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How France conquered Europe Will Macron's alliance with Greece signal the end of Nato?

Looking hot. Photo by CLAUDE PARIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Looking hot. Photo by CLAUDE PARIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images


October 4, 2021   7 mins

There are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen, as a quote dubiously attributed to Lenin states. Last week was one of those weeks. As it began, I argued that the most significant short term effect of the Aukus agreement would not be in the distant Pacific, but rather here on our home continent, by rapidly accelerating Macron’s quest for European strategic autonomy from Nato structures under French patronage. The announcement in the following days of France’s naval deal and defence pact with Greece is a dramatic illustration of these processes at work in Europe’s rapidly shifting security environment.

After years of back and forth negotiations, the Greek Ministry of Defence finally settled on France over the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the United States as the provider of the Hellenic Navy’s new frigates. It’s a vital upgrade given the deterioration of both the Mediterranean’s security environment and of Greek naval capacity following more than a decade of austerity. The FDI frigates chosen pack a powerful punch, tilting the scales back in Greece’s favour in its increasingly heated contest of primacy in the Aegean with Erdogan’s Turkey.

To accompany the new frigates, there is a strong likelihood of Greece also buying a number of Gowind-class corvettes from France as part of its rapid naval build-up. Coupled with Greece’s recent purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets, France has emerged as the country’s most significant supplier of arms, at a time when the likelihood of open conflict with Turkey is greater than it has been in decades.

Yet as with Aukus, the true significance of the deal lies less in the hardware purchased, than in the alliance-building underpinning it. The “Strategic Partnership for Cooperation in Defence and Security” agreement unveiled in Paris contains a mutual defence assistance clause in the event that either country is attacked anywhere on its territory, using “all the means at their disposal, including, if needed, armed violence,” to fend off the aggressor.

In doing so, Macron stated, “we commit ourselves to protect [Greece] in the event of intrusion, attack or aggression. This is my idea of friendship and of the European independence and European territorial unity that we value,” and thus a direct French promise to defend Greece from an attack by its purported Nato ally Turkey. When the two countries came to the brink of war last year, it was France, alone among all EU and Nato countries, that supported Greece, both diplomatically and through its deployment of French warships and fighter jets to the eastern Mediterranean. Under Macron, France has become, simply, Greece’s strategic patron, an informal relationship the new agreement has now formalised.

As Macron stated at the signing ceremony, “Europeans must get over their naivety. When we’re under pressure from powers that are sometimes becoming harsher, to react and show that we too have the power and capacity to defend ourselves doesn’t mean giving in to escalation, it merely means ensuring we’re respected
 we must, as Europeans, play our part in our own protection.”

For his part, Greece’s premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis observed that with this “very strong alliance, which essentially goes beyond each other’s obligations within the European Union and NATO”, France and Greece are “taking the first step towards a European strategic autonomy”. This is, in other words, the first tentative realisation of that bugbear of the perennially supine German security establishment, as well as of central and eastern European EU powers fearful of losing the American defence umbrella.

Yet significantly, Macron took great pains to change the frame of the tiresome strategic autonomy debate, emphasising that it is not a question of rejecting American military hegemony, but rather of responding to America’s strategic shift to the Pacific, which will mean a diminished involvement in European affairs. As he observed, “for just over 10 years now, the United States of America has been focusing a lot on itself and has strategic interests that are being redirected towards China and the Pacific”, and “it would also be naïve of us – or rather, we’d be making a terrible mistake – if we didn’t seek to learn lessons from it and act accordingly. And so it’s with the same pragmatism, the same clear-sightedness about our independence, that we must, as Europeans, play our part in our own protection.”

Instead of spurning the US defence umbrella, Macron stresses that strategic autonomy is not a replacement for Nato, but the enhancement of its European pole through self-sufficiency. By framing Europe’s strategic autonomy as a form of burden-sharing, allowing the United States to concentrate its attention and forces on the part of the world most important to its survival as global hegemon, Macron has, in effect, called Germany’s bluff. After all, the insistence with which Germany stresses the existential importance of the NATO alliance is matched only by its commitment to shirking any serious attempt at fielding a militarily capable force of their own within it, a long-standing complaint of American administrations.

