France's bid for influence in South Caucasus
    Macron's strategy unveiled  

    ANALYTICS  24 June 2024 - 15:52

    Artem Kirpichenok
    Caliber.Az

    In recent weeks, experts have been discussing a potential new arms race in the South Caucasus following the announcement of upcoming deliveries of new French CAESAR artillery systems to Yerevan. Compounding this development, Paris has openly expressed its intention to bolster direct military presence in Armenia and establish a military base within the country.

    The office of the French President has released an open letter from the "general public," advocating for the deployment of troops to Armenia with the stated objectives of enhancing security and safeguarding the nation's sovereignty. Signatories to this appeal include figures such as Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, various officials, politicians, cultural personalities, and members of the Armenian community residing in France.

    An important step in this process is the contract for the supply of 36 CAESAR self-propelled howitzers to be shipped to Armenia over the next 15 months. Jean-Christophe Busson, deputy director of the French Le Figaro magazine, wrote about this deal in social networks. It is about the 155mm self-propelled launcher of the Nexter company. To date, the company has already produced over 250 such guns, which are in service not only in France, but also in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Thailand.

    The advantages of the French self-propelled gun include its relative low cost (which is crucial, given Armenia's low financial resources), stealth and ease of maintenance. On the other hand, experts say that CAESAR is characterized by low off-road capability, low protection against enemy fire, and a small transportable ammunition pack.

    Leonid Nersisyan, a senior research fellow at the Yerevan-based APRI think tank, says that "if we compare CAESAR with the Soviet platforms we use, such as the 152-millimeter platform, the range of the French howitzer is almost twice as long. There is also an important political aspect here: if France agrees to sell CAESAR to Armenia, it means that Yerevan can buy from Paris any type of weaponry it wants - no matter whether it is defensive or offensive".

    This is not the only military order made by Armenia in France. In late October 2023, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said that Paris wants to supply Armenia with three Ground Master 200 radar systems. Armenpress news agency confirmed that 24 French "Bastion" armored vehicles have already arrived in Armenia. Consultations are underway on the delivery of Mistral 3 missile systems to Armenia. Paris also wants to attract the European Union structures to help Yerevan by sending a significant number of experts and observers to the region, whose objectivity may be questionable.

    What goals does the Macron regime pursue by trying to expand its military presence in Armenia? First of all, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the French president has to show himself as a strong politician, expanding Paris' influence in the international arena.

    Following a series of failures on the African continent, after French soldiers were expelled from Niger, the country that supplies uranium to French nuclear power plants, many voters have a reasonable question about the diplomatic abilities of the current occupant of the Elysee Palace. Successes in the Caucasus should be compensation for failures on the Black Continent.

    The second reason lies in the global confrontation between Russia and the Western bloc. The presence of French bases in the Caucasus will open a new front of confrontation in this conflict. The further stay of the Russian military contingent at the Gyumri base will become questionable. The French military deployment in Armenia will also create serious inconveniences for Iran, which has so far regarded Yerevan as its partner. The strengthening of Western influence on the northern borders cannot please Tehran.

    Finally, note that France positions itself as Armenia's traditional partner. By supplying arms, Macron can say that he is meeting the wishes of the Pashinyan regime, which seeks to integrate into the EU and NATO, responding to appeals from the Armenian lobby and generally ensuring the security of a small and friendly country.

    Commenting on the dispatch of French military equipment to the Caucasus, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: "The French leadership is not guided by the interests of Armenia or any particular nation. Paris seeks to use the existing disagreements, contradictions within countries or between countries as a tool to achieve its own opportunistic goals. By its own opportunistic goals I mean not only the personal interest of the Elysee Palace, but also France as an agent of NATO ideology. I think that is how it should be treated.”

    The defence ministry of Azerbaijan also expressed the same spirit. The official website of the ministry says: "The Macron regime, pursuing a policy of militarization and geopolitical intrigue in the South Caucasus region, is an obstacle to normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and ensuring lasting peace in the region.

    As a colonial empire, France has historically had a rich hideous experience of creating hotbeds of war and conflict in various parts of the world.

    The processes occurring in New Caledonia and other coastal colonial territories, the exploitation of local peoples, the plundering of their natural resources, the change in the demographic composition of these territories as a result of racist policies, the suppression of protests by force of blood and weapons, are indicators of the true essence of the Macron regime."

    Russian experts fear that French supplies may lead to a new round of arms race in the Caucasus. The deployment of heavy French equipment on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border could be perceived by Baku as an attempt at revenge, which would entail preventive measures.

    However, according to analysts, even if Armenia is defeated in a new war with Azerbaijan, France and Pashinyan will again hold Russia responsible, and this will accelerate Armenia's transition into the sphere of influence of France and the collective West.

    But even if there is no direct clash, military supplies from France will objectively become an obstacle to reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the final resolution of the long-standing conflict between the two countries. According to Stanislav Pritchin, a political scientist and head of sector of Central Asia at IMEMO RAS, "despite all the external prerequisites and the presence of political will, there are still forces that are not interested in making peace. Apparently, the latter include France, which is trying to strengthen its position by destabilizing the situation in the Caucasus.

    The views and opinions expressed by guest columnists in their op-eds may differ from and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

    Caliber.Az

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