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To defend its interests, France must reconnect with a non-aligned foreign policy

Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison respond to the press before a working dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 15, 2021.

Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison respond to the press before a working dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 15, 2021.

©Thomas SAMSON / AFP

New trafalgar coup on the horizon?

Australia recently announced that it was considering replacing its Airbus MRH-90 Taipan helicopters with American Black Hawks and SeaHawks. Should Europe’s defense industry prepare for another Trafalgar coup from Canberra?

Three months after the French submarine crisis, Australia is risking a new “coup from Trafalgar” from which the European defense industry will necessarily suffer. Canberra has said it wants to “eventually” replace its 47 Airbus MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, used in its army and navy, to order 40 American Black Hawk and SeaHawk helicopters, deemed more “reliable” and economical. Admittedly, the Taipans have been able to show some weaknesses and lack of availability in recent years, and their replacement should in any case take place in 2037. But the Taipans being produced by a consortium of three flagships of the European defense industry, the French Airbus , the Italian Leonardo and the Dutch Fokker, this scrapping confirmed by the Australian press appears as a new insult to the European Union and France.

Beyond the technical reasons it invokes to justify itself, Australia does not hide its desire to engage in an arms race to respond to the threat deemed to be growing from China in the Indo-Pacific zone. This anxiety would explain the abandonment of devices still in service, as well as an importation at a considerable cost and not very advantageous for the Australian industry, which will not be responsible for assembling the new acquisitions. But the statements of the Australian government are significant: for the Minister of Defence, the order of Black Hawk ” would send a clear message to Australia’s partners and adversaries alike regardless of the field of operation where it would engage.

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We really couldn’t say it better! That Canberra is discreetly pushed on the warpath by the United States, which certainly sees a double strategic and financial interest in it, is beyond doubt. These two “breaks” of contracts or commitments in three months in favor of the Americans should therefore truly confirm to the Europeans that the United States pays no attention either to their interests or to the alliance supposed to unite them, and concentrates solely on their strategic priorities from which they are totally excluded.

A larger question then arises. Faced with a power that persists, despite gestures of appeasement, in despising its traditional allies, why would the latter retain their allegiance to it, particularly in the diplomatic field? Deliberately despised and excluded from a strategic deployment where they would nevertheless have their full place – with the notorious exception of Great Britain which retains its status as “lieutenant” of the United States within the AUKUS – why Europeans do not would they not finally seize the opportunity to free themselves to defend their own interests?

Next year will begin with the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, following Slovenia. By presenting his objectives last Thursday, Emmanuel Macron once again championed European strategic sovereignty and a common defense policy. But to bring about this Powerful Europe in the world, fully sovereign, free of its choices and master of its destiny will remain a chimerical ambition without this freedom, which has become indispensable and urgent, in the face of American isolationism. “Revival, power, belonging”, proclaims Emmanuel Macron. None of these objectives can be achieved if France and the Europeans remain paralyzed in the face of American betrayals, and persist in a one-way commitment.

This enslavement is particularly evident in the case of the Iranian dossier since the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPoA in May 2018. By acting as an “economic policeman”, the Americans have put down all the development projects of the largest French banks and companies, Total, Renault, Airbus or even Engie, in Iran. For fear of American sanctions, they all broke off their commitments in the country, and since then no European political solution has been found to circumvent Washington’s decision and save these promising partnerships, both for Tehran and for Paris. Even in the renegotiations of the Iranian nuclear agreement, the three signatory European countries distinguished themselves by their lack of political courage and their proposals deliberately aligned with the American position.

There is, however, a great need for France in Iran, which only asks to be satisfied. Many industrial sectors would indeed benefit from being modernized thanks to new partnerships with the Bolloré and Vinci groups for the management of port and airport infrastructures, Total for the key sector of energy and hydrocarbons.

It is even more the question of the management and distribution of water that could lead to the creation of a vast collaborative project between Iran, Veolia or Suez, French, European and world leaders in this market. Iran is indeed undergoing a dramatic water crisis, where the increasingly frequent episodes of drought, associated with forty years of disastrous management of water resources, risk multiplying shortages and threatening the environmental balance. and social of the country. In this respect, the popular demonstrations which took place in November in Isfahan, in the face of the drying up of the Zayandeh-Rud river, the “fertile river” vital for the region, are only a prelude to future crises. The situation would therefore require an urgent redefinition of public resource management policies. However, on these essential points, France can bring its know-how and its expertise… provided that it gives itself the means.

If many other examples can be mentioned, the case of Iran illustrates with particular eloquence this need for independence which should therefore animate France. For the time being, it persists in choosing the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and Atlanticism, although these alliances are increasingly unsatisfactory or ambiguous. Let us dream, and imagine that France, thanks to the six months it is going to spend at the head of the European Union, can reconnect with General de Gaulle’s choice and once again become a non-aligned nation and independent, true leader of European diplomacy on the world stage.

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