French leader Emmanuel Macron and EU Commissioner Josep Borrell have been pushing for the bloc to build its own EU army in a bid to rely less on American and other non-EU NATO allies. But German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer shut down their hopes ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels.
Speaking to Politico, the German politician said that the chaotic US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan showed that Europe must cooperate more with America rather than move further away from it.
She said: “There is a lot of talk about European autonomy, or sovereignty, or — as I prefer to call it — more ability to act from the European Union in security and defence.
“People are asking why we were not in a position to hold the Kabul airport ourselves.
“We have to say quite openly: Without the capabilities of the Americans, we, as Europeans, would not have been able to do that.”
She added that with the idea of strategic autonomy propagated by the French President, “we are detaching ourselves from America, then I think that is the wrong way to go.”
The French leader also renewed his ambition for an EU army when the UK, Australia and the US signed a new partnership to counteract threats in the Indo-Pacific, leaving France short of a lucrative submarines deal with Australia.
But Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “I can understand the annoyance of France.
“However, it is to be noted that it was first of all a bilateral question of armament between two states.”
She urged the French leader to get over the “problematic” decision made by the AUKUS nations, adding: “It’s good that there has now been a debate, including between France and the United States.
“For example, strategic air transport.
“We have a European approach there.”
The comments came as NATO defence ministers are set to agree a new plan to defend against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts, reaffirming the alliance’s core goal of deterring Moscow despite a growing focus on China.
The confidential strategy aims to prepare for any simultaneous attack in the Baltic and the Black Sea regions that could include nuclear weapons, hacking of computer networks and assaults from space.
“It recognises a more 21st-century threat and how to deal with it,” British defence minister Ben Wallace told reporters.
Officials stress that they do not believe any Russian attack is imminent. Moscow denies any aggressive intentions and says it is NATO that risks destabilising Europe with such preparations.
But diplomats say the “Concept for Deterrence and Defence in the Euro-Atlantic Area” – and its strategic implementation plan – is needed as Russia develops advanced weapon systems and deploys troops and equipment closer to the allies’ borders.
“This is the way of deterrence,” Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said of the plan.
“And this is being adapted to the current behaviour of Russia and we are seeing violations particularly of the air space over the Baltic states, but also increasing incursions over the Black Sea,” she told German radio Deutschlandfunk.
Approval will allow for more detailed regional plans by the end of 2022, a US official said, allowing NATO to decide what additional weapons it needs and how to position its forces.