But the time for German free-riding has passed. With the Americans girding up for an air and naval contest in the Pacific, and their appetite for military interventions in the Islamic world blunted by two decades of failure, Macron has seized the chance for Europe to take the dominant role in providing the continent’s security against its troubled near abroad.

What is perhaps most noteworthy is that the agreement seems to have taken place with Biden’s blessing. While Northern European analysts tend not to bother themselves overmuch with tracking developments in Greece, it is significant that Mitsotakis had preceded the ceremony with a series of warm assurances to the United States that the country remains a “strong and reliable ally” within the Nato framework, and that “since 1952, Nato has been at the heart of Greece’s security and defence architecture.”

At the Athens meeting of Nato defence chiefs which immediately preceded the announcement, the Greek Chief of General Staff Konstantinos Floros pledged that Greece will honour all its commitments and obligations, and remain “a pillar of stability in the eastern Mediterranean with respect for international law, good neighbourly relations and cooperation”.

The unspoken contrast is of course with Nato’s problem child, Turkey, a constant source of security crises and aggressive interventions across the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, and already sanctioned by the United States for its purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. Trump’s warm personal relationship with Erdogan — the origins of which are a matter of speculation — has been replaced by an atmosphere of chilly froideur on the American side, with no realistic prospect of improvement.

Indeed, just as the French and Greeks were inking their agreement, Turkey’s erratic strongman Erdogan was meeting Putin in Sochi, suggesting that he would buy even more S-400s, and pledging further defence cooperation with Russia in space, and in the joint development of warships, jet engines and submarines.

As the US defence relationship with Turkey becomes ever more strained, Greece, supported by the strong efforts of the American ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, has sought to supplant Turkey as America’s chosen partner in the region. Starting with the joint air and naval base in Crete’s Souda Bay — a strategically important deepwater harbour Churchill wanted Britain to possess as an “amphibian citadel” in World War Two — Greece has given the US basing rights across Thessaly in central Greece and usage of the port of Alexandroupoli in Thrace, an important logistics asset for any future operation in the Balkans — or indeed, as Turkish analysts relentlessly sound the alarm, in Turkey.

While Erdogan’s national security advisor Mesut Hakkı CaĆŸÄ±n is doing the rounds of Turkish cable news networks threatening to invade Greece to throw the Americans out of Thrace and attack American troops in Syria, the Greeks are quietly soaking up American military largesse in the form of helicopters, upgraded fighter jets, joint training and equipment for Greek special forces and airborne units. Furthermore, the United States is offering strong background encouragement for Greece’s growing web of military and diplomatic alliances with the Middle Eastern powers Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia, all American partners, and all united by their shared antipathy to Erdogan.

Given the strategic centrality to Greece of its deepening defence relationship with the US, it is simply impossible to imagine that Mitsotakis did not ask and receive the Biden administration’s blessing for the pact with France, which indicates America’s newfound acceptance of a European drift towards strategic autonomy. Indeed, the State Department’s only comment on the pact to Greek media was to note that “the US and Greece enjoy a robust defense relationship rooted in our shared values”, and to stress that “we strongly support Greece’s role in creating stability in the region and look forward to continuing to work closely with Greece to advance our shared goals for peace and prosperity in the region including through our robust relationship with the Hellenic Navy”.

Over the course of a few days, then, European strategic autonomy under Macron’s leadership has gone from being a source of existential anguish and circular debate among German thinktankers and derision among British analysts, to a matter of fact in the Eastern Mediterranean. By framing it as a means to strengthen Nato and to grant the United States cover to refocus itself on the Pacific, Macron has won Biden’s tacit blessing, outflanking his European critics.

Ahead of US Secretary of State Blinken’s trip to Paris this week, the State Department has already emphasised that it “will be looking at transatlantic security, and European security, and ways that we can support France’s efforts to strengthen European security and defense capacity,” as long as it is “in conformity with NATO,” stressing that “it is very much in our interest and Europe’s interest for those capacities to be strengthened. And having a more effective, capable European alliance is very much in our interest as well.”

The Biden administration has, therefore, essentially outsourced the role of containing Erdogan in the Eastern Mediterranean and generally upholding Europe’s security in the wider region to France. It is, from an American perspective, the European equivalent of AUKUS, and not its antithesis, formalising a small core of capable countries willing to uphold security in regions important to their strategic vision, and sidelining the rest.

