France is not a reliable partner to the English-speaking defenders of freedom

Macron only has himself to blame for what his foreign minister described as a 'stab in the back'

This article by Dan Hannan for the Telegraph dated 18th September 2021 makes these pertinent remarks about Macron and France that he knows only too well:

Right on cue, Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated why the Anglosphere democracies do not see him as a reliable partner. In an act of almost comical sulkiness, he has withdrawn his ambassadors from Canberra and Washington, peeved at being frozen out of the AUKUS defence deal. By way of perspective, consider that he is happy to leave his ambassadors in place in Moscow and Beijing.

This is not the first time that Macron has ordered French envoys home in a fit of pique. He withdrew his ambassador from Rome after an Italian politician supported the gilets jaunes, and withdrew his ambassador from Ankara when President Erdogan suggested he might be a bit bonkers.

Macron is incandescent about the formalisation of a naval pact among the three foremost English-speaking powers. The AUKUS alliance is as deep as any that exists among independent states. It provides for the exchange of scientific and military know-how, even of nuclear technology. Its first project is to furnish Australia with a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, an initiative that will create jobs in Barrow and Glasgow, although the final assembly of the vessels will happen in Adelaide.

AUKUS is, on every level, a positive development, a sign that there are still some grown-ups patrolling the playground. Australia will become only the seventh state with a nuclear-powered fleet – quite a statement in the disputed waters of the Pacific. The problem, from Paris’s perspective, is that that deal supplants a previous agreement whereby Australia was supposed to buy diesel-powered subs from France.

News of the pact had France’s leaders (to employ the joke Franglais that Boris sometimes uses) soufflant leurs hauts. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, called it a “stab in the back.” France’s former ambassador to the US, the reliably pompous Gérard Araud, said it was “a low moment”. Bruno Tertrais, from the Fondation pour le Recherche Stratégique, described it as “a Trafalgar-like blow.”

One senses that the French are almost enjoying their anger. It is only human to feel a certain righteous glow when your intuitions seem vindicated, and here is an apparent confirmation of every French prejudice about perfidious Anglo-Saxons. Never mind that, as Australian politicians patiently point out, the contractors had fallen behind schedule. This wasn’t primarily about submarines. It was about a series of more abstract concepts that matter very much to our neighbours: le rang, la gloire, l’amour-propre.

Still, it is worth considering why the Anglosphere leaders acted as they did. France, after all, is one of the few countries in the world capable of projecting global naval force, and has significant territories in the Pacific. Why was it not considered a core ally?

Much of the answer has to do with Macron’s bellicosity towards Britain over the past four years. Again and again, he strained the patience of other EU leaders by picking fights even when there was no European interest at stake. From military satellites to the Irish border, he took up needlessly hardline positions for their own sake.

His objection to equivalence in financial services has arguably hurt EU firms more than it has London banks. His petulant questioning of AstraZeneca’s efficacy fuelled vaccine hesitancy in Africa, and almost certainly caused needless deaths.

On two occasions, first during the Brexit talks and then during the fisheries clash with Jersey, he threatened to cut off cross-channel electricity supplies – the kind of aggression we associate with Vladimir Putin. None of these things, to phrase this as gently as I can, is the act of a reliable ally.

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France is not a reliable partner to the English-speaking defenders of freedom
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French ships blockading the port in Jersey

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