Emmanuel Macron’s demands for EU army are proof France ‘cant go it alone’ – expert

Macron: James Shields discusses calls for an EU army

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, James Shields, Professor of French politics at Warwick University, explained how President Macron’s vision of France as a superpower has dwindled and been dramatically struck down by his nation’s recent snubbing from the Aukus submarine deal by Britain, the USA and Australia. The Professor suggested the Frenchman is now setting about a desperate attempt to rebuild France’s geopolitical image and identity through tell tale signs of his enthusiasm for a European military alliance.

Professor Shields explained how the “tectonic plates” of geo-strategic and geopolitical affairs have moved in such a way in recent years that even the French who are very “wedded to the idea of independence on the international stage” are now considering other options.

He explained how a key principle of French military ambitions is linked to former French President Charles de Gaulle who saw France strive for independence through their own nuclear and military capablities.

But he stressed the world has moved on since then and it has moved on “dramatically” for France.

The expert said: “Not only do we have a world that is dominated by superpowers but we are increasingly seeing this multi-polar world of which we see a classic example in the Aukus partnership.”

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Prof Shields also drew on Operation Barkhane, the French-led military operation in central and west Africa spanning the Sahel region, which aims to oust terrorism from Mali to Niger and Mauritania, former French colonies, as a prime example of how France have lost their independent military capability. 

He stressed: “Americans, British, Estonians and other military forces are lending France support either in military engagements, around the margins or in intelligence gathering.

“So Macron sees even from that limited sphere of conflict that France go it alone even there – never mind in the South China Sea or in a bigger platform!”

Despite this apparent military demands, the French expert stressed how “Macron does actually appreciate” this is unfolding during his premiership and is putting plans in place to respond, such as a recent arms deal signed with the Czech Republic.

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He went on to say how such reforms have come in the form of President Macron’s own arguments for an EU defence capability which Professor Shields stressed “have always shown that he understands the old idea that France can’t go it alone”.

He added how now the question is “finding the partnership that works for France” in this new world of military challenges and changing alliances.

Professor Shields believes demands for an EU defence capability from Macron come as a result of France, over the decades, being an “uncomfortable member of NATO”.

But the French expert did stress how President Macron is “a thousands miles from achieving an EU defence and security capability” despite his desires for a formation.

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He said: “Thats his idea, that’s his dream. But in the meantime he’s got to look at NATO, he’s got to look at Aukus, he must feel that France belongs in Aukus.”

The professor went on to speculate how “further down the track” France could in fact join Aukus, the very deal it was dramatically adding how he did not think it is formed to exclude France,  “I think it has its essential three components in place”.

He added: “My guess would be that this is a theatre of cooperation. Macron would feel that France would fit eventually.” 

Professor Shields concluded that, as a result, in the absence of an EU defence capability, Aukus would seem “a natural locus” for France to lend its military support to.

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