Germany and France’s Quests Against American Leadership in Trans-Atlantic Relations

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron stated at the press conference they held on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the agreement that restored the relations between the two countries, that they wanted to build a strong Europe and therefore they wanted to invest more in the armed forces and defense industry.[1]

As is known, the two countries have fought for various reasons, especially the Alsace Lorraine Question throughout history. Therefore, there is a serious competition between Berlin and Paris for the leadership of Continental Europe. In fact, what brings the parties together today within the framework of the European Union (EU) is the desire to prevent the parties from fighting through initiatives such as the European Coal-Steel Community and the European Economic Community. In this sense, these two states, who learned lessons from the Second World War, learned to act together so that the European continent would not witness destructive wars again.

However, it should be emphasized that the togetherness of Europe developed under the leadership of the United States of America (USA) within the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) based on the perception of the “Soviet threat”. Although the Continental Europe debated its strategic centrality from time to time and questioned the leadership of the USA, especially when Charles De Gaulle was President of France, the crises enabled the Washington administration to maintain its hegemony over Europe.

One of the most critical periods in which the crack in the trans-Atlantic relations became clear and the strategic autonomy of Europe and in this context the idea of ​​the “European Army” were discussed, was the period of the previous US President Donald Trump. Trump’s opening the discussion on the cost of Europe’s defense and, in a sense, demanding that the US share the burden has been seen as an arrogant approach by various actors, notably Germany and France. In the process in question, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “NATO is brain dead.”  he is also remembered as speaking.[2]

In this sense, it has been seen that a serious effort and search for the positioning of Europe as a pole in the multipolar world has come to the fore. The European Army (PESCO) discussions have already come to the fore as a part of this. However, the Russia-Ukraine War revived the perceptions of Europe’s traditional other, the “Russian threat”, and the sense of solidarity among NATO countries led by the USA increased. At this point, the support of Ukraine was defined within the framework of values ​​such as the defense of democracies against autocracies, and the EU displayed a monolithic attitude despite some cracked voices at the point of sanctions targeting the Moscow administration. This has constitutes the impression that the European security architecture, centered on the USA and therefore NATO, would continue. At the same time, the situation in question has been interpreted as the American hegemony and thus the unipolar world order will continue for long time.

On the other hand, as the war prolonged, while the gains of the USA and England increased; with the effect of interdependence relations, the harms of European countries come to the fore and Continental Europe brings different searches to the agenda. In particular, it can be said that the energy factor plays a decisive role in this regard.

The aforementioned situation clearly shows itself in the search for the end of the war and aids to Ukraine, and it is clearly seen that Continental Europe is separated from the UK-USA binary. Because while Germany and France expressed their quest for a ceasefire to end the war; on the other hand, during the aid to Ukraine, it refrains from sending heavy weapons that will change the outcome of the war, and therefore from taking steps that will draw the reaction of Russia.

In such a setting, the statements of Scholz and Macron regarding the emphasis on defense in the context of European security and making investments in this regard are very important. It is possible to interpret these explanations in two frameworks. First of all, it can be argued that the search for the strategic autonomy of the European Union (EU) and structures such as PESCO will increase again, and therefore the EU will tend to become a pole in a multipolar world. As a matter of fact, the German Chancellor’s request from Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin and to work for a ceasefire during his Beijing visit and Berlin’s will to maintain economic relations with China despite the pressures from Washington confirm this. In a similar way, it is known that Macron is willing to mediate to end the war and build a European security architecture in which Russia will be involved in the energy context. All this contradicts the expectations of the USA regarding the prolongation of the war.

Secondly, it can be stated that the aforementioned defense expenditures will reinforce the national ambitions of the states, and therefore, the historical antagonisms between the European states may clinch after many years. This is also may lead to Europe becoming a much more fragmented structure rather than being a monolithic actor.

As a result, Continental Europe wants to be positioned as a pole in multipolar world by increasing its strategic autonomy for many years. Although the Russia-Ukraine War, by repairing the crack in the Trans-Atlantic relations, hindered Europe’s goal, the objections of the EU led by Germany and France also began to come to the fore as the war continued. Although the Russia-Ukraine War, by repairing the crack in the Trans-Atlantic relations, hindered Europe’s goal, the objections of the EU led by Germany and France also began to come to the fore as the war drags on. In this sense, the two do not look at cooperation with Russia and China coldly, and therefore they want the war to end as soon as possible. The messages of the leaders on defense expenditures indicate that the discussions on the European Army will be revived. This is also related to the EU’s desire to be positioned as a pole in multipolar world despite the USA. However, it is possible that the armament initiatives in Continental Europe will trigger contradictions and divisions within Europe.

[1] “Macron y Scholz defienden que la construcción de una Europa ‘fuerte’ pasa por invertir más en Defensa”, La Razion,, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[2] “Fransa Cumhurbaşkanı Macron: NATO’nun Beyin Ölümü Gerçekleşti”, BBC Türkçe,, (Date of Accession: 21.01.2023).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.