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Summary: Strategic Alliances in Europe

Heinz Brill

For some decades Europe has been growing together for various reasons, one of them being the understanding that in the long run only a united Europe will be able to have some weight in the international power play. While the integration process has yielded some positive results, it also made clear that due to substantial differences in interests there can only be a "Europe of National States”.

Though there is cooperation between individual EU members, the need for EU institutions as well as for initiatives and full engagement of the leading member states remains. Europe’s ability to act on a foreign-political level depends on the "national” will to act, as the EU draws its authority to act on foreign-and-security-political matters from the commitment of its member states. As long as the EU is still in the process of "turning into a state”, the creation of internal structures to arrive at a European identity will remain the main focus. A European Union of 25 member states will have to find a common line in order to avoid erosion. That may be accomplished by forming continental and regional coalitions or coalitions of interests as well as coalitions with regard to specific issues. Therefore bilateral and regional relations are gaining ground within the European integration process.

Since the "Weimar Triangle” of 1991 that aimed at improving neighborly relations and preparing Poland’s accession to the EU and NATO the relations between Germany, France, and Poland have never been as strained as they are now. Over the past twelve years Poland has not engaged in such a serious political dispute with its Western partners. What particularly angers Berlin is the fact that Poland has assumed what until recently used to be Germany’s role, i.e. being a country that has its priorities in Europe while at the same time linking security issues tightly to the US.

There has never been an alliance between Russia, Germany and France. Therefore the French-Russian coup of October 1997 came as a real surprise. It temporarily led to the so-called "Strasbourg Triangle” which in March 1998 was followed by the Moscow "Troika Summit”. It revealed that Paris and Moscow had converging interests. Thinking in geopolitical categories, both are interested in stemming US hegemonic aspirations by forming alliances aimed at creating a counterweight. The Paris-Berlin-Moscow triangle also became apparent during the War in Iraq, when Germany clearly opposed US unilateralism instead of acting as a mediator between Anglo-American and European interests.

French foreign policy is in first place interested in creating a multi-polar world in which Europe would play an important role and is thereby steering a collision course with London. London in turn is intent on holding on to its "special relationship” with the US on the one hand, while on the other it advocates a strengthened Europe in close partnership with the US, thus rejecting the multi-polar model as much as a Common European Foreign Policy.

Germany is running the risk of over-emphasizing its special relations with France instead of pursuing its own foreign policy, which could ultimately alienate the US. This period of ongoing global political change is seeing the formation of new alliances but at the same time opens a window of opportunity for Europe to become a global player. However, Europe - aside from London and Paris - has not managed to establish an operational center and lacks strategic thinking.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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