In submarine drama, Paris demonstrated that it feels compelled to seek outside support even as it thirsts to be a global player

For France, this week’s geopolitical drama — its nixed submarine sale to Australia, and its furious response to the United States’ jumping the deal — encapsulates a problem the once-mighty nation has struggled with for decades: how to assert itself as an independent power, which French leaders see as essential, while maintaining the alliances on which they know France relies, the New York Times reports.

Reconciling that dilemma between independence and reliance has animated and bedeviled French strategy ever since World War II left most of Europe subjugated to foreign superpowers.

Though Americans sometimes see French willfulness as animated by vanity or a desire to reclaim long-lost imperial pride, French leaders are keenly aware that they lead a medium-sized power in a world dominated by larger ones.

The planned submarine sale follows a long line of moves calibrated to project French power, maintaining the country’s ability to steer its own fate, while aligning with the allies whose help Paris knows it needs, paradoxically, to stand on its own.

But losing the contract highlighted the difficulty of achieving both. So did France’s response. Recalling its ambassador to Washington was meant to show that it was not afraid to stand up even to allies. At the same time, in seeking European support against the perceived American betrayal, Paris demonstrated that it feels compelled to seek outside support even in this.

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