France has long bristled at what it sees as Anglo-Saxon arrogance on the global stage
Liberty and Fraternity, yes. Equality, not so much.
Born of a revolution fought for liberty, ties between the United States and its oldest ally, France, have long been fraternal, but they’ve also been marked by deep French unease over their equality.
French concerns about being the junior partner in the relationship boiled over last week when the U.S., Britain and Australia announced a new security initiative for the Indo-Pacific, aimed at countering a rising China. The AUKUS agreement scuttled a multibillion-dollar submarine deal that France had with Australia, but, more alarmingly for the French, pointedly ignored them, reinforcing a sense of insecurity that has haunted Paris since the end of World War II, the Associated Press reports.
France has long bristled at what it sees as Anglo-Saxon arrogance on the global stage and has not been shy about rallying resistance to perceptions of British- and German-speaking dominance in matters ranging from commerce to conflict.
Successive American presidents through the decades have ignored French warnings about military involvements from Indochina to Iraq. France’s lessons learned in Vietnam and Algeria didn’t translate. And, when France has on occasion supported military interventions, notably in Syria in 2013, the Americans have pulled back.
Thus the latest affront, AUKUS, resulted in an explosion of ire, with the French loudly protesting and recalling their ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia while shunning the British in an overt manifestation of centuries of rivalry.
The French argue they are a natural partner for an initiative to blunt China’s growing assertiveness in the Pacific, with far more territory, troops and influence in the region than Britain, whose empire has shrunk to just one inhabited island there. As such, they would have expected to have been consulted, particularly by a U.S. administration that ostensibly champions multilateral diplomacy and values allies.
“It leaves an unpleasant taste of being disdained and sidelined,” said Pierre Vimont, a former French ambassador to the United States who is now at Carnegie Europe, a branch of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “France was totally left out by this new alliance even if we didn’t want to be a party to it.”
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