EU’s Pacific Balk
There is a major national security issue that is growing behind two shadows; everyone’s attention to the Russo-Ukrainian War, and a mostly USA-centric discussion of potential conflict with the People’s Republic of China many expect to he of greatest danger in the next five years. That issue is what, if any assistance America and her Pacific allies might expect from America’s NATO allies in Continental Europe who form the core of the European Union.
As we’ve discussed before, the EU is simply the modern iteration of the eternal battle between and goals of Charlemagne’s grandsons. Very focused on European power and concerns. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a global view, however mostly focused on consolidating European power first.
Yes, they have economic and in a few cases territorial concerns in Asia – but only a sprinkle of what the USA and her Pacific allies have.
Via Ludovica Meacci at China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe (CHOICE);
“Whether bilaterally or as part of the broader context of EU-China relations, European countries are increasingly confronted with the need to strike a delicate balance over their relations with Taiwan. Yet, for a geopolitical player that intends to carve out a distinctive role in US-China competition, discussions on what a Taiwan contingency would mean for the EU have surprisingly stayed on the sidelines.”
The balance of the EU’s political blocks, led by France, are more concerned that they not look like the USA’s auxiliaries than they are in the moral and ethical issues that would come from an aggressive war of territorial gain by the People’s Republic of China against Taiwan.
Combined with an ever-present mercantilist caucus that is driven by the same incentives that brought many EU nations so entwined with Russia prior to the Russo-Ukrainian War, you have a certain dynamic at work;
“EU member states retain control of their foreign and security policies, including determining the contours of their own interpretation of a “One-China Policy”. And as both Lithuania and the Czech Republic have shown, some EU countries are more active than others in defining the trajectory of their relations with Taiwan.
Whether it is the refusal to expel a Taiwanese diplomat at the demand of the Chinese ambassador, a 150-member delegation visit to the island, or the opening of a representative office that has Taiwan – instead of Taipei – in its name, both Prague and Vilnius have stood their ground. And despite vows of Chinese retaliation, there was limited political and economic fallout for both the Czech Republic and Lithuania.”
Note that both the Czechs and Lithuanians have a living-memory understanding of the nature of communist autocracies. Good for them.
“While economic coercion is not a new tactic of Beijing’s playbook, Vilnius’ case turned into a watershed moment for EU-China relations when it was reported that Beijing pressured German companies to stop using components made in Lithuania. Lithuania’s exports to China only accounted for 1 percent of the country’s GDP, but seeking to leverage intra-EU trade ties increased Beijing’s room for maneuver. The companies stated their plans to invest in the Baltic state remain unchanged, but German and Baltic business leaders reportedly voiced their unease with the economic consequences of Beijing’s retaliation and asked Vilnius to seek a “constructive solution.””
This is what the PRC does.
Just look at the graphic at the top of the post so see how much the PRC has already penetrated the European economy. Economic interdependency is a goal, not a byproduct, of getting in bed with the PRC – and the PRC uses it as a weapon.
If domestic politics is a crucial driver of the US and China’s behavior towards Taiwan, the same cannot be said for Europe. Despite increased talks about the island’s importance “economically, commercially and technologically” for the Union as well as concerted efforts by the European institutions, the issue of a potential Taiwan invasion has hardly entered the mainstream European public debate. While de-risking in all its forms seems more or less high on the policy agenda across the member states, the absence of urgency in its communication is starkly at odds with the initial assessments of the devastating economic consequences linked to different Taiwan contingency scenarios.
The USA and her Pacific allies and partners cannot expect much from Europe in the Pacific War and we all need to plan accordingly.
We could expect the United Kingdom to help the USA and Australia (yes, I am giving New Zealand and Canada side-eye here, they are a problem), but Mother Country is limited in what she can do. France might help, but expect what effort she could bring to mostly focus on protecting her Pacific possessions’ significant EEZ.
The rest? No. Don’t plan on it. Would be nice, sure. We might get a squadron of Danish or Dutch aircraft and a frigate are two with a few pages on national caveats that come with them, but that would be it.
Clearly, finding agreement on how to deal politically with Beijing in the event of a Taiwan contingency is no simple endeavor. That is precisely why the EU needs to start to seriously consider the worst-case scenario and its implications for Europe, sooner rather than later.
Even more than NATO, the EU – especially in defense matters – moves at the speed of smell. They will talk it forever, but will simply not be able to move past its most hesitant member.
Should a war break out in the Western Pacific, history will have to resolve it without anything significant from the EU.
Written by CDR Salamander