One of the less-noticed implications of the Malian crisis is what it is doing to the internal dynamics of the European Union, and especially to its defence and security component.
France has been on the back foot in recent years, pushed around economically by Germany, and unable to implement much of its ambitious policies to develop a real security and defence identity within the EU. It’s too soon to assess the final effects of the Malian crisis, but a few things are already clear.
First, France has again shown itself the only nation capable of intervening rapidly in an African crisis. The British could have done something similar in theory, but their actual capability to act in this way is diminishing quite quickly. For the Germans, politics would rule out any such initiative, even if the technical capability existed to do it. Since everyone knows this, the balance within the EU between France and its major partners will be subtly affected.
Second, this is both good and bad for France. Good, in the sense that France renews its lease on the position of natural leader of Europe on security issues. Bad in the sense that France is pretty much on its own, and the long-promised deployable European capability still shows no signs or arriving.
And finally, the European agenda for the foreseeable future has now been modified. Germany, with its usual tact and sensitivity, had already managed to alienate many of its partners through its stubborn attachment to the ideology of austerity. Now, European leaders will increasingly be discussing subjects where the Germans don’t have a lot to say; It will be interesting to see how this plays out.