World News: Sacre bleu! The Franco-American Sub Crisis Sails into International Waters

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If the Franco-American crisis is one of the many hazards of the relationship between France and the United States, it highlights above all the diplomatic weakness of France both on a global and regional scale.

From an industrial point of view, it is a disillusionment. But from a diplomatic point of view, it's a slap in the face, almost a slap. The breach of the contract between France and Australia for the delivery of twelve conventional submarines by 2030 in favor of a diplomatic-industrial alliance led by Washington with the help of the United Kingdom (AUKUS)has plunged the historical allies, France and the United States into a crisis that will undoubtedly leave traces.

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However, if the anger of the French government and the President of the Republic is legitimate and justified, arguing a betrayal incompatible with the status of ally, it will only be temporary and will be settled in the months by financial reparations imputed to Australia. Because behind this decision, which marginalizes France in the Indo-Pacific region, there are also issues of heavy powers that escape France, not because of ignorance of geopolitical realities (Australian-Chinese rivalries, Sino-American tensions, domination of the China Sea) but for lack of influence and sufficient aura on a global scale.

Thus, the ire of the French government and more particularly of Emmanuel Macron lies more in an awareness of France's diplomatic weakness than anything else. In concrete terms, the alliance that now binds Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom highlights the rank of second-tier power, even of medium publicity, France.

Rivalry and Romanticism

The reality, difficult to accept by both the Quai d'Orsay and the Elysée is nevertheless put to the test of the facts: France, any world economic power whatsoever, cannot compete with United States, the world's leading power and the only one capable of thwarting Chinese ambitions in the region.

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This reality, thrown in the face of Paris and the world, thus returns France to the rank of subordinate powers, humiliated by the insensitivity of Australia and North American pragmatism. Still lulled by the illusion of an alliance imbued with ethereal romanticism where La Fayette would pose as savior and liberator of the former colonies across the Atlantic crushed by an omnipotent England, living under the illusion of a power found in the aftermath of the Second World War when General De Gaulle succeeds in imposing France as one of the victors of the conflict and boasting of a privileged relationship nourished by history with Washington, France can only note, naked and destitute, the weakness of its influence in front of the United States indifferent to hexagonal gesticulations.

In a world with an integrated economy, where geopolitics, geostrategy, military strategy, reason for state and economic necessities mingle and respond to each other in a concert of interests that everyone wishes to defend without scruples, even at the cost of betrayals, France naively and honestly believed that its place on the world chessboard would be enough to ensure its aura and respect.

The anger that prevails today is thus only a reaction of circumstance because it obscures more the difficult acceptance by Paris of an international diplomatic reality where marginalization and indifference are combined than the breach of contract which is nevertheless the first symptom.

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To Be and To Think Of Oneself As A Power

Certainly, President Macron must meet in the coming days with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, who is also asking for this interview. But what to expect from this telephone meeting if it is not a polite reminder from the tenant of the White House of the solidity of the Franco-American relationship, the need for a clear, clear and peaceful relationship between the two countries but also and above all the geopolitical, strategic and economic stakes that are played out in the Indo-Pacific zone in which France is invited to play its part but without interfering with that of the of the United States.

More generally, if French pride has been scratched in this crisis, and it has been, it will survive because after the vexation, some would speak of humiliation, France, aware of the risks opened by a lasting quarrel with the United States, will drape itself in the shroud of indignation a matter of honor, without continuing to shout gold that could quickly irritate across the Atlantic. Because, in the end, being a great power and thinking of oneself as a great power are two different things.

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Bio: Olivier Longhi an opinion columnist for, has extensive experience in European history. A seasoned journalist with fifteen years of experience, he is currently professor of history and geography in the Toulouse region of France. He has held a variety of publishing positions, including Head of Agency and Chief of Publishing. A journalist, recognized blogger, editor, and editorial project manager, he has trained and managed editorial teams, worked as a journalist for various local radio stations, a press and publishing consultant, and a communications consultant.

Caption: With this contract for the delivery of several attack submarines to Australia, France thought it would maintain its industrial and diplomatic influence in the Indo-Pacific area.

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