I have recently had published an article in the journal Geopolitics, where I examine the evolution of French grand strategy ‘from Iraq to Libya’. The article describes France’s move away from a hitherto excessive emphasis on the European Union and the special bilateral relationship with Germany towards a more diversified alliance portfolio. Of special importance has France’s strengthening of its Atlantic connection (with the United Kingdom, United States and the Atlantic Alliance) and the upgrading of its ties with other continental European powers – including Russia and Poland. The driving reason behind this diversifying trend, I contend, is the weakening of the American-led West, both globally and in Europe.
If the United States’ military power laid the foundations of order in and around Europe, America’s shift of geostrategic attention eastwards – spearheaded by the post-11th September interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and further compounded by the so-called pivot to Asia – may be resulting in a political de-structuring of Europe and its broader neighbourhood. For one thing, Europe is moving towards greater mutlipolarity. This can be shown by Russia’s resurgence alongside the continent’s east and south-east, Turkey’s drifting from the European Union and growing influence in the continent’s south-east and, crucially, Germany’s increasing influence over the direction of the European Union’s future. For another, France’s so called axis of strategic priority (Northern Africa, the Sahel, Levant, Horn of Africa/Red Sea and the Gulf) is characterised by mounting instability. Against this backdrop, the special relationship with Germany and the European Union seem – for Paris – insufficient to guarantee French influence in Europe and the stability of Europe’s broader neighbourhood.
Having said this, Paris has not abandoned its special relationship with Berlin or its commitment to the European project. In an increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment, France is seeking to reconcile a deeper politico-military relationship with Britain (and the United States), a special relationship with Germany in the politico-economic sphere and strong relationship with other European powers (particularly Russia and Poland), thereby positioning itself as a sort of spider in an increasingly multipolar European geopolitical web.
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• Image credit: Alvesgaspar.