Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a member of the French National Assembly and was the candidate for the left-wing France insoumise (France Unbowed) in the 2017 French presidential elections where he won 19.58% of the vote. He is the movement’s candidate for the 2022 presidential election. This piece was first published in l’Opinion on September 17.
The cancellation by Australia of the contract to buy twelve French submarines is a real slap in the face by the United States. The economic consequences will be serious. But it’s the geopolitical significance that is decisive. The decision was formalised by US president Joe Biden and the British and Australian prime ministers. They announced a new tripartite military alliance (AUKUS) to counter China in the so-called “Indo-Pacific” region.
At the heart of this alliance is the future deployment by Australia of nuclear powered submarines, now to be supplied by the US. The priority of the US is to reinforce its own military presence and that of its accomplices against China, touted as a “strategic threat” by NATO.
Humiliated, our country was asked to fall into line. Biden has already tested his French “ally”, but he's got nothing to worry about! France obeyed straight away. It will uphold its commitment in the Indo-Pacific, while focussing on “European strategy” in the region. What a joke! The European Union is tied to NATO! I think the time has come to stop deluding ourselves. Time to regain our independence. The pivot to the Indo-Pacific that French governments have been trailing behind is absurd.
Military spending: Is China a threat to us? No. In 2019 the combined military expenditure of the NATO countries was more than half of the world total, US$1.035 trillion, of which $732 billion was by the US alone. Under threat, China has increased its defence capacity, at an “alarming” speed according to the Pentagon. This is false.
The Chinese military budget is 3.5 times less than that of the US. It has one military base on foreign soil, compared to 500 for the US. It has two aircraft carriers, soon to be three, compared to eleven. It has deployed 350 nuclear warheads compared to 1,600 (France has 280). It is not interested in making the mistake made by the USSR of self-destruction through an arms race. Furthermore, it would take decades for it to even catch up to the level of the US.
But, says NATO, China cooperates with Russia, so in tackling the baddies the good guys have to stand together. This cooperation has in fact been accelerated by the treatment they have received from the US and its henchmen. Russia and China have agreed to “move away from using the US dollar for trade” in order to reduce the risk of extraterritorial sanctions. The US fears this threat more than any other. If the dollar stops being the primary currency of exchange and reserve, its value will be reduced in-line with the enormous US debt. France and Europe, regularly the indirect victims of US extraterritorial sanctions, therefore share the interests of China and Russia.
Common challenges: France must not wait. The humiliation inflicted on our country is a reminder that military competition with China only serves the interests of the US. It wants to maintain its supremacy. This is where the serious threat lies, because it is this confrontation that reinforces, both in China and in Russia, nationalist and authoritarian tendencies. The search for an external enemy often goes hand-in-hand with an internal one. This is also true for France and Europe, where relations with China are presented as a conflict over “values” or between “civilisations”, where in fact it is really a geopolitical conflict.
A cold war atmosphere only harms the interests of us all. It is time for serious cooperation to meet the challenges facing all humanity: climate change, pandemics, arms race, resource depletion. France needs to go back to a non-aligned diplomacy. It is not about isolating ourselves but making a sovereign choice about our interdependence with the rest of the world, without giving up the basis for our military independence which should serve as our all-round defence doctrine, starting with space.
Whatever you say about the warmongers of the day, Charles de Gaulle did not become a Maoist when France became the first western country to recognise the People's Republic of China in 1964, nor a Bolshevik when France left NATO’s joint military command [1966–2009]. My commitment to a return to independence and diplomacy based on global justice is driven by the understanding that the crisis we face is not a military one, but an ecological and social emergency.
[Translated by Sam Wainwright for Green Left].