Panel: France could be a “bridge partner” between the United States, Europe to counter China and Russia

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FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) deploys on January 21, 2020 from Touloun, France. French navy photo

With the arrival of a new American administration in January and the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, France could be the new “bridge partner” of the United States towards the continent to face the top military challenges. range from Moscow and Beijing and face reinvigorated terrorist threats, top security experts said. Thursday.

Despite divergent views “on strategic autonomy”, retired Admiral James Foggo, former commander of the Naples-based US naval forces, said “it was a big question for France” in 2009 when ‘it has reinstated its forces – including its nuclear. forces – with NATO.

France withdrew its military forces from NATO command in the 1960s and ordered alliance headquarters to leave Paris. Foggo noted that when France’s senior military commander was asked at the time in which direction its missiles and nuclear forces were being targeted, he said “everywhere”.

The security situation between the two nuclear powers has shifted by nearly 180 degrees.

“The main thing here is to continue the dialogue”, so that the split does not return, he said.

Biden’s incoming administration should be able to work with Paris “to build a coalition of the willing” to address the new security challenges that Washington and the alliance will face, said Torrey Taussig, research director at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

As a recent example, Alice Guitton, Director General of International Relations and Strategy at the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, said: “Our cooperation with the United States is omnipresent. Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s online forum, she called the cooperation “unprecedented” in the alliance’s history dating back to the American Revolution.

She cited Operation Dynamic Mongoose, a sophisticated anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare exercise involving the United States, France and Norway, as an example of “we train by fighting together.”

The cooperation goes beyond freedom of navigation exercises and operations in the South China Sea.

Foggo specifically mentioned how the carriers’ joint operations with the French have matured over the years – from makeshift communications links to the collapse of air and sea operations in 2009 to the carrier. Charles de Gaulle (R91) fill the void when there was no US large-platform presence in the Middle East. The Marines now support each other as needed.

“We need to increase cooperation” at all levels, starting at the lieutenant and lieutenant commander level, Foggo said, to build trust over the years. Guitton, who carries the rank of ambassador, added that the collaboration crosses fields in space and cyber “to make sure we can cooperate” in times of crisis.

” It’s ridiculous [not to be able] to share intelligence, strategic data, ”added Foggo. “Everyone has the right to know what the threats are, what the targets are.”

But Paris and Washington do not look at the world through the same prism. Both Foggo and Guitton mentioned the emphasis the United States’ national defense strategy has placed on the return to competition of the great powers and the need to prepare for high-end conflict. This has led the Pentagon’s strategy, in terms of stationing and investing, to move away from counterterrorism in the Middle East and Africa and to focus heavily on the Indo-Pacific.

As France accepts the challenges of an aggressive China and a revisionist Russia, Guitton said President Emmanuel Macron sees the immediate threat of terrorism to Europe as a top priority. The French see evidence of danger resurfacing in the recent attacks on Lyon and Vienna.

But Macron is expanding his view of terrorism as a major threat to Africa. He has sent air and ground forces to the continent to support governments threatened with collapse as a result of organized terrorist attacks.

A sailor aboard French naval ship FS Bougainville (A622) waves as Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel JS Ise (DDH 182) sails during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020 exercise on 24 August 2020. Photo by the French Navy

Foggo and Guitton said France was carrying the military burden of “boots on the ground” in the African Sahel, the nations south of the Sahara Desert, to bring terrorist groups there and in Libya under control. The United States is playing a supporting role by providing air surveillance, intelligence, and logistics to French forces and governments like Mali and Niger in this effort.

But Africa is not a US security priority.

In addition to de-emphasizing terrorism as a threat to national security, the Trump administration has announced its intention to relocate US Africa Command from Stuttgart, Germany, with the option of consolidating it with another regional warfare command. It is not known if this headquarters will continue and if the next administration will take over in January.

“We ignore Africa at our peril,” Foggo said. He noted that by 2050, the continent’s population is expected to be around 2.5 billion, with between 40 and 50 percent of the population under 25. It is also a continent where Beijing is heavily involved in the construction and financing of infrastructure projects – dams, highways, airfields and ports – and offering cutting-edge telecommunications technology. He said: “I think France has understood this”, also referring to Africa as a region of great power competition that cannot be ignored.

Likewise, Foggo said China is making the same openings in Europe, particularly by offering 5G telecommunications. “5G, I [compare] the Trojan horse. When we talk about interoperability, we have to be very careful “what the Chinese listen to. “We have seen this with intellectual property [theft] for years, ”he says.

Guitton said the Sahel could be a laboratory for re-examining “strategic autonomy” and getting European allies to examine their procurement practices when they seek to fill the capacity and capability gaps of their own forces, such as the made France on the basis of its experiences in the Sahel. .

She added that Paris remains firmly behind the US push, intensified under the Trump administration, to spend 2% of its gross domestic product on its own security. Guitton said French defense officials were closely monitoring the security spending of other European countries and what they were investing in.

“We are exactly in the line of our American friends,” she said.

Although Biden favors multilateral agreements like NATO and is more willing to engage with the European Union, Taussig predicts that the new administration “will have to have difficult conversations” with all European nations over the growing influence of the European Union. China on the mainland and 5G.

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