Between NATO and the EU, a complicated relationship to build against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine

'NATO closes the skies today,' reads a billboard, during a 36-hour curfew in Kyiv on March 22, 2022.

A double opportunity to celebrate the “unity” of American and European allies against Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Joe Biden’s visit to Brussels on Thursday March 24 should allow the American president to participate in an extraordinary NATO summit. , in the morning, then to the European Council, in the afternoon. During these meetings, supplemented by a G7 summit, the emphasis will be on the cohesion of the Western bloc, after a month of war in Ukraine.

The idea, as during the last call between the White House tenant and his main continental interlocutors on Monday, is to discuss new sanctions, in order to force Moscow to accept a ceasefire. The latter is still inaccessible, as the French head of state, Emmanuel Macron, was able to see again on Tuesday evening, after new conversations with his Russian counterparts, Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian, Volodymyr Zelensky. But nothing indicates that spectacular announcements will be made in terms of sanctions, as the Europeans have difficulty collectively envisaging an energy embargo to date, unlike the United States, which is much less dependent on Russian hydrocarbons.

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Since the invasion, cooperation between the two shores of the Atlantic has been at its height, far from the lack of consultation observed during the summer of 2021, during the hasty withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. “The Americans are almost a little too much”, quipped a diplomatic source. For her, one of the challenges of the transatlantic response to the Russian offensive is to somewhat rebalance a relationship between the United States and Europe hitherto dominated head and shoulders by Washington, because of its defense superiority. A point of view that is not necessarily shared across the continent, because the war in Ukraine is giving NATO a second life, despite the efforts made by France to strengthen European defense capabilities.

“Strategic Compass”

The arrival of Joe Biden in Brussels will provide a new opportunity to celebrate the appeasement of a transatlantic relationship undermined by Donald Trump. He did not hide his contempt for Europe or wondered about the role of NATO and its mutual assistance clause, the true foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty and the defense of European territory. The former Republican president also exerted constant – and often insulting – pressure on member states to relieve the United States of some of its “burden”. A message now received five out of five by European capitals, anxious, starting with Berlin, to invest much more in their army.

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