The European Union is continuing its plans to develop its own defense capabilities and limit its dependence on the United States following the rapid collapse of the Afghan army
BRUSSELS – Stung by the rapid collapse of the Afghan army and the chaotic evacuation led by the United States via Kabul airport, the European Union on Wednesday unveiled new plans to develop its own defense capabilities in order to to try to ensure that she has more freedom of action in the future crisis.
Scenes of chaos included Afghans plunging to their deaths from the sides of military planes taking off and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. personnel and summed up the end of a two-decade war waged by Washington with financial, political and security support. Europeans.
In a self-proclaimed State of the European Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the failure of the government and security forces in Kabul and their fall to the Taliban insurgents in just a few days raise troubling questions for the 27 countries. block, but also for NATO.
“Witnessing the events unfolding in Afghanistan has been deeply painful for all families of fallen servicemen and women servicemen,” von der Leyen told EU lawmakers. “To make sure their service will never be in vain, we need to think about how this mission might end so abruptly. “
“There are deeply troubling issues that allies will have to tackle within NATO,” said the former German defense minister. But she admitted that cooperation with NATO, of which the United States is by far the most powerful and influential member, must also remain a priority.
Yet von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, that “Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own”, and she insisted that ” it is time for Europe to take the next step. “
Earlier this month, EU ministers debated the creation of an EU reserve force of around 5,000 troops to deploy in crises like the one at Kabul airport. The plan faces opposition from some of the 22 EU countries that are also NATO members, including countries neighboring Russia, backed by US security guarantees.
The idea is not particularly new. The EU has a system of battlegroups to deploy in hot spots, but they have never been used, and Europeans are generally reluctant to send their troops to areas of active conflict.
“What has held us back so far is not just a lack of capacity, it is the lack of political will,” said von der Leyen. “If we develop this political will, we can do a lot at EU level. “
She said the EU must lay the foundations for better collective decision-making and better intelligence sharing, improve the interoperability of military equipment from the 27 member countries and invest in common projects such as airplanes. combat, drones and cyber capabilities.
The EU chief executive has proposed a value-added tax exemption for defense equipment developed and produced in Europe, which could help the bloc to shake off its dependence on equipment Americans.
Von der Leyen said she and French President Emmanuel Macron, who has long called for greater EU defense autonomy, especially during the turmoil of the Trump administration, will convene a European defense summit when the France will take the rotating presidency of the bloc in the first half of 2022.