After a stormy showdown with Washington, Paris began to think about leaving NATO. The situation was slightly corrected by a call from Joseph Biden. But Emmanuel Macron wants to become the leader of the EU after Angela Merkel and therefore actively promotes the topic of strategic independence. The French are determined to achieve respect for their own interests, but other allies – already in Europe itself – can prevent this.
It’s time to get out
France needs to “stop indulging in illusions” and withdraw from NATO. And at the same time to curtail the creation of the center of “best practices” of the North Atlantic Alliance in the field of space security, which Washington planned to place in Toulouse. The deputy of the National Assembly, the head of the left “Unruly France” Jean-Luc Melanchon is sure of this.
He is supported by the leader of the “National Association” Marine Le Pen. Dislike for America united political rivals.
Their harsh remarks are understandable: the diplomatic scandal between France and the United States is in full swing. The Fifth Republic took offense when Australia tore up a major contract for the construction of 12 submarines with the French company Naval Group and preferred American nuclear submarines. Moreover, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom announced the creation of a new AUKUS alliance in the field of defense and security – France was not only not invited, but also not warned. But Paris considered itself an important player in the Pacific region – on a par with Washington.
The breakdown of the € 56 billion contract was a heavy blow for France. The country is confident that the “knife in the back” and “slap in the face” from the United States call into question the ties between Paris and the Anglo-Saxon allies and “will lead to dire consequences.”
France has recalled ambassadors from Australia and the United States. Defense Secretary Florence Parley said Washington has long been disregarded as a reliable partner. And Emmanuel Macron canceled the joint celebration of the 240th anniversary of the Chesapeake naval battle with the Americans and refused to participate in the forum of democracies that the United States will hold in December. The President does not hide: he took what happened as a personal offense, so he intends to discuss whether it makes sense to stay in NATO further.
The history of France knows a similar example. In 1966, Charles de Gaulle, demanding more respect from the Americans, withdrew the country from the military structures of the alliance, leaving it only in political ones. She returned there only in 2009 under Nicolas Sarkozy. By the way, then the socialists opposed: they sent representatives to the National Assembly, thereby warning that NATO membership “would lead to dependence on the United States.”
United front against the USA
In the scandal, the European Union sided with France. Brussels made it clear that breaking the contract with Paris is a challenge to the entire bloc. Biden’s efforts to reconcile with the European allies, relations with whom his predecessor had badly damaged, went to pieces.
But it turned out that after the story with the submarines, Donald Trump was an even more acceptable interlocutor for Europeans – in any case, he did not hide his intentions. And now the head of the European Council Charles Michel notes that Washington is not a reliable partner, it is necessary to rely less on it and strengthen its own defense potential.
Brussels has long dreamed of creating a sovereign armed forces. But the matter does not go beyond plans: Poland, Britain and the Baltic countries usually oppose. The United States itself does not support the idea either, for obvious reasons: this would weaken American influence in Europe.
But now may be the best time for a breakthrough, believes the British newspaper The Telegraph, and Macron is the best candidate for the leadership role. The departure of Angela Merkel from the post of German Chancellor gives the French president a chance to become number one in a united Europe, and therefore, to promote the idea of military integration.
From January 1, France will take over the presidency of the European Union. Next year, a defense summit will be held, where they plan to decide on the rapid reaction forces.
In France itself, meanwhile, the presidential campaign has already begun. The elections will be held in seven months. So far, the likely candidates are considered Macron, Melanchon and Le Pen, as well as journalist and political scientist Eric Zemmour. He has already participated in televised debates, but has not yet confirmed whether he will join the race.
“Macron’s current foreign policy steps did not add to his popularity. But so far he is still in the lead in public opinion polls. There are many internal problems in the country: most reforms have not gone ahead. And the president will try to play external trump cards to the maximum,” explained a leading researcher at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergey Fedorov.
Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), agrees with him: “Almost nothing is working in internal affairs. I would like to compensate for these problems with foreign policy successes, the status of a great power is not an empty phrase for the French voter.”
Now the circumstances are favorable for Paris. “After Britain’s withdrawal, France remained the only nuclear power in the European Union and the only member of the UN Security Council from the EU. This feeds French ambitions. Macron did not accidentally say that, under certain circumstances, he could provide protection to EU partners with a French nuclear arsenal,” the expert explained.
However, at the same time, Kortunov is sure: despite the aggravation of relations, the situation 50 years ago will not repeat itself and France will not leave NATO. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has already flown to Paris, and French Ambassador Philippe Etienne went to Washington. In the meantime, the republic is awaiting compensation for the losses incurred, including moral ones.