In theory, it sounded great. Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised his compatriots, would become a “global Britain” after Brexit and would henceforth play a decisive role in shaping world politics on its own. However, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has shown that the UK is not in a position to carry out its foreign and security policy on its own. At that time the British had entered Afghanistan together with the US, and together with the Americans they had to leave again.
Johnson boasted that “the largest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history” during the British airlift succeeded in getting 15,000 people out of Kabul and helping 36 other nations on the airlift. But that cannot hide the fact that Britain is dependent on the United States. When the last American soldiers left Kabul, the British also had to end their deployment.
British foreign policy is currently experiencing its “moment of struggle”. As a reminder: in a Bavarian beer tent, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in 2017, with a view to then-US President Donald Trump: “The times when we could completely trust each other are far away.”
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Now, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, initiated by Trump and carried out by his successor Joe Biden, is anything but surprising. But for many members of the conservative British ruling party in particular, the circumstances of the swift withdrawal spell personal offense; for them, the “special relationship” with the United States is a kind of Holy Grail.
Landing hard on the ground of reality
Landing in reality is doubly painful for Johnson and Brexit fans in the UK. After all, Britain currently chairs the club of the seven major Western industrial nations, the G7. In London, this leads to the illusion that Britain and the US are halfway there on an equal footing. Last June, at the G-7 summit in Cornwall, Johnson celebrated the fact that the United States and Britain had a common agenda in many areas. There’s a “breath of fresh air,” Johnson said cheerfully.
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But the Afghanistan debacle now shows just how fragile the connection between London and Washington really is. Biden refrained from consulting the London government on the withdrawal. As local Afghan staff desperately tried to get a seat on the plane at Kabul airport, the British prime minister gathered G-7 leaders for a video summit. This did not change the speed of the American withdrawal.
The debacle could lead to a rapprochement between the EU and London
In this situation, the owner of Downing Street in London would do well to seek new partners in foreign and security policy, in those areas where military dependence on the US is as painfully perceived as in Britain: in the Union. European. As on the island, the sudden withdrawal of the Americans came as a shock to those EU states that, like Germany, maintained a military presence in the Hindu Kush until the very end.
It is also a rude awakening for the EU
It is also a rude awakening for the EU: the comfortable existence in the shadow of the world policeman America is finally over. The EU has to deal with the crisis on its own doorstep no later than now.
[Lesen Sie hier bei T+: Brexit-Folgen in Großbritannien – Leere Regale und geschlossene Tankstellen]
Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer recently made clear that such considerations need not weaken the strong alliance with the United States within NATO. Only NATO, under the leadership of the United States, was able to take on the decades-long mission in Afghanistan. The Europeans would not have been able to secure the Kabul airport themselves.
Europeans and the US could have different interests in the future
But the images from Kabul in particular should make the EU understand how necessary it is to further develop military capabilities. After all, and this is what Kramp-Karrenbauer also predicts, it is not certain that the strategic interests of the United States and Europeans will always be congruent in the future.
If they really want to effectively strengthen the European pillar within NATO, the EU states cannot do without Britain. Does this idea make sense to the Prime Minister of all the people who did everything they could to get their country out of the EU?
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