywhere. But regionalization of the missions is more likely to mean that GB, F, Germany and a few Southern countries are more likely to participate in missions in North Africa or Africa or the Mediterrean while the Eastern Europeans have an interest in NATO and against Russia, but not in a sperate EU army which is seen as soeme sort of disengagement and imperial overstretch from the Eastern front. Intersection could again be the Balkans in whose stabilization both Western and Eastern Europeans are interested. But I don’t see any areas of deployment beyond that. Macron still wants to get involved in the Middle East, whether at the Baghdad Conference , but not even with Mali and Lebanon the French or European influence is enough anymore, so it will probably lead to a Coalition of the Willing as Kramp- Karrenbauer propoeses or a group as an anti-IS- like coaltion plus training missions like Iraq. And you shouldn’t embark on an adventure that want to demonstrate that „Europe can do it“/ Yes, we can, only to find out again that one is making mistakes similar to the USA.

Macron-France tries to push an EU army under the leadership of the Grand Nation France, wants “European sovereignity”, a détente with Russia to get it in distance from China and also promotes now more support for Taiwan. The CCP`s mouthpiece Global Times quotes this play of France with the Taiwan card, but has a more relaxed attitude towards such efforts:.

“France cannot improve its international status by hyping Taiwan question

By Lin Lan Published: Sep 01, 2021 10:08 PM

To gain more diplomatic bargaining chips with „like-minded countries“ in major power competition and to have more say in the Indo-Pacific region, France has taken a provocative step forward on the Taiwan question.

The inaugural Australia-France Foreign and Defense (2+2) Ministerial Consultations were held on Monday. The two countries mentioned a series of China-related issues in their joint statement, including „serious concerns about the situation in the South China Sea“ and „severe human rights abuses“ in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Moreover, the two sides „underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait“ and even expressed their support for the island of Taiwan’s „meaningful participation“ in international organizations, according to the official website of the Australian minister for foreign affairs. 

France has previously made many provocative moves on the Taiwan question. For example, in May 2020, France dismissed Chinese warnings about selling arms to the island of Taiwan, saying it was implementing existing deals and China should focus on the COVID-19 fight. In March, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said French senators are free to meet whoever they wish during a visit to the Taiwan island. The French Senate adopted a resolution in May to support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. 

Australia, the country that has frequently followed the US to play the „Taiwan card,“ voiced its belligerent remarks and continued to brutally interfere in China’s internal affairs. Now, France and Australia have reached a statement concerning the island of Taiwan, proactively interfering in affairs in the Indo-Pacific region.

„France was the first European country to formally adopt an Indo-Pacific Strategy. France may believe that the Indo-Pacific region will be a main battlefield of great power competition, and it is now interfering in the region to try to show its major power status. As for Australia, France regards it as a suitable country for cooperation whether in terms of ideology, values or system,“ Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a „Paris-Delhi-Canberra axis“ as early as in May 2018, a strategy he regards as a so-called key to the Indo-Pacific region. With the advancement of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, France has also increased its investment in the region, trying to improve its international status through various diplomatic methods.

But can France’s comprehensive strength support such a vision? This is a question that Macron must face. Although France has been trying to enhance its presence in the Indo-Pacific region, it is not easy to get on the Indo-Pacific chariot. After all, China and the US have greater influence compared to France, and may offset France’s possible role in the region.

As a major European power, France is trying to unite Australia, regarding the „Taiwan card“ as a bargaining chip in its diplomacy. This is very unwise. Lithuania acts the most radical among European countries on the Taiwan question, and China has made firm counterattacks. Although France may not act as radically, it may also try to beat around the bush on the Taiwan question. 

„France must be aware how much this will affect China-French relations,“ Cui said.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs is scheduled to vote on a „Recommendation on EU-Taiwan Political Relations and Cooperation“ on Wednesday and Thursday. One of the items in the recommendation was the possible renaming of the „European Economic and Trade Office“ as „European Union Office in Taipei.“ This is a typical act of European countries trying to separate economic and trade issues from politics, which is another way of violating China’s national sovereignty vis-à-vis the island of Taiwan. 

