Europe must wake up to US perfidy

On Sept 15, the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia held a virtual summit and announced a “technology sharing deal” under a trilateral security pact that was widely seen as a bid to counter China though a White House spokesperson has refused to specify.

The most publicized part of the deal was that the US would now share its nuclear submarine technology with Australia, prompting Canberra to jettison a US$90 billion order it had previously placed with France for conventional submarines, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson immediately criticized as a brazen US double standard in treating nuclear proliferation

What Biden has demonstrated in his treatment of France is that “America First” is not just a trend under Trump, but it is a longstanding feature of US behavior which treats Europe as a tool and not as a partner. It is time for lessons to be learnt.

The scrapping of the French deal provoked outrage from Paris which said the betrayal “only reinforces the need to make the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear” — in other words, to be less dependent on the United States.

ALSO READ: US, Britain, Australia announce new security partnership

America has effectively cheated France in pursuit of ensuring profits for its military-industrial complex. Although US President Joe Biden has frequently marketed “America is Back!” and pushed a charm offensive in Europe, urging the region to “unite” against China, in reality US foreign policy has always been driven by the same old “self-interested” sentiment.

The approach saw European countries used as a tool to advance the US’ objectives, as opposed to a partnership, and readily cheating them, discarding them and undermining their interests when Washington sees fit.

The US has a longstanding foreign policy of undermining European critical industries in favor of American ones.

The previous Donald Trump administration was particularly aggressive toward Europe. Under the name of “America First”, Trump attacked EU countries relentlessly on trade, escalated the Boeing-Airbus dispute, and leveraged defense cooperation in a coercive manner.

However, because people pinned so much focus on Trump as an individual, European leaders erroneously assumed that Biden, who claimed he would support allies more under the name of “America is Back!” would reverse these policies and that transatlantic solidarity would be restored. As a result, they became more open to cooperating with the US on its desire to compete with and try to contain China.

On the eve of Biden’s presidency, the EU and China had reached a deal in principle for a “Comprehensive Investment Agreement”, or CAI, wherein China would offer increased market access to European companies. The US, as made evident by Jake Sullivan, who currently serves as the national security advisor to the US president, openly opposed this deal on twitter and demanded “preliminary discussions on China’s economic practices” in the name of transatlantic solidarity.

The problem, of course, was that Europe was building a more preferential relationship with Beijing than what America itself was getting. Thus, in the opening months of the Biden presidency, the White House moved to actively sabotage the deal between Brussels and Beijing.

READ MORE: Wang condemns 'reckless provocation' by Washington

And Europe made some strategic mistakes. In having decided to coordinate on behalf of the US in implementing sanctions on China over the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Beijing responded with countermeasures which outraged European Parliament members who voted to freeze the deal.

What happened? America had effectively driven a wedge between the EU and Beijing by pushing them toward confronting China, and in the process had undermined European interests. Europe perhaps calculated that in taking this risky position, they could extract concessions from the US which would willing to support them more and thus rebuild the solidarity which was perceived to have been lost under Trump.

However, as the submarine fiasco shows, what the US effectively does is bully and hoodwink Europe into following Washington’s own foreign policy preferences, and then effectively undermine the European nations’ interests in other areas anyway. This has led to a situation where Europe has allowed itself time and time again to be manipulated, deceived and self-harmed by its relationship with America.

READ MORE: US, UK export of nuclear sub technology to Australia deplored

There are a few more examples of this, such as how America co-opted Danish intelligence agencies to spy on Europe’s own Eurofighter military aircraft program so it would not undercut the US arms industry; how the US for years has sought to undermine Airbus deals in order to boost Boeing; how it has spied on German leaders and stolen industry patents — the list goes on.

Yet, despite all this, Europe continues to take a soft approach to the US.

As France says, it is important now for Europe to exert its strategic independence and formulate a relationship with China that serves European interests, irrespective of what the US wants. Both parties should now work together to overcome mutual differences, to implement the CAI agreement and make themselves less susceptible to US wedge politics.

What Biden has demonstrated in his treatment of France is that “America First” is not just a trend under Trump, but it is a longstanding feature of US behavior which treats Europe as a tool and not as a partner. It is time for lessons to be learnt.

The author is a British political and international relations analyst. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.