Speaking to Express.co.uk, James Shields, Professor of French politics at Warwick University, explained how President Macron’s idea that France is a global power has been all but dismantled by his demands for support in West Africa’s Sahel, where France are waging a war against an Islamic insurgency, and the snubbing from nuclear submarine deal Aukus. As a result, he seeks out opportunities for military support, in the knowledge France cannot go it alone.
He explained how a key principle of French military ambitions is linked to former French President Charles de Gaulle who saw France strive for independence through their own nuclear and military capablities.
But he stressed the world has moved on since then and it has moved on “dramatically” for France.
The expert said: “Not only do we have a world that is dominated by superpowers but we are increasingly seeing this multi-polar world of which we see a classic example in the Aukus partnership.”
Prof Shields also drew on Operation Barkhane, the French-led military operation in central and west Africa spanning the Sahel region, which aims to oust terrorism from Mali to Niger and Mauritania, former French colonies, as a prime example of how France have lost their independent military capability.
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He stressed: “Americans, British, Estonians and other military forces are lending France support either in military engagements, around the margins or in intelligence gathering.
“So Macron sees even from that limited sphere of conflict that France go it alone even there – never mind in the South China Sea or in a bigger platform!”
Despite this apparent military demands, the French expert stressed how “Macron does actually appreciate” this is unfolding during his premiership and is putting plans in place to respond.
He went on to say how such reforms have come in the form of President Macron’s own arguments for an EU defence capability which Professor Shields stressed “have always shown that he understands the old idea that France can go it alone”.
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The professor went on to speculate how “further down the track” France could in fact join Aukus, the very deal it was dramatically.
He said: “I don’t think it is formed to exclude France. I think it has its essentially three components in place
“My guess would be that this is a theatre of cooperation. Macron would feel that France would fit eventually..”
He concluded as a result, in the absence of an EU defence capability, Aukus would seem” a natural locus” for France to lend its military support to.
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