Countries such as France and Australia should not misjudge the situation in island of Taiwan or underestimate Chinese mainland’s determination to punish their provocative acts at any time. These countries want to gain more bargaining chips in the major power competition. But is it worthwhile by hyping the Taiwan question and being counterattacked by the Chinese mainland? They should have a sober mind.”

France as the East Europeans, especially Lithuania are also the drivers to elevate the Taiwan question to a new level within the EU while Merkel-Germany  still is seemingly neutral on these positions: and Macron seems to use the German Indo-Pacific strategy to bring it to an EU Indo-Pacific stategy  with a more French perspective:

“Chinese mission strongly opposes EU report on elevating ‚political relations‘ with island of Taiwan

By Global Times Published: Sep 02, 2021 12:27 PM

Chinese Mission to the EU on Thursday expressed strong opposition to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs’ (AFET) adoption of the EU-Taiwan Political Relations and Cooperation report, which called for elevating “political relations” with the island of Taiwan.

The spokesperson of the Chinese mission said that despite China’s repeated objections, the European Parliament’s AFET adopted the report, blatantly advocating for elevating EU-Taiwan relations. 

These moves exceed far beyond the scope of normal nonofficial economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchanges between the EU, its member states and the Taiwan island. It constitute serious violations of the one-China principle and undercut mutual trust and cooperation between China and the EU, said the spokesperson. “We express our strong opposition to this,” the spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s AFET adopted the report, not only calling for elevating EU-Taiwan“political relations,” but  also changing the name of “the European Economic and Trade Office” in Taiwan to “European Union Office in Taiwan,” including Taiwan into the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and advocating for Taiwan’s full participation as an observer in international bodies. 

In response, the spokesperson stressed there is only one China in the world and the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. This is a universally acknowledged norm in international relations and the common consensus of the international community. It also serves as the political foundation of the establishment and development of diplomatic relations between China and the EU. 

The commitment to the one-China principle was reiterated by the EU in all documents and statements it jointly issued with China. The EU always talks about international rules. In this connection, the European Parliament, as an important organ of the EU, should stick to the commitment and follow it through with concrete actions, noted the spokesperson.

We urge the relevant committee and relevant members of the European Parliament to appreciate the sensitivity of the Taiwan question, immediately correct their wrong words and actions, and play a positive and constructive role in upholding the political foundation of China-EU relations, said the spokesperson.“

However, it looks like that China with all its new regulations of IT monopolies and non- TI monopolies and school refroms and other measures for a “protracted war” with the USA focuses now more on the South China Sea as the Asia Times reports:

“Beijing revs up South China Sea domination strategy China enacted a new maritime law on September 1 requiring multiple classes of foreign vessels traversing Beijing-claimed waters to provide detailed information to state authorities and take aboard Chinese pilots. Analysts say the legal requirements are clearly aimed at the United States and its allies’ military presence in disputed waterways.  
The US Pentagon has called the new law a “serious threat” and violation of international law. It is unclear how aggressively and how widely the new law will be enforced, and over how wide of a geography, or indeed If China’s “territorial waters” will be interpreted to include nearly all of the hotly contested South China Sea.
Asia Times’ correspondent Richard Javad Heydarian reported on the law’s passage this week. He shared an analysis of China’s multi-phased strategy to dominate the South China Sea with the Southeast Asia Insider.
Do you expect China’s new foreign ship law to be enforced across the entirety of China’s nine-dash line claim?
Without a question, China’s default strategy is bit-by-bit, gradual domination of adjacent waters – or at least areas covered by the nine-dash line, which extends across two-thirds of the South China Sea basin – short of triggering armed confrontation with rival states and, more crucially, drawing in major powers such as the United States. This so-called “salami-slicing” strategy has been an unqualified success throughout the past decades, so I expect China to keep pushing the envelope through a combination of para-military, quasi-legal, and ultimately military measures, which allow it to dictate the texture and direction of the South China Sea disputes for the foreseeable future.
Why do you think China imposed the law now and how does it fit with its wider strategic ambitions in the waterway?
I think we are increasingly moving towards the fourth phase of China’s domination strategy in the South China Sea. The first phase was the demarcation of Beijing’s areas of claims, roughly extending from the early-1970s to 2013, as China dominated the Paracel Islands (taken away from former South Vietnam), wrested control of Scarborough Shoal (taken away from the Philippines in 2012), and solidified its position on key land features within the Spratly Islands.
The second phase began in late 2013, with President Xi Jinping overseeing massive reclamation activities, which radically changed the geology as well as geopolitical tempo of the disputes, as a whole host of low-tide elevations and rocks were transformed into massive islands.  
The third phase, beginning in around 2015, was the rapid militarization of these artificially-created islands through the deployment of advanced missile systems and establishment of kilometers-long airstrips capable of hosting large military aircraft. The fourth phase, which began in around 2019, is the systematic deployment as well as empowerment of Chinese coast guard and para-military forces to swarm, intimidate and, if necessary, use coercive force against rival claimant states.
The introduction of the controversial coast guard law earlier this year and, most recently, the new foreign vessel law are quasi-legal maneuvers to give a veneer of legitimacy and formality to this new phase of China’s domination strategy.
For now, China seems to be still evaluating the pros and cons of moving to the final phase, which would be the establishment of a Chinese exclusion zone across the entire area, most dramatically through the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) via activation of its sprawling network of military bases across the South China Sea basin and beyond. This would clearly be a tad too risky, potentially drawing in major powers, so Beijing is still sticking to its “salami-slicing” approach until it feels confident enough to drop the gauntlet.

Do you expect the law’s implementation to stoke more confrontation in the South China Sea?
So far, we see that the US and its allies, including the Quad powers, are examining various counter-measures against China’s domination strategy in the South China Sea, especially the usage of “gray zone” provocation under the fourth phase. Thus, the increased frequency of American Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) as well as access patrols by other Indo-Pacific powers from Britain and France to India, Japan and Australia. Much is at stake here, especially for smaller Southeast Asian states, which rely on the South China Sea for their food security. Livelihoods of millions of families along coastal regions of the Philippines and Vietnam will be further negatively affected by these latest Chinese restrictions.
As for the broader international community, this is about upholding rule of law and freedom of navigation in global sea lines of communications. Allowing China to get away with its tightening grip on an international waterway will have dire long-term consequences for a “free and open” order in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Down the road, however, the US and like-minded powers, including key frontline states in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines and Vietnam, might have to consider more decisive measures.
Those could include diplomatic pressure, increased joint drills near and around disputed areas, military fortification of islands held by and rapid development of minimum deterrence capabilities of smaller claimant states, and intensified economic sanctions against Chinese elements involved in aggressive and unlawful activities in the South China Sea – all to dissuade Beijing from imposing an exclusion zone. Some hard choices will have to be made in months and years to come, as China imposes its will on smaller rival claimants and gradually turns an international body of water into a de facto Chinese lake.”

Explosive. China’s new maritime law as the fourth level of dominance over the South China Sea. What does the fifth level look like then? Perhaps they’ll grab the lonely German fregate Bavaria as the weakest link in the food chain to give an example for their power projection. Maybe with a Xi Jinping´s Hun speech. Then the West, the EU and France would have to demonstrate how they wil defend their German ally and the freedom of navigation. But at the moment the EU army is a paper tiger and it woud be left to the USA to counter such attacks , while the EU coud only make some symbolic moves. However, all this depends on the politcal situation in the USA in 2024 and if Trump or a similiar Republican leader with their differnet priorities for NATO support are elected or not. An EU army will be no big deal for Russia, if Trump would abolish NATO by a new tweet. On the other side they could be more determined to counter China alone or with the Quad or Asian allies without the support of an nonexisting EU paper tiger army which even if it exited as a strong force wouldn´t militarilly engage in the Asian Pivot in any decisive way.

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