Indeed, we can interpret the Franco-Greek pact as a form of sub-Nato alliance, just like the new defence cooperation agreement between Sweden, Denmark and Norway, which may become the model for the organisation’s near future. To reassure Poland and the Baltic states, no doubt in future a similar agreement will provide them with an equivalent alliance to lessen their fears of Russian encroachment. Indeed, this may become a useful future role for Britain, if and when the Army, weakened by decades of underinvestment and mismanaged defence procurement, is capable of fielding a significant armoured force again.

The fact is, as the French analyst Benjamin Haddad noted recently, “the quicker we acknowledge something structural is changing in transatlantic relations, the better we can transform them in a way that serves the interests and security of both sides”. Europe isn’t pushing the Americans out; instead the Americans are disengaging of their own volition, keenly aware, as Haddad notes with an eye on Germany, that “pro-American sentiment can also conveniently be used to avoid increasing defence spending”.

The current Nato framework hobbles Europe’s military capacity rather than advancing it, and Haddad is correct in claiming that “European autonomy is not competing with the alliance”, but instead “could save the transatlantic relationship.” For now, both Macron and Biden win from the new arrangement; the formal assertions of continued fealty to Washington remain true, even as they set the scene for Nato’s obsolescence. Only the coming decades will tell whether or not history will assess the pact, as Macron claims, as “a contribution to Europe’s independence, to the strengthening of Europe’s sovereignty” in what is already becoming a post-Nato world.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

I always appreciate articles by Aris Roussinos because they offer interesting perspectives, but what is sometimes lacking – as in this article – is a sense of what the events he writes about mean in practice.
OK, so France and Greece have signed this pact, representing a bilateral (nothing to do with the EU, apart from the fact that both parties are member states) security alliance intended to work in parallel (and without presenting an immediate threat to) NATO. This prevents the usual suspects along the EU’s eastern flank and Germany** from freaking out. It’s kind of a stealth move, as Macron has probably understood that the European public is not disposed to an EU under his leadership, so he has to build up power gradually and on the sly until it can no longer be denied and there’s no going back.
The pact also seems to have the tacit approval of the Biden administration. That might seem momentous but I think if you’re an American voter, you’re probably thinking “about time you lot got your entitled backsides into gear, we’ve been hinting at this for more than a decade”.
So anyway, returning to France and Greece and this new pact. In practice, this will not go much further than symbolism. Imagine is Turkey did start to behave aggressively towards Greece and France stepped in to throw its weight around a bit (as it did some time ago by sending warships to the Mediterranean). Erdogan will simply open the borders to refugees. France will then come under severe pressure from other EU members (above all Germany, I would imagine) to tone it down, as another wave of uncontrolled migration could very well push the EU past the point of no return. Greece would be the fall guy and end up hosting many thousands more refugees which no other country in Europe wants to accept.
Check mate.
Also, a question popped into my head when reading this: how exactly is Greece financing this new naval hardware?
** ” the perennially supine German security establishment” – great use of words, touchĂ©!

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Simon Davies
Simon Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Turkey has already tried that tactic of opening the borders to refugees. It failed as Greece’s massively strengthened border defences and pushbacks at sea largely nullifed the tactic.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Davies

Agree it will be more difficult this time through conventional means, but Erdogan I am sure will be quite inventive in his options, and his choice of allies to help him get his way.
There is also the matter of a few million Turks in Germany not averse to the odd show of force when he chooses to stir them up.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

Yes. That Turkish fifth column in Germany is Erdogan’s insurance policy against German support for any action to counter his aggressions.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

Yes, thank you Angela. Your name will be cursed as the decades unfold.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

Ah yes, the guest workers who won’t go away!

Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Very accurate

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Greece will finance with government bonds which the European Central Bank will purchase with funding provided by Germany. Possibly the only way German taxpayers will ever end up paying for the defence of a fellow EU member.

Will R
Will R
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I too wondered where Greece finding the finance, thought EU actions had left it very weak?

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
2 years ago
Reply to  Will R

The French will deliver the ships late ( strikes, technical problems, two hour lunch breaks).
the Greeks will pay even later.

