The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, addressed the Munich Security Conference today. His line was very clear: the US has not moved away from supporting the European Defence, they remain even more engaged than before. In addition, he expressed the conviction that West is winning in the international arena.
His speech did not generate a lot of enthusiasm. Actually, the participants ‘reaction was very subdued. Polite, but not convinced. The audience’s quietness has shown that the Europeans have serious disagreements about the current Administration’s international politics, including the way it relates to Europe. Among other things, they judge that President Trump is not sincerely committed to collective defence. The NATO exercises, including the large one that is about to start, called DEFENDER-Europe 20, are perceived more as training opportunities for the American troops and less as a demonstration of unity among the allies. Also, those listening to Mr Pompeo have some problems to understand some of President Trump’s approaches to international affairs, in particularly, when it comes to Russia.
Furthermore, the “winning” view expressed by the Secretary of State is not shared by the European leaders. President Macron said it soon after the Pompeo speech. But it is not just the French President that espouses that stance. The German President had stated the same view yesterday, at the opening of the conference.
I take four main points from all of this. First, it is important to continue to assert the European commitment to the alliance with the US. Second, the Europeans should state their views with clarity, particularly when they do not coincide with the decisions and comments coming from Washington. Third, the EU must keep investing on joint military and defence projects. This investment should bring together as many EU countries as possible, knowing that it will not be possible to get all of them to step in, and should be presented as the European pillar of the NATO effort. Fourth, Europe must reach a modus vivendi with Russia and China, that considers the European interests but is not naïve. Russia is our immediate neighbour, which means we must agree on keeping the bordering space between them and us safe and prosperous. China, on the other hand, is a major power in the making. Europe cannot have an indifferent position towards it.