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How France Can Avoid Being Reduced to a Symbolic Power

12 18 9
24.09.2021

France got a bitter lesson in the realities of geopolitics last week when the United States and Australia, with the United Kingdom tagging along, signed the AUKUS security agreement. Its public centerpiece is Australia’s resulting decision to cancel a French submarine contract and replace it with a U.S. one (or, in the British press nostalgic for great power status, an “Anglo-American” one). But strategic calculations about China were decisive for Canberra.

France has more than 1.5 million citizens in the Indo-Pacific region, mainly in New Caledonia and Réunion. These territories are politically integrated with Paris, like Hawaii is with Washington. French security agreements with Australia (of which the sale of submarines was one) were part of the Paris’s efforts to secure those territories in an increasingly militarized Asian environment.

But things have changed in the Pacific. The French-Australian submarine agreement was concluded in 2016 during the presidency of François Hollande. At the time, France and Australia both wanted enthusiastic engagement with China, in order to exploit the growing Chinese market. In the last two years, however, Australia’s position has shifted radically. Pushed by aggressive diplomacy from Chinese President Xi Jinping, including a recent boycott of Australian wine, Canberra has seen no alternative but to confront its northern neighbor.

France got a bitter lesson in the realities of geopolitics last week when the United States and Australia, with the United Kingdom tagging along, signed the AUKUS security agreement. Its public centerpiece is Australia’s resulting decision to cancel a French submarine contract and replace it with a U.S. one (or, in the British press nostalgic for great power status, an “Anglo-American” one). But strategic calculations about China were decisive for Canberra.

France has more than 1.5 million citizens in the Indo-Pacific region, mainly in New Caledonia and Réunion. These territories are politically integrated with Paris, like Hawaii is with Washington. French security agreements with Australia (of which the sale of submarines was one) were part of the Paris’s efforts to secure those territories in an increasingly militarized Asian environment.

But things........

© Foreign Policy


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