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Illusions of Autonomy: Why Europe Cannot Provide for Its Security if the United States Pulls Back

Abstract : Europe's security landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade amid Russia's resurgence, mounting doubts about the long-term reliability of the U.S. security commitment, and Europe's growing aspiration for strategic autonomy. This changed security landscape raises an important counterfactual question: Could Europeans develop an autonomous defense capacity if the United States withdrew completely from Europe? The answer to this question has major implications for a range of policy issues and for the ongoing U.S. grand strategy debate in light of the prominent argument by U.S. “restraint” scholars that Europe can easily defend itself. Addressing this question requires an examination of the historical evolution as well as the current and likely future state of European interests and defense capacity. It shows that any European effort to achieve strategic autonomy would be fundamentally hampered by two mutually reinforcing constraints: “strategic cacophony,” namely profound, continent-wide divergences across all domains of national defense policies—most notably, threat perceptions; and severe military capacity shortfalls that would be very costly and time-consuming to close. As a result, Europeans are highly unlikely to develop an autonomous defense capacity anytime soon, even if the United States were to fully withdraw from the continent.
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Submitted on : Monday, November 22, 2021 - 3:28:51 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 1, 2022 - 3:56:57 AM


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Hugo Meijer, Stephen G. Brooks. Illusions of Autonomy: Why Europe Cannot Provide for Its Security if the United States Pulls Back. International Security, 2021, 45 (4), pp.7 - 43. ⟨10.1162/isec_a_00405⟩. ⟨hal-03393477⟩



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