Bob Pugh
Bob Pugh
2 years ago

“How France conquered Europe” What a misleading title.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob Pugh

Sub-editor (?) has done Aris no favours there. Another very good read from Aris, although I’m still in the “talk is cheap” camp on this one.
However I do find Macron consistently the most interesting leader in the EU at the moment on a range of issues, particularly defence.
Much of what he says and does is largely unreported by our pro-EU media. Paradoxically they seem uninterested in what EU countries do and say, preferring instead to stay onside with Brussels and worship at the altar of Merkel.
That’s why I enjoy Aris’s articles. Katharine Eyre’s comments below are a good supplement to it as well.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

Thanks Dustin. I also agree that British media also come up short on reporting what goes on in Europe. Although European media are just as bad with reporting on the UK, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
Macron fascinates and appalls me. On the one hand, he’s one of the only leaders who has truly seen and understood the big picture for Europe and is doing his darndest to drive his agenda forward with a highly sclerotic EU where nation states cling to a status quo that’s no longer sustainable. For that, he deserves respect.
On the other hand, Macron is so abrasive and so hyper and his government sometimes so downright nuts (the threat to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply when there was a disagreement about the interpretation of the WA…France – this is a proportionate reaction. Have you two met?) that he shoots himself in the foot with his leadership ambitions, as that’s about winning people over, not issuing bald commands in high-flown language. He’s sometimes so impossibly arrogant, I can’t listen to him. I also rather suspect he’s willing to go to some extreme and undemocratic lengths to turn the EU into a vehicle of French power.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Well said. I do not trust the French (under Macron) in the least. But Greece is a Christian country unlike Turkey so more power to him!

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob Pugh

Perhaps UnHerd should abandon the practice of letting editors write the headlines and let the authors do it themselves. This is the second piece I’ve read here today with a headline (well in the other case it was the subhead) which didn’t match the article.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob Pugh

Blame the sub-editor who wrote the headline.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

So a French alliance with Greece means Europe no longer needs the American military, courtesy of NATO? Is this a joke?

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

More a case of delusional thinking. Imagining to be true what you want to be true.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell


because it’s what you said was true a week ago.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

The greatest threat to peace in Europe in the long term is not Russia – it is a fanatical war-mongering Tory led government in Westminster spurred on by the perennial warmongering, hatred spewing British media.

But first, of course, the Tory right-wingers are raring to have a go at invading China. It’ll be described as a war of liberation of course. If that doesn’t go swimmingly well (and it may not!), then they’ll turn to smaller fry to show those nasty Europeans what’s ‘wot’.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Invading China? From where?

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Global Britain – that’s where! Don’t forget fantasy-land and grand delusion prevails in Westminster – like sending an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

I tried to give your comment an uptick, and it just increased the downticks from 3 to 4. This has happened before, and more than once.
I think there’s something seriously wrong with this idiosyncratic scoring system. Why it cannot show the pluses and minuses separately, like other publications do, I do not understand.
You are right about Russia not being Europe’s main enemy in the long term. In fact, slow changes in the EU–Russia relationship will be the next thing to watch for.
You also have it right about the long-term, serious threat of destabilisation that the UK will continue to represent.
The real reasons behind this major global strategic realignment are occult: certain occult groups embedded in the anglo English-speaking world are after power and world domination, and the appearance of terms such as “world-beating” in recent Johnsonian discourse is no accident. The current English government are puppets pulled on strings manipulated by these unsavoury groups operating behind the scenes.
The leading edge in terms of true advances in human culture and civilisation—in human evolution, will continue to be centred in Europe, which must at all costs be protected. Ultimately, that leading edge will shift eastward to Russia and the Slavic peoples, but that’s a long way off still.
Macron is astute and on the ball. His relative youth is on his side, and it is entirely appropriate that the French pick up their traditional political baton again. The pact with Greece came as a lovely surprise, but it is immediately understandable as a brilliant move, once you know the real game that is being played.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I agree with Macron on Islam but describing him as having his finger on the pulse is delusional. The guy is a tantrum-throwing lunatic. The UK gets accused of imperialist delusion but if anyone is trying to rattle its sabres and reassert its authority it’s France.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones


