Broken American leadership, a specter that haunts Europe

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(MENAFN – Asia Times) In the aftermath of the chaotic evacuation of Europeans and Afghans from Kabul airport, NATO allies are concerned about the reliability of the United States and the competence of President Joe’s government Biden.

Adding to the widespread annoyance is the feeling that Washington generally despises Europe and underestimates the alliance.

It marks a sharp turnaround in European opinion since Biden took office in January. After replacing the histrionic and often hostile Donald Trump, European leaders expressed confidence that a firm and expert hand had returned to guide American foreign policy.

But after Biden’s ill-planned exit from Afghanistan, criticism has exploded across the continent. “It is a failure of the Western world and it is a game-changer for international relations,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat. able to step in to protect our interests when Americans don’t want to be involved.

The Allies have lost 1,145 troops in 20 years while approximately 2,400 Americans have died. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed.

The first line of criticism was over Biden’s withdrawal schedule and security preparations for the evacuation of thousands of potential refugees.

His decision to withdraw was taken in April, but the mass evacuation did not begin until August 14, 17 days before the deadline he had firmly set for the departure of all American troops. He also withdrew 2,500 American soldiers before the start of the exodus, then had to return 5,000 to manage the crisis.

All the while, Biden has expressed confidence that Afghanistan will not collapse any time soon in the face of the Taliban. The allies were bewildered.

The Taliban take control of Hamid Karzai International Airport after the completion of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021. Photo: AFP via Anadolu Agency / Wali Sabawoon

In the British parliament, Teresa May, a former prime minister, expressed European frustration in sarcastic tones: “Did we just think we had to follow the United States and on a wing and a prayer, everything would be fine?

Biden made tactical decisions without discussions with the allies. To many, this suggested contempt for NATO lawyers. It also forced them to hastily send their own forces to Kabul to organize their own evacuations of diplomats and allied Afghans.

“Nobody asked us if it was a good idea to leave this country so quickly,” noted Johann Wadephul, Christian Democratic Union parliamentary leader under German Chancellor Angel Merkel.

“The immediate feeling around this whole situation is that maybe there should have been more consultation and more joint planning,” said Irishman David O’Sullivan, former EU ambassador to the United States. .

Biden’s unilateral decision-making highlighted Europe’s debilitating dependence on the United States, not only for combat power, but also for logistics.

Once Biden spoke, the Europeans had no choice but to rush into American planes not only to bring out some of their 7,000 troops, but also Afghan allies who had worked for them.

NATO has “an unquestionable dependence on the United States,” the Carnegie Endowment for Peace said in a report on the situation.

The Afghan final renewed a long search for a convincing Allied role after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, US diplomats suggested that the future lay in embarking NATO on missions beyond European borders as a sort of global police force.

The mantra was “out of the zone or out of business” in the words of the late Richard Holbrooke, a senior American diplomat at the time.

The United Nations authorized NATO’s first venture outside the alliance boundaries in 1994, when the world body asked it to bomb Serbian artillery and fighter jets.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference during a NATO summit at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels on June 14, 2021. Photo: AFP / Olivier Hoslet / Pool

In 1999, NATO again entered war with Serbia, this time without UN authorization. In the name of a “humanitarian intervention” to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Kosovo, NATO planes bombed Serbian forces inside the breakaway region and targeted Serbia, including its capital Belgrade.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington provided NATO with an opportunity to go to war in Asia to defend its main member, the United States. At the start of the war, the Afghan rebel militias, with the help of American air power, overthrew the Afghan Taliban leadership.

Afghan and American forces later drove al-Qaeda terrorists out of the country. NATO forces arrived at the scene more than a year later both to fight and to participate in the inconsistent effort to rebuild Afghanistan and strengthen its military and government capabilities.

This project ended on August 31.

For a future role for NATO, one option is to return to its original mission: to defend Europe against Russia, the aggressive rump successor of the Soviet Union. But even this mission raises issues of NATO scope: the main action is not within NATO’s borders, but at its doorstep in Ukraine.

Is NATO, with the United States presumably in the lead, ready to defend Ukraine against Russian military intervention? This is not yet the case. Will he cancel the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014 and one day make Ukraine a member of the alliance? Neither seems on the horizon.

Potential clues could emerge when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Biden in Washington on September 1. He fears Biden is determined to appease Russia in order to focus entirely on China.

His testimony: Biden withdrew his opposition and sanctions to companies building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. Because the pipeline bypasses Ukraine, it robs Kiev of $ 1.2 billion in annual transit fees and means Moscow can cut off supplies to Ukraine without upsetting Western Europe.

Biden once called the pipeline a threat to European security, but once in office he backed down at German insistence. Ukrainian officials have noted with regret Biden’s emphasis on corruption in Ukraine, which, although a significant problem, strikes them as a way to distract from the military threat to the ‘is.

A worker walks on the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Lubmin, north-eastern Germany. Photo credit: AFP / Tobias Schwarz

Further, Biden wants NATO to adhere to US plans to confront China in East Asia and hamper its naval expansion in nearby waters.

It is not clear that NATO, in whole or in part, would follow Biden in such a distant and potentially cumbersome endeavor. In June, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out against a NATO hard line against China. He reminded Biden that the group is an Atlantic alliance, not a peaceful one.

NATO may simply prefer to stick to its home continent. Some members complain that NATO has failed to control Europe’s southern Mediterranean border against uncontrolled migration. The Afghan withdrawal further raised concerns about a further flood of refugees.

All of this feeds doubts about the alliance and the American leadership. “Some of the discord that we are seeing now is probably also rooted in the feeling of unease about how things are going to turn out in the future” as well as “the uncertainty in Europe over the future direction of policy. of the United States, ”said Katharina Emschermann, director of the Postgraduate Center for International Security at the Hertie School in Berlin.

It is not yet clear whether the uncertainty also stems from the kind of common thread of US policy that guided much of US policy during the Cold War – that is, the need to contain the Soviet Union.

The expansion of US global politics after the Cold War sometimes seems to value alliances and sometimes wants to go it alone. Its political tools oscillate between promiscuous military interventions and underfunded national construction and diplomacy.

Or maybe the dismay reflects a hangover from the performance of the last two US presidents: the bombastic and unpredictable Trump, followed by an unstable Biden. In a time of confusion, a country that produces such leaders does not inspire confidence in Europe.

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