Seven days have sufficed for the tempest unleashed by Australia to fizzle out in the tepid waters of a diplomatic communiqué. A mere seven days.
The sudden tearing up of ‘the contract of the century’ bearing on the purchase of French submarines has been denounced as a ‘stab in the back’ by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The recall of our ambassadors from Australia and especially from the United States was pointed out a hundred times as an event without precedent in Franco-American relations. Alas, far from opening a crisis, it was a matter of simple posturing before turning the page.
Following a telephone exchange between Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden, the communiqué of 22 September agreed that some ‘open consultations between allies’ could have avoided the crisis and recognize the role of France in the Indo-Pacific region. But the vague regret expressed by the American President and the polite assurances that he doles out to us changes nothing in reality: it is the United States which will supply the submarines to Australia.
France finds itself doubly humiliated. By the US, the British and the Australians. And by its own leaders, incapable of envisaging a response adequate to the insult.
It is useless to curse the Americans and their allies in the Pacific. They all take decisions conforming to their strategic interests, as they have always done. The French government could have been cautious and brought into action our intelligence services but that wouldn’t have been sufficient. The ‘stab in the back’ of 16 September has been rendered possible because, since the end of the last Century, the leaders of our country have deliberately chosen to be the auxiliaries of the United States. Such was the case in the Balkans against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, then in Afghanistan, in Europe with respect to Russia at the time of the Ukrainian crisis, and in Iraq – before and after our full return within the integrated command structure of NATO. It is unsupportable, but logical, that we should be treated as auxiliaries in the Pacific.
France’s governing class lives in the comfortable illusion that it suffices to take a share of another’s power to assure one’s own power. The cruel fate of auxiliary soldiers, of puppet governments and of submissive states shows that there is no such thing: there is always a moment where the master of the game sacrifices its pawns or changes the rules.
The Atlanticist illusion is accompanied by a discourse on ‘European power’, justified by millions of consumers and the production levels of the European Union – but forgetting the interests of the different national states. It is thus that France has been confronted by German power, that it has seen fit to embellish with the fiction of the ‘Franco-German couple’. Yet here it is that Emmanuel Macron discovers that, during the Franco-Australian crisis, Germany has not hesitated to sign with Australia a partnership on space technologies.
In sum, the governing class of our country has committed three significant errors:
It has believed that China will be [merely] the workshop of the world within a globalized free trade, and that a post-industrial France would profit from its specialisation in services. Yet China has become a great power on the offensive, indeed an aggressive one.
It has believed that the euro zone would be a ‘fortress’ sheltering prosperous exchanges. Yet the euro has favoured Germany and provoked, between other ravages, the deindustrialization of our country.
It has believed that a return to the ‘Western alliance’ would allow us to participate in the strategic decisions of the world’s preeminent power. Yet, in Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, France has simply been invited to follow the action to its disastrous ending.
France and the French have paid dearly for the three errors of its oligarchs. Regarding the interior situation – industrial disasters, trade deficit, growing inequalities both between citizens and between regions. As for external relations, France plays only a very modest role in the Balkans, in Central Asia and in the Middle East – theatres of its military interventions – and has drawn no advantage from its alignment with the United States with respect to Russia.
The governing class will draw no lessons for France from its errors and the resulting failures. In its inner circles and its talkfests, it will continue to mock ‘French arrogance’, to blather, looking serious, on one’s restricted margins of manoeuvrability, to celebrate German rigor and American capitalism.
Here, it’s been a long time since anyone sought our opinion, but that can’t stop us from considering the future. One builds nothing out of dependence. France’s foreign policy must be based on the principle of sovereignty upon which to organize our armed forces, our monetary policies, our technological innovations and the mobilization of our economy.
The destruction of the euro zone and withdrawal from the command structure of NATO are only the preconditions to develop a new system of alliances that allow France to regain its rank and to ensure it is respected.
Translated by Evan Jones.