describing him as having his finger on the pulse is delusional
These are strong words. You need to say why, to support your assertion. You need to argue your case. It is misguided to attack me as delusional without saying why. That is just personal abuse and is not acceptable.
The guy is a tantrum-throwing lunatic.
Again, strong words, without any supporting facts or argument. So, again a case of abusive character assassination, this time directed at M. Macron. And again, not acceptable.
Have you considered the fact that the English and the French might have different national temperaments? That the English might appear emotionally aborted relative to the French, who appear to express themselves in overly dramatic terms?
The UK gets accused of imperialist delusion but if anyone is trying to rattle its sabres and reassert its authority it’s France.
True, France is sort of “rattling its sabre” in an attempt to fill what it perceives to be a power vacuum. But this is purely in the context of EU politics: Merkel is gone, Germany’s new role is yet to unfold, and France has traditionally played the part of the political/foreign affairs/diplomatic face, as balanced with Germany’s economic role. The political field is France’s traditional strength. So it is attempting to assert, or rather, reassert, its traditional role in the EU context. Just in case.
The UK, by contrast, is strutting the world stage. Or attempting to. World domination is its goal. It wants to be “world-beating”. Those of us who think the UK’s stance is unrealistic, and its goal unattainable and positively dangerous to world peace in the 21st century, tend to ascribe this posture to a nostalgic desire for glories of past empire. We view the UK or, more properly, the English people, as trapped in the past, unable to develop a positive new place in the world for themselves—in short, as going through a national trauma, a sort of national nervous breakdown. This is a very dangerous state of affairs for the rest of us who wish to coexist with England in equality and peace..

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

And just who are these three puppet masters manipulating the Anglo world, as you claim? Do please reveal your hand, sources, evidence….please tell us ‘Penny Lane’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

Ever hear of the industrial-military complex around Washington DC and Virginia?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

Okay, sorry to disabuse you of your conspiracy theory, but there is nothing to see here.
First, “Penny Lane” is my abbreviated, informal name. Fact. I don’t have to explain it to you, and given your attitude, I don’t feel inclined to.
Second, the source for all my assertions is the work of Dr Rudolf Steiner. There is nothing to hide; quite the reverse, my efforts are dedicated to getting knowledge of Steiner’s work out to the general public.
Steiner lived through the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth centuries (he died in 1925). He was a high Initiate in the Western spiritual tradition who brought a renewal of Christian teachings suited to the modern West. He said himself that the spiritual path he introduced was especially tailored to modern secular society and those brought up in atheistic beliefs. As a person raised in strict atheism, who has been lucky enough to discover Steiner’s teachings, I can personally vouch for their suitability and efficacy.
Steiner was a polymath, and applications of his teachings are to be found everywhere today, from Waldorf education, to biodynamic agriculture, to forms in architecture, eurhythmy, and many other specialties. Steiner’s work was voluminous, as might be expected of an initiate.
One of the characteristics of initiation is the abilities it brings to see into both past and future. This is simply the result of opening higher faculties, spiritual faculties which are normally dormant in ordinary human beings. There is nothing mysterious here: do the work and you get the results.
So Steiner could see into the future, and there are thousands of pages of his lectures devoted to addressing the challenges facing humanity if it is to evolve in a positive direction henceforth.
The things I cite form themes of some lectures he gave shortly after the end of WWI. The brotherhoods he describes are not identified by name; he simply places them within the English-speaking world, which means in practice Britain and North America.
In other lectures, Steiner pointed to the US rather than Britain as the home of these “egotistical” “grey” brotherhoods, although that situation may have changed in the last 100 years. I personally formed the impression these brotherhoods were some part of the Freemasonic world, but I stress this is purely my opinion, and I could be wrong. Steiner went to some lengths to distinguish between uncorrupted Freemasonry (Britain and Europe at the time he was speaking) and some of the more dubious American lodges.
In one set of lectures, however, Steiner gave a detailed exposition of the way Britain deliberately bypassed an opportunity to prevent the First World War. His description of the way some incompetent English politicians, such as Lord Grey, were manipulated by these forces behind the scenes is terrifyingly similar to what we are seeing played out with the present English puppet government headed by Johnson.
The takeaway point here is that the real stakes lie far deeper than mere sausage wars or other forms of EU-bashing. The stakes are world domination by the anglosphere, and whatever wars may be necessary to achieve that. So the only question worth asking is, Who is really running the English government???
Most of the important parts of Steiner’s work can be found online at RSArchive.org. There is an excellent search engine, which will take you to whatever aspect you may wish to research.
Specifically, two links to the source of my current comment are:
https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/ChaTim_index.html
https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19171118p02.html

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Maybe it’s time to bring back stern closing hours.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Really?

