Joint Policy Brief nº. 4

Afghanistan, AUKUS and European Strategic Autonomy

Publication date:
Pol Morillas, Director, CIDOB

JOINT Policy Brief nº. 4 (October 2021)

Security and defence are increasingly grabbing the spotlight in European public debates. In just a few weeks, the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan and the deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) to share nuclear submarine technology and step up their security partnership in the Indo-Pacific have reinvigorated the debate on the EU’s strategic autonomy and shifting strategic alliances in global security. While the American withdrawal and the realignment of forces in response to China’s growing strength are increasingly discernible, the European Union has not moved yet from intent to action in the domain of security and defence.

“Strategic autonomy”, in EU parlance, is the ability of the European Union to muster the necessary means to achieve its foreign policy aims in cooperation with partners when possible but acting alone when necessary. This long-running debate on strategic autonomy in European capitals, traditionally limited to the realm of defence, has now extended to trade, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and global health, among others.

A Spanish version of this paper was published in the print and online editions of El País on 18 October 2021: “Afganistán, Aukus y la autonomía europea”,