Europe’s strategic long-shot: More warships in the Indo-Pacific

AT SEA - JANUARY 18: A pilot works in an F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) aircraft carrier while at sea, on January 18, 2020 off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. The USS Nimitz is currently conducting routine operations and training at sea. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier holds a flight deck area of 4.5 acres and can hold 65 aircraft along with nearly 5,000 total personnel. It is the oldest U.S. Navy carrier in active service and was commissioned on May 3, 1975. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Naval ambitions come as part of EU’s strategy to extend its Asian reach and counter the rise of China.


The EU is on Monday set to commit to a “meaningful” naval presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but it is still unclear whether many European countries would be willing (or even able) to send serious firepower to the region and risk antagonizing China.

The move — part of a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region seen by POLITICO — is an important diplomatic step for the bloc. France is currently the only European country with significant naval forces in the region but the rest of the EU is coming under heightened pressure to step up because the U.S. military under President Joe Biden is increasingly identifying China as a leading global security threat.

At a Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday, EU countries represented by foreign ministers are expected to adopt a document that for the first time sets out a comprehensive European strategy toward the Indo-Pacific region. According to a draft, the strategy seeks to address Beijing’s rise and broaches topics ranging from reducing economic dependence on China to expanding Europe’s role in digitalization throughout Southeast Asia. Most contentiously, the plan will also acknowledge “the importance of a meaningful European naval presence in the Indo-Pacific.” 



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