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Asharq Al-Awsat, London, September 21
Former President Donald Trump spread terror in American political circles about the dangers of China as a real and imminent threat to the American economy. His fear expressed itself today with the AUKUS Agreement signed between Washington, London, and Canberra, under the guidance of President Joe Biden. The armaments wars in the Indo-Pacific region are real and alive. But one player has been left outside the new trilateral pact: France. Paris not only lost a major submarine sales deal to the United States but has actually been excluded from the agreement. The reason for leaving Paris out of the agreement is simple: Washington doesn’t trust the Europeans as reliable partners in its possible confrontation with China and Russia. The European Union considers China its second-largest trading partner after America, and Germany, which leads the EU, calls for more cooperation with the Russians, even feeling that it has gone too far in its dispute with them over Ukraine. Washington wants strong allies that advance its interests. After all, interests govern international relations, not friendships. France was angered by the Australian and American position, which “stabbed it in the back,” as Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian put it. The new trilateral alliance consisting of America, Britain, and Australia held secret meetings to finalize the terms of their pact. Yet France was not completely excluded as it claims. President Macron knew that talks were taking place, but he held off on rejecting them until they became a reality. Now, President Biden is buying time to wait for the storm to pass, with the hope that France’s anger subsidies. But in fact, the whole world is waiting to see the French response. Can Biden provide compensation to France? The French say that their anger isn’t so much about losing the submarine deal to the US, because it can find a buyer to replace Australia, but more a shock at being excluded from an alliance in which Europe was supposed to have a seat. But what France doesn’t want to hear is that the European Union is at its weakest, both economically and politically. So what are France’s options? There are two main options: Either France negotiates a role in this up-and-coming alliance and gets a seat at the table or it enhances its relations with China and Russia in defiance of the US. Of course, this matter won’t be determined by France alone but will also be shaped by the European Union. There’s also the possibility that AUKUS is expanded to include additional countries, such as India, Japan, or South Korea — all of which view China as a strategic threat. The international system is being reformed following America’s withdrawal from the Middle East. The presence of a nuclear power led by Washington in waters opposite China is something that Beijing has not taken into account. However, China’s main leverage against the US remains economic. The American decision to leave France out of the AUKUS Agreement is meant to send a clear message to the world: If you’re not actively fighting alongside the US, you’re against it. –Amal Abd Al-Aziz Al-Hazani (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
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