European Strategic Autonomy: The Test Case of Iran

In: European Review of International Studies
Sascha Lohmann The Americas Research Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs( swp), Berlin, Germany,

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The ideal of the European Union (EU) as a global peace and security actor is increasingly clashing with the reality of a multipolar world defined by militarised conflict, and a loosening of the formerly close trans-Atlantic relationship with the United States. European policy-makers have identified strategic autonomy as a possible remedy in the face of a growing number of internal and external security threats. This paper adds to the conceptualisation of strategic autonomy by contextualising its current usage and political genealogy. Empirically, European strategic autonomy is examined concerning the efforts to preserve the Iranian nuclear deal after the Trump administration had ceased US participation in May 2018. In particular, the paper assesses the European response to counter the re-imposed unilateral United States (US) sanctions against European individuals and entities by updating the so-called blocking regulation, and setting up a special purpose vehicle (spv) for facilitating trade with Iran. The results show that the European struggle toward achieving strategic autonomy has largely failed, but that it holds valuable lessons to approximate this ideal in the future.

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