Oct 22, 2021
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France in the wake of imaginary friends and unreliable partners

In recent years, France has been rapidly losing its sovereignty. Step by step, the country yields to the pressure of its main ally in the Western world – the United States of America.

The first alarming sign of France’s loss of sovereignty was the break in the contract for the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. In addition to real financial and image losses, this erroneous decision of the French government showed the Americans that France can be forced into unfavorable shares for it, that it can be forced to act to its detriment.

The refusal, under pressure from the United States, to sell the Mistrals to Russia for the American side was a kind of “reconnaissance in force”: a precedent arose.

Australia’s breach of the contract for the construction of a series of modern diesel submarines by France struck like a bolt from the blue. Nobody expected this in the Fifth Republic.

The performance characteristics of the submarines that Paris was supposed to develop for Australia fully met the requirements of Canberra. Negotiations on this contract began in 2014. Australia has put forward requirements for such a submarine to have a long range, and its power plant was of the classic, non-nuclear type. Canberra chose Paris under the contract. The boats were to be built in Australia itself from local materials and with the involvement of local workers.

During the preparation of the contract, an interdepartmental group was created in France to coordinate all the details of the deal with the Australians. The boats met all the needs of the military doctrine of Australia, technical and other requirements. In particular, the contract stipulated that submarines would appear in Australia by 2030, i.e. by the time of the decommissioning of its existing submarines.

It is important that the French submarines created on the basis of the Barracuda program, which are used to build Suffren-class nuclear submarines and Attack-class diesel-electric submarines, are much cheaper than hypothetical American submarines, and spare parts for them are cheaper and more affordable on the market. They are easier to maintain and easier to train staff for.

Arguments in favor of nuclear submarines, which supposedly have a greater autonomous navigation range, do not work today. Today, diesel submarines with air-independent engines are able to compete with nuclear-powered ships and already constitute it in the near sea zone.

The next generation of diesel-electric submarines, for example, the newest Japanese diesel submarines with lithium-ion batteries “Soryu”, will reduce the gap with nuclear submarines in terms of the duration of autonomous navigation even more. In the future, it will be cheaper to have in service not nuclear, but diesel submarines on new types of batteries.

The rejection of the deal with France runs counter to Australia’s interests: firstly, China (which has become the object of a new military-political alliance) is one of Australia’s largest trading partners, accounting for 75 percent of its foreign trade turnover. Both countries did not have any territorial or other claims to each other. The rejection of non-nuclear propulsion in favor of nuclear submarines is contrary to the long-term policy of Australia and New Zealand to create a nuclear-free zone in the region, up to the ban on entry into the ports of these countries by military and civil ships with nuclear installations.

If the Australians were impatient to have a nuclear submarine fleet, then France, possessing the technology of creating nuclear power plants on low-enriched uranium (well below 20%), installed, for example, on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, could offer here a much safer in operation a project than the Americans.

In addition, given the current workload of American shipyards, the promised submarines may appear in Australia no earlier than 2040, i.e. the country risks being left without a submarine fleet for ten years. It is also obvious that Australia will not have the right to single-handedly dispose of its nuclear submarines, which will become an appendage of the US naval forces. Thus, the only reason for the rejection of the deal is the unprecedented pressure from the US, coupled with the UK, which did not miss the chance to kick Europe after Brexit.

Public opinion and the political class in Australia are gradually beginning to comprehend the scale and consequences of what happened, so changes in Canberra’s position are not excluded.

Both in the case of the refusal to sell the Mistrals to Russia, and in the failure of the Australian contract, there is only one reason – the strongest pressure on the US side and, as a result, France surrendered its sovereignty. Without this, the French authorities would have been able to find a compromise solution.

The Alstom case is also connected with the loss of national control in favor of the United States. Alstom is the largest French company, one of the world leaders (along with Bombardier) in power engineering. Alstom also has interests in the production of railway equipment and rolling stock. Several years ago, the company was going through hard times due to the lack of orders in the railway transport sector, and the government decided to find a private investor. American General Electric offered to buy part of the company, but not transport, but energy. France accepted this proposal, and the production of turbines was in the hands of the Americans, incl. for the aforementioned low-enriched nuclear power plants. At present, only France and China possess such technologies, while the required degree of fuel enrichment for the French plant is several times less than the Chinese version. It can be assumed that even then the United States began to prepare the ground for breaking the contract for the construction of French submarines for Australia.

However, today General Electric has accumulated financial problems and is considering selling part of the business. So France has a chance to buy back the share Alstom, regaining control over promising developments.

Powerful US pressure on the French military-industrial complex is a big disaster for France. The interest of the Americans is that Germany, not France, should play the first fiddle in the process of integrating the European Union’s military industry. The possibility of France losing control over the aviation and shipbuilding industries is especially dangerous.

General De Gaulle said: “No country without an atomic bomb has full reason to consider itself independent.” Alas, even with a nuclear arsenal, France lost its sovereignty, following in the wake of imaginary friends and unreliable partners.

This is a lesson and warning for the French political class.


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