Interdependence, Asymmetric Crises and European Defence Co-operation

Pierre Haroche

This paper seeks to explain the difficulties currently encountered by European defence co-operation as a case of secondary alliance dilemma, in which states face the risk of being either trapped or abandoned. I argue that European defence co-operation is a response to external crises that place European states in a situation of military interdependence. Conversely, asymmetric crises that affect European states unevenly provide incentives for those states to maintain their autonomy of action. Defence co-operation thus becomes a hollow shell because states tend to abandon one another, or a trap, because co-operation pushes states to intervene in conflicts that do not interest them.Since the CSDP's establishment, the vast majority of EU military interventions have consisted of deployments to Africa. This can be explained by the interdependence of former colonial powers (especially France and the UK). However, other European continental powers (especially Germany and Eastern European countries) have become increasingly torn between their European commitments and their reluctance to be trapped in Africa, a region in which they have no strategic interest. This situation has led to a feeling of abandonment on the French side. This dilemma is even more serious since the simultaneous rise of crises in Africa and Eastern Europe. Consequently, tensions have increased between France, which is increasingly engaged in Africa, and its European partners. The fact that France invoked article 42.7 requiring other EU members to provide assistance after the Paris terror attacks is the latest manifestation of this secondary alliance dilemma.

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