An unexpected situation has emerged on the global stage of diplomacy and military power. The USA, which is a major defence supplier of the world, is receiving an unprecedented challenge from France.
The USA and France are two major defence players in the international geopolitical order. The two countries have signed major defence agreements with other nations. Both Washington and Paris are on the same page regarding Ukraine, providing military assistance and financial backing to the incompetent Zelensky.
But lately, France and the USA were involved in disputes, and the cracks in their partnership are visible. In fact, TFI Global explained that Paris and Washington are engaged in a cold war-style confrontation with each other.
According to Politico, French President Emmanuel Macron has mimeographed USA’ Inflation Reduction Act. France is set to launch an experimental, subsidized leasing scheme for low-income consumers to buy electric vehicles for €100 per month.
The French President has stressed that Europeans need to prioritise purchasing automobiles manufactured by European manufacturers and avoid foreign sellers like the Americans.
Taking a dig at the USA, the French President added: “I have been pushing for more European sovereignty for five years. The software (mindset) of many Europeans is changing. We must wake up; neither the Americans nor the Chinese will give us such gifts or priority! Europe must prepare a strong response and move very quickly.”
Similarly, in the Russo-Ukraine conflict, the positions of the USA and France were entirely different. While the USA was aimlessly arming the failed state of Ukraine, France resolved to curb sending arms to Kyiv. France also criticised Biden for stating that the world is at risk of a nuclear “Armageddon”.
Consequently, France and the USA have channelled their frustration against each other in the race to become major defence suppliers in the world.
And in this race, Paris has outraced Washington.
France stealing the defence buyers of the USA
For a while, the USA has been one of the primary suppliers of arms to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In February 2022, a number of possible weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were cleared by the US State Department.
The USA gave Saudi Arabia permission to purchase 31 MIDS-LVTs, communications terminals that connect air, ground, and sea channels for coordinating operations, for up to $23.7 million, according to the USA Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
The preliminary authorisation was given for the UAE to spend $65 million on spare and repair parts for its Hawk, Patriot, and Thaad missile defence systems.
Similarly, in order to assist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in defending against Iran, the Biden administration in August last year approved two sizable military shipments to both countries.
President Joe Biden visited the Middle East last month and talked with a number of regional officials in Saudi Arabia. As a result of that trip, he has since sold more than $5 billion worth of missile defence and related products.
Among the recent deals are $2.2 billion for high-altitude missile defence for the UAE and $3 billion for Patriot missiles for Saudi Arabia that is intended to defend the country from Houthi rocket assaults.
However, France entered the scene and gave a tough challenge to the dominance of the USA in the region.
A $19 billion arms deal between the United Arab Emirates and France was signed as per which the Gulf state will purchase 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters. In December 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron started a two-day tour to the Gulf during which he also visited Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the largest-ever foreign sale of Rafale jets.
Macron’s visit came against the backdrop of Middle Eastern countries expressing their scepticism regarding the questionable role of the USA in the region.
After the dislodging of the USA by France in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, France suffered an unforeseeable geopolitical episode which agitated it and enhanced its hostility with the US and eventually culminated in the establishment of a partnership with Indonesia.
If we talk of Australia, the previous Australian government of Scott Morrison cancelled a contract for a fleet of conventionally-powered submarines to be built in France worth 90 billion Australian dollars ($66 billion), choosing instead to purchase nuclear-powered versions in a deal that was secretly negotiated with the United States and Britain.
Australia’s new prime minister insisted that he was committed to developing a fleet of submarines using American nuclear technology, despite the French president characterising the proposal as a “confrontation with China.”
After he was elected prime minister in May, Anthony Albanese adhered to the so-called AUKUS pact to embrace nuclear technology.
Macron heavily criticised the AUKUS agreement. He emphasised that France had provided Australia, a country without a nuclear energy industry, with independently maintainable diesel-electric submarines but Australia betrayed it.
Despite repeated pleas from Macron, Australia went ahead with its plan for nuclear submarines with the US and UK.
Coming back to Indonesia, in response to the rising hegemony of Washington, which backstabbed Paris, France decided to counter the US’s rising influence by signing major defence agreements with Indonesia.
Hence, as part of a series of deals that also include the development of submarines and ammunition, Indonesia will purchase 42 Rafale fighter jets for $8.1 billion, the French defence ministry stated on 10th February, making Jakarta the largest customer of French weapons in the area.
The agreement comes as Paris, which sees itself as a major maritime player on the world stage, aims to deepen geopolitical connections in the Indo-Pacific region following the formation of the AUKUS alliance by the US, UK, and Australia last year.
As he spoke with his French counterpart Florence Parly, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto stated, “We’re planning to acquire 42 Rafale”.
Apart from the UAE, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, France is also emerging as a major defence supplier in the Balkans.
Its latest potential buyer is Serbia. Serbia is considering purchasing French Rafale fighter jets because of difficulty maintaining the Russian MiG-29s due to international sanctions.
The Serbian president Alexander Vucic earlier stated in April 2022, that Serbia, which has mostly relied on Russian aircraft and arms, has been in talks with France to buy 12 new Rafale fighter jets.
Vucic noted, “We’ve been negotiating with them for a year about purchasing 12 new Rafales, and we’re also negotiating with another country about buying 12 used Rafales.”
In addition to Serbia, Croatia is also a major buyer of French defence equipment. In fact, the Croatian government stated in December last year that it would buy the French air defence system Mistral for $75.84 million as part of efforts to modernise its air force.
Earlier, Croatia also bought 12 French Dassault Rafale fighter jets in a deal estimated at around 999 million euros.
Therefore, these geopolitical occurrences clearly demonstrate that France is done with the authoritative tendency and draconian propensity of the USA.
Time and again Paris has realised that its diplomatic, military and economic interests suffered adverse implications owing to its persistent compliance with the irrational and illegitimate diktats of Washington. Last year in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, France had to do damage control due to Biden’s unfounded allegations that Vladimir Putin is a “butcher” and emphasid that his regime must be toppled.
Since the USA has often pushed France into unpredictable and calamitous situations, Paris is now coming to its senses that it made a blunder by trusting Washington. France realises that one of the important ways to escape from the hegemonic clutches of the USA is to forge strategic defence partnerships with significant players in the international arena. France knows that as long as it is isolated, the USA will be able to dominate it. But if it has the backing of powerful nations, the US will not be able to influence its policies and decision-making.
That is why France is selling arms to so many countries. France is not only taking care of its diplomatic interests through these landmark defence agreements but also improving its economy which suffered tremendously due to the persistent pressure of the West which forced Paris to participate in the imposition of sanctions on Russia that eventually backfired. And hence France has so far managed to outpace the US significantly on the defence front. The USA not only has a competitor but also a challenger which has destroyed its fort of influence in the geopolitical arena.