The EU Needs a Grand Strategy

The EU has filled the post-Lisbon positions that could eventually help transform it into a true global power in the strict sense of the term. But it still lacks a long-term vision of what it hopes to accomplish in order to drive that transformation. That’s the gist of this Sven Bishop post at European Geostrategery, anyway, and I think he’s absolutely right in the diagnosis — especially with regard to the specific areas where the EU needs to come up with some answers: The EU Neighborhood concept, enlargement (read: Russia policy), various regional objectives, global and institutional objectives, and crisis management.

But in anchoring his own proposed strategic vision to the EU’s values, Bishop simply recreates the EU’s (and to some extent, America’s) fundamental dilemma in the emerging geopolitical landscape — namely, where to strike the balance between values and interests? That has so far been the paralyzing tendency in Europeans’ vision of Europe, with a popular preference for “soft power” and a values-based approach undermining the EU’s ability to advance its interests and assume a more hard-power role in global affairs.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the EU does a good job of advancing its interests through its soft power where it can. And I admire its emphasis on values and a multilateral approach to the use of military force. But even when advanced by soft power, the EU’s interests are not always consistent with its own values, and the discomfort with hard power is self-limiting. Bishop seems to acknowledge that hard questions about values vs. interests need to be addressed on the level of policy. But his initial assumptions on the level of strategic vision seem to preclude a real and necessary debate.