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Read the article more closely, then have your drink.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Is that the best you’ve got? Some pathetic personal insult? Grow up.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Don’t forget Russia is no longer the enemy of Europeans – the enemy is the fanatical, deranged, Brexhadi government in Westminster.

BTW that same government is also the enemy of the Chinese people – in fact it’s the enemy of the vast majority of humanity.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Much as I agree with you (and I do), I want to quibble on one point: evil always has two poles; just think of the forked tongue.
The US/UK anglosphere is undoubtedly one pole. The other pole, however, must be China.
Countries such as Canada, New Zealand must be excepted from the anglosphere axis of evil, but Australia and South Africa must be included.
China’s pole includes North Korea, but excludes South Korea, Tibet, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. Where Burma and Mongolia end up is yet to be seen. As also the central-Asian Stans, which may well end up in China’s camp. And of course, we distinguish between the present Chinese government and the Chinese people. The Chinese diaspora contains elements of both pro-Beijing and opposition parties.
It is in this context of bipolar, diseased competition for world hegemony between the US/UK and China, that Europe emerges as the third-party Middle Way, representing a path towards world peace and a positive human future.
The most fascinating aspect of this current series of strategic global realignments is Russia. I guess its final realignment towards Europe will have to wait out Putin’s regime, but Merkel’s stance on the gas pipeline (Nordstrom) is nevertheless understandable as an interim measure in this context.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

I imagine Ben Wallace is correct in asserting that even if the EU had its own ‘army’ it would not be able to reach consensus over whether or not to take military action. Previous NATO engagements have been US led with add-ons: America took the decision to mobilise and act.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago

Long over due and very welcome – or should be – to all of Europe. It is an absurd notion that the US, a nation on the other side of the globe, should be held responsible for the defence of the prosperous nations of Europe 76 years after the end of WWII.
The excuse that the US insisted on it in the context of NATO, as an excuse for not meeting defence spending commitments especially by Germany, has lost credibility everywhere in the globe, and most importantly in the US.
France is the only EU country with a credible military capable of intervention beyond its borders, and so is the candidate best suited to assume a leadership role within the context of Europe. Turkey’s openly aggressive attitude and actions in the eastern Med make it imperative that Europe show its readiness to defend its eastern flank while the US deals with aggression in the Pacific as it should.
Finally, it is a calamitous failing on the part of the Biden regime that $80 billion worth of military equipment has been gifted to Islamist terrorists when it could have been used to reinforce Greece’s defences.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

That the US, a nation ‘on the other side of the globe’, should be held responsible for the defence of the prosperous nations of Europe was absurd in 1941, but it was forced to become so, and the world has shrunk since then.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Indeed. There isn’t an ‘other side of the globe’ anymore.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

French history tells me that if they try to go to war to protect Greece the French farmers will block all the roads with their tractors and the fishermen will block the ports with their boats.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Whose ports?

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

Turkey is visibly seeking a rapprochement with Russia Germany’s relationship with Russia is closer than most of us recognise – and Nord Stream 2 is a pretty obvious indicator of this. In lining up with Greece against, Turkey Macron may weaken the Franco-German axis and hence the EU.
Finally with Debt/GDP now at 210% how is Greece going to aford the French weapons? By recycling EU funds through Greece to France?

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

“As he observed, “for just over 10 years now, the United States of America has been focusing a lot on itself and has strategic interests that are being redirected towards China and the Pacific”, and “it would also be naĂŻve of us – or rather, we’d be making a terrible mistake – if we didn’t seek to learn lessons from it and act accordingly. And so it’s with the same pragmatism, the same clear-sightedness about our independence, that we must, as Europeans, play our part in our own protection.” ”

Actually, for the past 10 years successive US administrations, under Obama, then Trump and now Biden have all consistently been telling European nations one thing: stump up your 2% military spending commitment as NATO members and stop expecting American taxpayers to pay it for you.

