The anger in Paris is stratospheric towards Washington, and a wounded President Macron may just follow de Gaulle’s example from the 1960s, and say au revoir to the transatlantic military alliance.
“A stab in the back,” is how French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described US President Joe Biden’s announcement of a new club of three – the US, Great Britain and Australia – under the guise of countering China in the Indo-pacific region.
The defense minister, Florence Parly, was also taken aback by Biden’s announcement of the group called “AUKUS.” The French are outraged over Biden’s unexpected announcement of America’s new massive defense contract with Australia, which scuppered a similar one signed by Canberra with France’s Naval Group in 2018.
“The first major initiative of AUKUS will be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia,” Biden said. “We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide, Australia, in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Who’s Biden kidding? This entire charade is about using a Chinese bogeyman to keep the US military-industrial complex in the manner to which its shareholders have become accustomed. If it was really just about national security, there was already a French contract in place to achieve that.
The betrayal is particularly jarring since it comes around the same time as two other events which underline the sacrifices that France has made in solidarity with the US. First, within hours of Biden’s announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron informed the world that French forces in the Sahel region of Africa had neutralized the leader of ISIS responsible for the death of American soldiers in 2017.
Secondly, the recent chaotic US-led withdrawal from the 20-year war in Afghanistan left many French – whose military operations there ended in 2012 and training of Afghan forces concluded in 2014 – soul-searching as to whether the sacrifices made purely in support of its US ally in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, were ultimately worth the costs.
Into the current climate now crash-lands this overt American-led betrayal of France, which reacted by cancelling a gala at the French embassy in Washington that was supposed to celebrate the Franco-American relationship. That’s clearly not going far enough.
Joe Biden has effectively just shown America’s allies that they’re nothing more than vassals for serving American interests as Washington sees fit. His announcement sidelines not only France in any potential intelligence cooperation with this new venture – a country which already has overseas territories and considerable military assets in the region – but also other traditional allies like Canada and New Zealand, both of which are members of the Five Eyes group of intelligence-sharing Anglophone countries.
All of these countries have been routinely riding shotgun on failed American foreign interventions around the world, with highly questionable returns on their investment relative to their sacrifice and cost. And all for what? Are they really any safer than if they had just stayed home and invested in shoring up their domestic defenses?
Macron himself has proven skeptical of the US-led NATO alliance recently, saying that it is “brain dead” and suggesting that it needed a new purpose beyond trying to keep the Cold War alive by stoking fear of Russia to keep the national defense coffers brimming.
The French president has encouraged NATO to reposition itself to target terrorism rather than communism. Presumably neither is resonating as much anymore with the general Western public. Or at least they don’t view foreign military intervention as the best approach to addressing these issues. So now US focus has turned almost entirely to China and countering its influence – all while showing a total lack of self-awareness in light of the fact that it was Western nations’ selling out of its own workers in favor of offshoring manufacturing to cheaper labor to China that helped fuel China’s rise.
As is often the case, America is now looking to slay the monster that it largely helped to create for the exact same reason: economic benefit. The pretext of countering China is really the only cause that has the capability of justifying maxed-out defense spending for years to come across all sectors, from conventional to cyber. China is the new cash cow for American big government. And the US only seems interested in determining which of its vassal states – er, “allies” – provide the best window-dressing for that venture, while maximizing its own profits. France didn’t fit the bill as it already had a contract in hand that the US wanted to steal.
The most dignified response that France can now make on behalf of US vassal-state allies would be to leave NATO’s military alliance and look to military cooperation agreements and missions with its European partners – including Russia – that make sense for a uniquely European agenda and interests. Former French President Charles de Gaulle already did it once, in 1966, and the exit lasted for 43 years. It’s time once again for France to take a stand in its own interests and those of its people.