BERLIN — Germany's defense minister said Tuesday that Europe must do more for its own protection, even as it seeks to ensure that the United States remains vested in the continent's security interests.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told students at a German military university in Hamburg that Europe must accept the paradox that it remains dependent on the U.S. for its security even as it aims to do more to stand on its own legs.
"The idea of Europe's strategic autonomy goes too far if it feeds the illusion that we can ensure security, stability and prosperity in Europe without NATO and without the U.S.," she said.
Doubts over the future of Europe's post-World War II reliance on the United States were stoked in recent years by U.S. President Donald Trump's sharp criticism of the low military expenditure by some of the continent's NATO members, chiefly Germany.
France's President Emmanuel Macron recently insisted that the change of administration in the U.S. should be used as an opportunity to pursue Europe's strategic independence, not backtrack on it.
"The United States will only respect us as allies if we are earnest, and if we are sovereign with respect to our defense," Macron told French magazine Le Grand Continent.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said it's important for Europe to be able to conduct military operations, for example in Africa, independently of the United States.
"That's something completely different than to believe that a European army, however it's composed or set up, could replace America and keep America completely out of Europe," she said.