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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Security is not free

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This war was the final warning. The summit, an opportunity, perhaps the last, for rectification. It will not be easy. There are public goods that require the care of all, although we see them as acquired rights and as free as the air we breathe. For the citizens of Western Europe, this is the case of collective security, guaranteed by the Atlantic Alliance since 1949 and ensured by the fundamental and disproportionate contribution of the United States.

It was a win-win deal. The senior partner achieved hegemony and the resulting effects, especially economically. And the minors, the opportunity to devote their resources to other tasks outside the armed forces and not even bother with such a burdensome and unpleasant chapter. The results are in sight and no one denies them: peace, stability and prosperity have made it a club where there are elbows to enter, especially in times of danger, and no one wants to leave as if there the European Union would have happened.

There is also resentment, often the result of political and historical daydreams. Europeans would like to play in the premier league and play for free, but without footing the bills, both in terms of military investment and by sacrificing sovereignty in favor of collective defence. Americans are cyclically attacked by the isolationist reflection of George Washington’s famous farewell speech, in which the first President of the United States abhorred enduring alliances; and almost always, although to varying degrees according to the Presidents, because of the irritation caused by their excessive contribution to the defense of Europe.

Fortunately for Europeans, particularly Russia’s geographic neighbors, the White House remains committed to the most successful and effective alliance in history. The three quarters of a century old bond between the United States and Europe could not be more enduring and solid, and is now crucial even beyond the European continent. The war in Ukraine was an opportunity to prove this, to the point that Washington will increase its forces and military investments in Europe after cutting them. Eyes are now wider and turned to Beijing: without the strong and democratic Europe that Putin wants to undermine, the United States would be at a disadvantage in the strategic confrontation being prepared with rising superpower China.

Just because the transatlantic bond is so strong doesn’t mean it always will be. Europe will do well if it really begins to count on its own strength. If Donald Trump returns to power. In that case, the USA would have to devote even more attention to Asia. Europe’s strategic autonomy is no offense to the United States. On the contrary, geopolitical Europe and autonomous European defense will not magically emerge as the result of an inspired decision by the 27, but will grow within the Atlantic Alliance, with the aim and commitment of making the European Union its strongest arm pay the appropriate price. After Madrid, the EU and NATO should be the two complementary sides of the same coin. A cap on defense will be hard to live from now on.

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Source elpais.com

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