With America pulling back and expecting more from its allies, a more capable, active, and sovereign EU in security, trade, and global diplomacy is no longer a "nice to have," but a question of survival. Many EU member states are increasingly realizing that if they want to assert themselves in the face of new geopolitical realities, the EU must become a stronger and more capable defence actor that is no longer primarily a civilian power. With the introduction of Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco) and the European Defence Fund, Paris and Berlin have succeeded in laying the foundations for a stronger role of the EU within the European security order. However, these structures have still to be filled with life and nobody in the EU considers them as an alternative to NATO, but rather as a means to expand the EU's footprint in the alliance with the Americans in the long term.
The goal of EU defence initiatives is not the territorial defence of the Union. Their aim instead is crisis management in Europe's periphery. Many EU member states, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, want to avoid even the slightest suspicion that the EU wants to duplicate NATO. They continue to see the USA as the most important and irreplaceable guarantor of their security, which they do not want to alienate under any circumstances. Consequently, the EU aims to further improve the inter-institutional relationship with NATO. Both institutions already work successfully together to create the legal, logistical and infrastructure conditions to enable rapid military movement to, across and from Europe.
Europeans have no intention of turning away from the US in order to gain "strategic autonomy" vis-a-vis their closest ally. In fact, even if the EU was to move much faster and more vigorously with the creation of a European "defence union", it would not become independent from the US in the foreseeable future. Instead, Europeans gradually want to put themselves in a position to protect the EU and stabilize its own neighbourhood in case of a crisis, especially if the US is unwilling to become engaged. At the same time, the existence of a more capable EU is considered to enhance the attractiveness of Europeans as American allies.