The article reviews the legal significance of the European Union’s quest for “strategic autonomy” in its external relations. First the political origin of the term is recapped and a legal definition proposed: “Striving for multilateral solutions, while being able to take lawful action alone to safeguard the Union’s values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity!” Second, the application thereof in the EU’s common commercial policy is reviewed. In particular, the recent EU legislative initiatives that combat economic distortions on the one hand are distinguished from the pieces of EU legislation that foster EU values worldwide on the other hand. Third, the Common Foreign and Security Policy is considered. It is shown how the EU’s reaction in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to an unprecedented array of use of available instruments (European Peace Facility, ten sanctions packages, support for Ukraine for its legal cases against Russia). The conclusion identifies a new defining moment for the European project through a remarkable legal push from intergovernmental to integrationist conduct in its external relations in the 2020s.