Paris picking up a fight with Ankara and London
    Risking defeat

    ANALYTICS  28 November 2022 - 12:28

    Matanat Nasibova

    Citing US administration sources, NBC television reported in February 2022 that President Joe Biden privately compared German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to his predecessor Angela Merkel, and also expressed the view that French President Macron wanted to be General Charles de Gaulle. Judging by the current policy of Paris in terms of attempts to resemble the legendary president-general, Biden was not too far from the truth, although Macron is certainly a long way from de Gaulle, both as a statesman and as a political leader who dictates his terms to NATO.

    Along with this, under de Gaulle (1959 -1969) France became a nuclear power and left the military organisation of the North Atlantic Alliance to conduct an independent foreign policy, although it was one of the founders of NATO and the headquarters of the organisation was located on its territory in the 50-60s of the last century. France fully returned to the NATO military organisation in 2009 under President Nicolas Sarkozy, but the paradox is that today the bloc is criticized by the weakest head of state in French history.

    The other day it became known that President Macron announced plans to veto the candidacy of British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for the post of Secretary General of NATO. It was assumed that Wallace would replace Jens Stoltenberg, whose term expires in September 2023. The intrigue is that France opposes any candidates specifically from Britain and Türkiye. In this connection, British Conservative MPs have already accused Macron of Anglophobia, saying that France's position raises questions for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who incidentally considers the French president a friend of the kingdom.

    This is not the French leader's first provocative outburst addressed simultaneously to two powerful NATO players, Britain and Türkiye. For example, in November 2019, in an interview with the British magazine The Economist, Macron criticized NATO over the bloc's neutral attitude toward the start of the Turkish operation in Syria. During the same period, in another interview, Macron said that on a strategic level, NATO was not acting with enough cohesion, for which the French president was condemned by colleagues and allies - German Chancellor Merkel, US Secretary of State Pompeo, Alliance Secretary General Stoltenberg. Donald Trump, then president, in the presence of Stoltenberg, called the criticism of his French counterpart insulting and disrespectful, stressing that Macron had made a dangerous and very malicious statement. Especially scathing was Trump's remark "that no one needs NATO more than France".

    Basically, all of these remarks to Macron were a warning that France risks significantly lowering its bar within the military bloc, of which it is a member, because of this attitude. However, Macron did not calm down and allowed himself negative rhetoric against NATO in the future. For example, after the meeting with Secretary General Stoltenberg in May, he declared that the actions of some countries of the alliance "are contrary to the interests of their allies" and do not interact at the level of armaments.

    Although he did not specify which countries he was referring to, it was clear that the first on his "black list" was undoubtedly Türkiye. In 2020, France has already accused Türkiye of violating the arms embargo on Libya, while demonstrating that Paris is steadfastly committed to compliance with international law. Meanwhile, it was France that blatantly circumvented international law by carrying out massacres in Rwanda and Algeria, a fact that neither Türkiye nor the international community has forgotten. The declaration of April 24 as a national day of commemoration of the "Armenian genocide" in 2019 by Macron's decree is also a violation of diplomatic etiquette.

    Commenting on this provocative attack by the French president, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu categorically stated that Paris has no right to teach Ankara about democracy and human rights and that countries such as France are used to criticizing others, but they do not accept criticism in their own address. The Turkish diplomat did not fail to remind Macron of the shameful moments in the history of colonial France when it carried out the genocide of Muslims and created its own wealth at the expense of poverty and deprivation of dozens of people in Asia and Africa.

    Türkiye has repeatedly put France in its place when it tried to dictate its terms, for example by calling on it to impose sanctions on Russia or to yield to Greece in the Mediterranean conflict. As a consequence of Paris' provocative policies, current French-Turkish relations are quite tense and far from friendly.

    But while France's openly hostile policy towards Türkiye can be explained, in particular, by its undying love for the Armenians, then Paris' negative attitude towards Great Britain, which President Macron expresses, looks even more ridiculous, although it has certain reasons.

    Macron's demarche toward British policy, in particular its position in NATO, gives the impression that France (at least its authorities) claims leadership in Europe, which is unlikely, to say the least, especially under Macron. This is primarily because France is not Great Britain, and Macron, as Biden pointed out, is not de Gaulle. To be fair, he is not even the Socialist Mitterrand, who was a strong advocate of strengthening European security and believed that excessive closeness to NATO was a danger to France's credibility in European integration, but, characteristically, did not resort to attacks on Türkiye or Britain.

    Macron, for some reason, turned on Britain, trying to deprive it of the privileges it has won for centuries. The French president recently challenged the dominance of English in the world, arguing that it should not be considered a language of democracy and unity. At a recent summit of Francophone leaders in the former French colony of Tunis, Macron called for a struggle against Anglophone "linguistic imperialism" and rebuked his North African colleagues for the scant use of French in the Maghreb, ignoring that the native language there is not French, but Arabic.

    The more painful for France was last year's collapse of a multibillion-dollar deal with Australia to supply it with submarines. Although the United States was to blame for the rupture of the French "contract of the century," Paris saw London as being involved. As a result, France openly blackmailed England by threatening to cut off power supplies via submarine cables across the English Channel and by forcing London to reduce the number of fishing permits near Jersey Island.

    In short, there are problems in Franco-British relations, and if it has not yet come to a serious conflict, it is possible that the provocative actions of Paris towards London (and Ankara) could become a serious catalyst for dangerous processes within NATO.



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