To treat Macron’s words now as evidence of some strategic initiative having no relevance to the foregoing is really quite daft. France clearly intends to lead the EU’s growing military resources and to enrich itself by being the EU’s primary arms supplier. This ambitious strategy has one glaring flaw, and it’s that German taxpayers are not going to bankroll it, which they’ll be required to do if it’s to work.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago

European strategic autonomy? That’s a laugh. This is wishful thinking and naivety on the part of the writer. As soon as the EU gets its teeth into “strategic autonomy” it will become mired in bureaucracy and pointless virtue signalling.

John Hicks
John Hicks
2 years ago

The author omits to record the number of FDI ships involved. 3 apparently. The French intend building 5 of them for themselves but will now sell 2 of these 5 to Greece. Perhaps this is more to do with funding construction and exquisite French contractual smooth talk than any pact reflecting “how France conquered Europe.” The Chinese, on the other hand, have a 350 ship navy, with 50 of these Frigate types to be completed over the same time period that France plans to launch 5 Frigates (now to be shared with Greece) of her own. These contrasts do provide, however, a context for AUKUS and some understanding of American, Australian and UK concerns in the Pacific.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

An interesting read, but I interpret this differently.
This ‘alliance’ is opportunism on the part of Macron, following his perceived rebuff from AUKUS, as this contract was surely being negotiated for many months. If France were in competition with the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the United States, then France’ success was probably a reward for its recent support for Greece in the recent past. I hadn’t realised that a contract for €5bn was in the balance, with more to come, or am I too cynical? (By the way, I thought Greece was short of money. Its comparatively large annual defence budget is currently €5bn, so I’m puzzled.)
I understand Greece’ concerns. It has long been an anomaly that both Greece and Turkey were members of NATO, and yet remained antagonistic, and Turkey’s aggression over Cyprus complicated its relations with all other nations. The trend under Erdogan is of course very worrying. ‘Strongmen’ often wish to drum up external threats to avoid trouble at home.
The article goes on to imply that an EU military power would release the USA to concentrate on the Pacific, but in my opinion, one of the reasons that the USA has remained the dominant military power in the world is because it acts globally, but also maintains strong partnerships where it can. One of these is through NATO, and whatever the current POTUS may think at the moment, I can’t see the Joint Chiefs of Staff allowing an impotent EU military power to undermine the effective NATO.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
GA Woolley
GA Woolley
2 years ago

An interesting set of ideas, but I think it misses the most likely outcome, Turkey leaving NATO. Turkey’s status within the Alliance has become increasingly questionable, and if, as seems likely, the US no longer needs Turkish bases, NATO no longer needs Turkey. It would be extremely difficult to remove Turkey, but engineering Erdogan’s decision to leave should be possible. This would set NATO’s, and Europe’s, SE border in Greece, removing the difficult Greece/Turkey relationship from the equation, and establishing a firm military demarcation line between Europe and the Islamic world. France has never been an enthusiastic member of NATO, but there’s no realistic prospect of a French-led EU defence force other than as a token gesture. That may satisfy French ambitions for ‘glory’, but without the participation of the UK, and the backstop guarantor of the US, it would be recognised for what it was.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

The article does point to the eventuality of Turkey no longer being part of NATO. This is implicit in the references to Greece’s role in “containing Erdogan”.
And while the role of the US as backstop guarantor is essential, it should not be assumed that the same is true of the UK. It would be helpful if the English could refrain from petulant references to French “glory” and face up to the fact that the UK is no longer an integral part of Europe.

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago

seems like a nice and well articulated move by macron. perhaps a sign Brexit is forcing Europe to grow up. I think this is one thing the German taxpayer will pay for and they need to. they must know the single currency is a gravy train for core Europe, which will be derailed if they don’t find a respectable way to recycle their surpluses. also, in defence and foreign affairs, Germany is both conflicted and encumbered by its past, which means contracting this out to France and the periphery may be the only way to go. next up they need to build French nuclear power stations all over Germany and move Brussels to Athens, the natural capital of Europe.

