The Franco-Russian Alliance: The End of the Pax Americana? 

19/11/2015

Following recent jihadists attacks in Paris, the French government has informed of three decisions related to their strategy against the Islamic State: 

1) The French president François Hollande and the Russian one, Vladimir Putin, have agreed to coordinate their global fight against the jihads entity. 

2) In the coming days, Hollande will visit Washington and Moscow in order to promote the creation of a common international coalition to fight the IS.

3) France requests the activation of Article 42.7 of the EU Treaty. 

The three decisions seem to be the logical reaction after the Paris’ attacks, and the confirmation, by the Kremlin, that the Russian plane that crashed in the Sinai last month was the result of an IS’ terrorist attack.

The three measures, however, are paradoxical and controversial. They also remind us of what Jean de Grandville, French diplomat, confided to Henry Kissinger in 1967: “All of French policy was geared to be on good terms with Moscow. The official French theory was that the world was tri-polar. One centre was at Washington, another in Peking dominating East Asia, the third Europe dominated by Moscow-Paris.”

Since the unification of Germany in 1871, France used the alliance with Russia to undermine the German power and strengthen itself.  Its political relations with the US are follow a similar attitude: Charles de Gaulle announced the French exit of NATO’s military structure in 1966, the same year he became the first Western leader to visit Moscow. In 2003, Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac established an informal alliance with Vladimir Putin to oppose US intervention in Iraq.  Now, the aim of the alliance between Moscow and Paris is fighting the IS, but it will also serve to weaken the continental hegemony that the European crisis has conferred to Germany and, also, highlight the loss of US leadership, both in Europe and in the Middle East.

Hollande’s proposal to create an international coalition is identical to the one made by Putin last September 28 at the UN Assembly. The fact that the French president has taken this proposal as its own, implies the need for the West to shelve their differences with Moscow (regarding the conflict in Ukraine and the future of Basar al-Assad in Syria), and shows that the French trust Russia’s will to combat the IS (although so far the Russian air force has mainly been bombing Syrian rebels of Assad’s regime), and that they distrust president Obama’s strategy in the Middle East. Russia will know how to seize this opportunity to return to the international community, is it did in the past, providing military assistance to the West when it was unable to defend itself (for example, during the Napoleonic wars and World War II).

The most remarkable of the latest initiatives of the French Government is the activation of Article 42.7 of the EU Treaty – “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with article 51 of the United Nations charter”– and not Article 5 of NATO – “Any attack on one ally is an attack on all members of the Alliance.”– Hollande said that France “is at war”, but he did not request the intervention of the military alliance, but a bilateral response to France of each of the member countries of the EU, each of which will decide what that support will consist of, because the protocol does not require military aid.

The failure of the European Defence Community (EDC) – an attempt to finish the military and defensive integration of Europe – was due to France. Paris denied giving their approval to the former in 1954. Since 1949, NATO served as the strategic framework for the Pax Americana, linking the security of Europe to that of the US, in such a way that the US acted as protector, restraining the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and as a peacemaker, protecting each of the European countries against everyone else.

The French decision to activate Article 42.7 shows that France does not trust the capabilities of the US-dominated NATO, which would also be against its alliance with Russia. The non-existence of the EDC and the fact that Europe has given up on being an independent strategic player allows France to develop a national strategy, outside European institutions, strengthening bilateral relations with who it sees fit to do so, and regaining its old geopolitical trends, ie, counterbalancing the power of Germany in Europe and that of the US in the world. This does not necessarily mean the end of the Pax Americana, but it does mean the weakening of transatlantic relations, the renationalisation of the security policy of the member countries of the EU, and a number of correlative concessions to Putin’s autocratic regime which, right now, seems to be mucho more proactive than Obama in the war against jihadism.