France jostled on the world stage

(Paris) Pushed by its allies in the Indo-Pacific, by the Russians in Mali: in one week, France rediscovered the limits of its means and expanded its power in the face of tightened power relations.

Posted on Sep 28, 2021 at 10:06 am

Valérie LEROUX Agence France-Presse

In the Indo-Pacific, where it has strategic interests in several territories (French Polynesia, New Caledonia, etc.), US President Joe Biden has brutally marginalized it.

An unexpected strategic partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom (“AUKUS”) resulted in the cancellation of a major French submarine order in Canberra intended to seal France’s influence in the region.

In the Sahel, its historic precarré, where it has deployed more than 5,000 men in the fight against terrorism, Moscow is now denying its exclusivity in the name of a war of influence that does not mean its name.

“A certain global conception of diplomacy and French forces is gradually being called into question,” observes Dominique David, advisor at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI) and editor-in-chief of the magazine Politique Etranger.

“France is a military power. Very few countries can project even limited military power very far. It is an economic power, but it is not a power that has the means to intervene “globally” (worldwide), ”he told AFP.

In view of the Chinese urge to expand, which is increasingly worrying the neighboring countries, it can send warships into the South China Sea from time to time, but in no way compete with the clout of the American armada.

In New Caledonia, too, the December 12th referendum on self-determination could lead to a secession of the archipelago and a strong influx of Chinese interests.

“Shard of the Verb”

For Michel Duclos, former ambassador and expert on geopolitics at the Institut Montaigne, France sees itself as “isolated” in the face of these new challenges.

Joe Biden’s America initially chose Great Britain in the name of the “special relationship” that has united the two countries since 1945, and Germany, due to its economic weight, as privileged partners in Europe.

With the submarine crisis and the following text explanation between Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden, Paris has certainly returned to “the Washington radar”, deciphered Michel Duclos, who was interviewed by AFP.

France was loudly and clearly outraged by the snub it suffered and condemned “acceptable” methods between the allies.

“Our Gaullian tradition consists in compensating for the weakening of our means with the brilliance of the word. But there is a moment when it reaches its limits ”, however, observes Michel Duclos.

“Since after 1945, France and Great Britain have played above their category by relying on the American alliance,” added Jean-Sylvestre Montgrenier, researcher at the Thomas More European Institute.

“Expulsion of the French”

The unthinkable now seems possible in Mali: the ruling junta has held talks with the Russian mercenary group Wagner, has no longer worried about France’s reaction, has been active against jihadist groups in this country since 2013 and is writhing against any Russian interference.

The security situation on the ground remains damaging despite the recent “neutralization” of several leading jihadist leaders.

In this context, Russia is advancing its chess pieces, even if it resists any connection with the Wagner group. “Say, ‘I was there first, get out of here! “It is insulting,” said the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov.

“In Africa, Russia is a hostile power. Indeed, it intends to oust the French, to reclaim the ground lost in the 1980s, ”notes Jean-Sylvestre Montgrenier.

Paris has already warned Bamako that any arrival of Russian mercenaries is “incompatible” with the French military presence in Mali.

But for Jean-Sylveste Montgrenier, this stance risks being counterproductive unless you play with the balance of power. “Either we get up or we move away and the Russians move forward,” he told the AFP news agency.

Ten days after the Franco-American fever broke out, Paris bounced back by signing a strategic partnership with Greece, including the sale of frigates.

“The world is splintering, it is rougher than 15 years ago. It is a small wake-up call for France, a shock of clarity that enables it to develop a policy at its level, ”expects Admiral Philippe Ausseur, Director of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES).

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