Last edited 2 years ago by patrick macaskie
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Personally it makes me think Macron is a lunatic.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Why does President Macron remind me more each passing week of President Xi?

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

Surely as EU and NATO fellow members the two countries are already committed? What about Cyprus, a bone of Greek Turkish contention for 50-60 years? France will rip off the Greeks or Greece will default. It’ll end in tears.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Zorro Tomorrow

France will “rip off” the Germans, who will end up buying the bonds issued by Greece to pay for the weaponry.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

It’s difficult to see France benefitting from Greek support were France to be attacked. The commitments are therefore all being made by the French, who should be preparing to fight a war with Turkey.
Then there is the suggestion of calling Germany’s bluff. The country that has willingly become dependent on Russia for its energy supply is quite capable of leaving itself militarily vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.

George Knight
George Knight
2 years ago

This all sounds very jolly. What, though, happens if France finds itself being drawn into an escalating conflict involving Greece. Will France then try to drag NATO in to the conflict or will it do whatever it takes to sort out the issue? My fear is that whilst France is a great producer of arms – third biggest arms exporter globally – and that might help Greece re-arm, I am not convinced that France will want to fight alongside the Greeks for too long. NATO….help!

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
2 years ago

No mention of the UK’s bid which was considerably smaller than that of France. Even when France resubmitted it was still above the UK’s original bid. I wonder if Margarethe Vestager should look into this……

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

Replace NATO? Yeah send in the inexperienced Belgian navy and the German army with broomsticks. France might put off Erdogan, but it won’t scare Putin.

Geoffrey Wilson
Geoffrey Wilson
2 years ago

Interesting article, and as usual interesting comments. I think the author exaggerates both the threat to NATO and the claimed progress towards the vague concept of European defence autonomy. I see it as a response to the Turkish government and its several threats to western interests by doing something impossible within NATO, since Turkey is a member (until pushed out, soon I hope). France supporting Greece, with US cooperation, is a practical response. This mythical European defence autonomy will stay mythical until Germany decides to spend money and stiffen its military discipline.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Things are shifting. Merkel did what was absolutely necessary for the times and place in which she held power. Her achievements are outstanding. We have yet to see what the new Germany will look like.

vecchidf
vecchidf
2 years ago

Greece should put a call into Poland and South Vietnam to get some history.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

Macron is more Pluto or Uranus than Jupiter.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

The threat to NATO is not from self-organizing sub-sets and variable geometry which rather bolsters its aims, but from major fall-outs between members such as Greece and Turkey, and the drift towards strategic competitors of others. This is an arms deal, and relevant/helpful to E Med trends, but Macron has not “conquered Europe (all.of it, or EU?). Be wary of articles peppered with ‘indeed and ‘The fact is…” to support assertions. What next: an arc of history?

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
ed martin
ed martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

1 is Macron riding on the spur of Xi’s comment that there should be but one representative of Europe at the world’s top table – and that should be ‘Europe’?
2 post both empire and brexit do you feel relieved that UK is not anywhere in this discussion?
3 has PR China been sniffing around Greece / Turkey for port facilities?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago

It’s an odd sort of strategic autonomy that seeks approval before the fact of a treaty being signed for it TO be signed? Or the Americans getting Greek bases signals the Americans leaving. As the article says it’s basically outsourcing and in another sense basically an arms sale with servicing agreements tacked on it.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

An EU army acting in French interests is a non-starter. The only European nation that could conceivably present a serious military prescence on the world stage is Germany. If it ever shakes off its current lazy pacifism, history suggests that the first move will be westward. So be careful France in what you wish for.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

France attacked by social democrats and Greens? This is 21C. Macron will be gone next year.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Zorro Tomorrow

Many couldn’t see beyond the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and 30s. You seem to think things will just chug on as now with the good old USA footing the bill for defending an increasingly fractious and unreliable Europe. This seems unlikely. Once the US pulls back, Germany will have no choice but to remilitarise. Then it will become clear that there is no common defense interest vis a vis France which will, once again, have to be put in its place.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Zorro Tomorrow

Will he, though. And replaced by what? Like him or not, the election outcome is far from clear.