, Volume 91, Number 5

Jean-Yves Haine
The transatlantic partnership needs to be reassessed. Since the end of the Cold War, Europe has chosen to bandwagon with the United States and to outsource its security to Washington. Bandwagoning has serious consequences when the use of force is at stake: it may lead to entrapment, where weaker allies may be involuntarily dragged into a conflict. It may also lead to abandonment, where the dominant ally may choose to discard their vital security concerns. With the evolution of the international system towards a multipolar configuration, this strategy of bandwagoning is becoming increasingly costly for Europe while the dominant power, the United States, is progressively confronted by other competitors at the systemic level. These classic dilemmas attached to an asymmetric partnership are exacerbated in a multipolar configuration. In particular, the abandonment scenario may become more and more frequent precisely because there is competition—and thus potential costs—at the international level: the United States may leave Europe alone, not by choice but by necessity. The current crisis in Ukraine illustrates this shift: while some American leaders were keen to escalate the conflict by arming Ukraine, the Obama administration’s commitment to the defence of Europe has been minimal and it has largely delegated the management of the crisis to the Europeans themselves. Washington had other and more important priorities. Strategic autonomy is not an option for Europe; it has become a reality, a Gaullist moment where Europeans will have to learn to think and act strategically for themselves.

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