EU Building Reputation
World politics can be extremely confusing. Correctly judging the motivation behind a nation’s foreign policy is a particularly challenging exercise. So what’s behind the European Union’s interest in the North Korean nuclear crisis?
In May, the EU announced that it wants to play a role in the disarmament of North Korea, acting specifically as a buffer in negotiations between Pyongyang and the United States.
While this seems like an altruistic gesture by the EU, is it really necessary? Five major nations—including Japan, Russia and China—are already working to stop North Korea from manufacturing nuclear weapons. The EU would simply be another cook in an already busy kitchen.
One constant in geopolitics is this: Self-interest is the defining motivation behind the foreign policy of nations. Assess the EU’s drive to be involved in the North Korean crisis in light of this constant, and the reason for European involvement becomes clear.
“This [North Korean negotiations] is where the EU can step out on the world stage as an institution. The EU wants to create a reality for itself as an international actor” (Stratfor, May 19; emphasis ours). By seeking a role in the North Korean nuclear crisis, one of the largest geopolitical flash points on the global scene, the EU is looking to build its reputation as an influential and global superpower.
Until its own constitutional crisis is solved, it will be difficult for the EU to speak as one voice in its own internal affairs. Hence the strategy to overcome this credibility vacuum by increasing its involvement in broader diplomatic theaters.
In North Korea, the EU may speak as a united power since the outcome barely affects internal European politics. These nuclear talks are the perfect avenue by which the EU can gain global publicity as a benevolent and active participator in world affairs. For the EU, a side benefit is the potential that successful EU involvement in the crisis could diplomatically and politically isolate America.
In light of the current political and economic tension that exists between Russia and America and China and America, it’s possible that any measure of success that might come from the EU’s involvement in North Korea could go a long way toward these nations looking more to Europe for direction in future crises.
There is a lot we can’t know about this issue. It’s possible that there will be no room at the table for the EU in the discussions to disarm North Korea; the EU may even hinder successful negotiations. But there is one absolute we can be sure of: The EU is looking for every opportunity to project itself as a leading global power, and the North Korean nuclear talks are just that.
Watch for the EU to become more involved with international affairs and build its reputation as a global power, as well as marginalize American influence in world affairs.