Discussions on strategic stability and regional crises between representatives of Russia and representatives of the French ministries of Europe, Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces took place yesterday in Paris. These discussions followed the June 26 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron where they discussed bilateral topics as well as the crises in Libya, Syria, Iran and Ukraine. The meeting between the two came about nearly a year after the French President welcomed his Russian counterpart to Fort Brégançon on August 19, 2019 shortly before the G7 summit in Biarritz.
This meeting is part of the increasing cooperation between Russia and France, with the latter acting as a driving force for normalizing relations between Moscow and the European Union. In a press release, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs indicated that these discussions were organized as part of the upcoming Franco-Russian Cooperation Council on Security Issues meeting which is to bring together the French and Russian Foreign and Defense Ministers.
“Taking place within a framework defined by two special presidential envoys, Ambassador Yuri Ushakov and Ambassador Pierre Vimont, this meeting focused on the implementation of the trust and security agenda launched at the behest of President Macron and his Russian counterpart last summer,” the press release said.
According to the French statement, “these consultations also addressed the political and military aspects of various regional and international crises such as the situations in Iran, Libya, Syria and on the African continent, and the geopolitical implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It appears that France wants to work with Russia to protect its interests that are contrary to those of the U.S., such as the defeat of the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and France slowly normalizing relations with Syria after many years of aggression started by former President Nicolas Sarkozy and continued by François Hollande.
This suggests that France under Macron acknowledges a changing world system and does not want to be left behind in the old unipolar world. Sarkozy brought France back into NATO’s fold when Charles de Gaulle split from the alliance 40-years earlier, but it is Macron that is bringing back de Gaulle’s desire for French independent decision making and is why Paris wants normalized relations with Moscow today.
Macron’s opinions against NATO are well established. It is also well established that Washington views NATO as a tool to oppose and contain Russia, so-much-so that America’s top think-tanks like RAND ignore NATO’s deep divisions in the hope that the alliance will unite to oppose Russian influence. This demonstrates how divorced Washington is from the realities on the ground and shows why they have little influence over events in Syria and Libya.
NATO is a Washington-controlled organization and is in opposition to France’s strategic and security interests, which are increasingly becoming aligned with Russia’s. In Libya, France is finding the inundation of tens of thousands of Turkish-backed jihadists unacceptable, while the U.S. continues to give legitimacy to the Muslim Brotherhood Government of National Accord that are recipient to these radical Islamist fighters. Such a large jihadist force is not only a direct security threat to France as they are now on the doorstep of Europe, but also a strategic threat as these forces are also on the doorstep of France’s former colonies – Chad, Tunisia, Algeria and Niger, which Paris still sees as its sphere of influence. As France’s security and strategic interests are being challenged by Turkey, which has rhetorical support from the U.S., Paris is finding more common ground with Moscow who also has a vested interest in oil and construction contracts in Libya, and perhaps another foothold in the Mediterranean to have influence.
Meanwhile, Paris is slowly thawing its frozen relations with Damascus, using Moscow as a catalyst. Although Macron has been critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he has realized that Turkish backing of terrorist organizations in what was France’s former colony is a far larger security and strategic threat to France then the Syrian leader. Thousands of French jihadists flocked to Syria and Iraq at the height of the Islamic State in 2015, mostly entering these two countries via Turkey where they also received arms, training and finance. Their return to France is a major security threat.
In fact, it was because of the U.S.’ evacuation of northern Syria to allow the Turks to control it that triggered Macron’s famous NATO “brain death” comment. Although Russia and Turkey have a cold truce in Syria, it is also the source of a deep division as Turkey unrelentingly continues to back jihadist forces while Russia continues to back the Syrian government. The U.S. remains on the side of Turkey, triggering another point for France to align closer to Russia to strengthen their mutual interests.
With these deep divisions between NATO members, France and Russia will continue strengthening their relations as there are only mutual benefits. Paris is working towards normalizing Moscow’s relations with the European Union, and as the world’s financial centers begin shifting to the East, a contiguous landmass from Lisbon to Vladivistok is needed to propel Europe into the realities of 21st century multipolarity. It is for this reason that bilateral relationship building between Paris and Moscow will continue, and as France is one of the major EU powers, it will reflect on EU policy despite inevitable opposition from EU minnows like Poland and the Baltic States.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.