Former French Ambassador Gérard Araud: ‘A New Slap in the Face from the US’

For Gérard Araud, former French ambassador in Washington, the U.S. has started on a new direction in terms of foreign policy, as illustrated by its influence in Australia’s decision to break its contract with France.

Australia has broken its deal with France over the supply of submarines. How do you analyze the role played by the United States in this decision?

Rumors started spreading over the last few weeks, but everyone was blindsided by the announcement and the way it all happened. Evidently, they had been negotiating behind France’s back for months. To have come to this kind of decision, it is obvious that it was not agreed over the last few weeks. There are lessons to be learned here. There is a logic of rivalry, of competition. When we were awarded this contract, the U.S. did not support us; it took Japan’s side instead. It tried and eventually succeeded in selling its goods to Australia. The Americans are turning to Asia with their usual brutality, and an indifference toward Europe. They are looking to contain the power of China by any means.

‘We Come Out Thinking That Obama, Trump and Biden Are All One and the Same’

What consequences does this have on Franco-American relations?

The U.S. did not consult with France over its withdrawal from Afghanistan, and this broken deal is a new slap in the face. We have to wonder about their decision to keep us out of the negotiations. We come out thinking that Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are all one and the same. Here is a country which is completely indifferent to the interests of its allies. It is more practical for the U.S. to work with Australia and the United Kingdom, which will both assume their roles as subordinates. The Five Eyes alliance (the intelligence alliance those three countries are part of, along with Canada and New Zealand) allows for exchanges of intelligence, for cooperation on secret equipment. This is not something the U.S. has with France. Paris will have to review its positions when it comes to the U.S. This is something we need to understand. We do not have to declare war on China, but we can be allies without really being allies. Much as Charles de Gaulle did with the USSR, we may need to create a 21st-century Gaullist doctrine to deal with China.

‘A Desire To Spread Democracy by the Force of Arms’

You mentioned the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. How do you feel today about this intervention?

Initially, intervention was justified. It was first and foremost a counterterrorism operation, with legal and legitimate grounds explaining the reasons for a military operation. But eventually, NATO and the U.S. drifted toward a desire to set up a democratic state and to rebuild the country. After World War II, the United States saw itself as the world’s police. In a way, it came out looking like the “king of the world.” Behind this was this desire to spread democracy by the force of arms.

How does the U.S. emerge from this war?

Obama set this military withdrawal policy into motion. It came in response to the American public’s weariness of interventions. The U.S. had to withdraw from certain issues, notably in Iraq. These operations are very costly in both financial and human terms. Trump carried on Obama’s work along the same lines. This line of conduct was not conceived under the Biden administration. The modus operandi of the troop withdrawal was a failure, and this caused backlash from the public opinion. This is the first time that the popularity of Biden, former vice president in the Obama administration, drops below 50%. Wanting to get everything sorted out in Afghanistan was the mistake the U.S. made.

‘The US Will No Longer Be the Global Police’

How do you think U.S. foreign policy will evolve from here?

To start with, I believe this is not perceived as a defeat by the government. There was a change in tactics; the U.S. will no longer be intervening everywhere. It will act to protect its own interests and will no longer be the global police. The war in Afghanistan was what we might call an endless war, with no hope of victory. The U.S. will become more selective when it comes to its interventions. It is not present in the Sahel, Ukraine or Libya, for instance, because it has no interests there.

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