Tom Arms’ World Review

France

It is a case of mixed messages coming out of Paris. On the one hand, we have President Emmanuel Macron telling homeward bound journalists that Taiwan should not be a European concern and that France (and Europe by extension) should not let its China policy be determined by American “extremists”.

On the other hand, while Macron was speaking after his state visit to China, the French frigate Prairial was steaming through the Taiwan Straits while the Chinese Communist Party was flexing its muscles with an encirclement exercise of the island.

France,  is unique as the only European nation with substantial holdings in the Indo-Pacific region. It has seven territories with 7000 troops protecting a total population of 1.65 million. Ninety percent of France’s exclusive economic zone is in the region.

China is a clear threat to French interests. That is why the French navy regularly conducts exercises with its American equivalent and military equipment sold to Taiwan in the 1990s is still maintained by French technicians.

But Macron wants a bigger slice of the growing Chinese pie. This is why 53 business executives accompanied the president on his state visit. He also does see France as a counter balance to America—allied with but independent of the super power, a foreign policy that France has pursued in varying degrees since the days of Charles deGaulle.

In short, the French are doing what they do best: Juggling a dozen diplomatic balls at the same time.

USA

1.25 million Americans have top secret clearance. They include contractors as well as military personnel, civil servants and politicians. Therefore it is not surprising that one of them was a low-level 21-year-old right-wing, racist, gun enthusiast who decided to be Mr Big to his friends by posting secrets on an internet gaming site.

Jack Texeira, who worked in the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, will have the rest of his life to regret his vanity.

So will millions in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world. Texeira’s leak disclosed CIA assessments of the Ukraine military on the eve of their counter offensive against Russian forces in the Donbas. It revealed which brigades are the best equipped and trained. It exposed both weaknesses and strengths which the Russians can now exploit.

Texeira also released a CIA assessment of the political machinations within the Kremlin. There were probably few surprises for Moscow, but knowing that the CIA knew something enables the FSB (Russian intelligence) to track the information back to its source and thus endangers American agents in Russia.

But there is more, Texeira also revealed that there are NATO countries special forces operating in Ukraine. Not a huge number, but it doesn’t take many of these highly-trained soldiers to make a difference. They mainly from Britain’s SAS but there also some from the US, France and Germany. The revelation of their presence makes it easier for Putin to claim that the Ukraine War is a war against NATO.

 

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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18 Comments

  • The conflict in Ukraine is upending the Unipolar moment that left the USA as the sole hegemon among world powers with China establishing itself as a peer competitor. While we do not know when or how the war in Ukraine will come to an end, we can say that there will be an inevitable reordering of global alliances as a consequence.
    The Russian annexation of Crimea was the first such land grab since China’s occupation and seizure of Tibet in 1951.
    As in WW2, there is a jostling underway for spheres of influence in Europe and the Indo-pacific region. In Ukraine, that has erupted into full scale warfare as the Ukrainian people have sought to assert their right to self-determination and independence from Kremlin control of their affairs.
    As the USA moves its focus to Asia and containment of Chinese militarism, European countries (including the UK and France) will have to take on more responsibility for the collective defence of Europe and deterring Russian aggression on the continent.
    French diplomacy with Putin has not borne fruit to date with either the Minsk agreements or Macron’s efforts to deter Russian aggression.
    Great power rivalry is back in full force in Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and South America.

  • Joe Bourke– I agree with some of what you say but not all. The road is no longer

  • Joe Bourke, — will try again and hope my fingers can hit the right keys this time. I agree with some at what you say but not all. The world is definitely no longer the unipolar entity it was between 1990 and say 2010. But neither is it bi-polar (US and China). It is becoming a very complex multi-polar mix. For a start, there is Russia which is a nuclear super power but a second rank political power as well as deeply aggrieved at its fall from super power status.Then there is India with its vast population and burgeoning tech and pharmaceutical industries. It is not a great power but not far off from challenging China as top Asian dog. It may be there by 2050 if it can hold itself together politically. Then there are the petrol-states who are beginning to flex their muscles in a major way and may soon steam past Europe in international influence.

  • Part two:
    They certainly see their interest less and less in alignment with the West, especially as Europe and America are casting current difference as a battle between autocracy and democracy. They are autocracies and their establishments are determined to remain so. Iran, parts of Central Asia and Turkey could also be in this category but to a lesser degree. Then there is the EU which has been accurately described by myself and others as an economic giant, political minnow and military wannabe. Europe will fight its corner when its economic interests are threatened by the US or China, but when push comes to shove it needs the American nuclear umbrella. The Chinese, Russians and everyone else know and accept that. Countries in a similar situation in varying degree are Canada, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. This leaves the Global South, which is contained mainly in Africa and South America. In a sense, they have never had it so good. They are rich in the resources that the Global North needs to maintain living standards which means they can play the major powers against each other to obtain the best deal possible.

  • The Liberal International order is based on the institutions created in the wake of WW2 including the UN, IMF, World bank and WTO (formerly GATT) among others. John Maynard Keynes was a key architect of those institutions, although his proposal for the Bancor (a supranational currency for the settlement of International Trade rather than a gold backed dollar) was never accepted.
    For much of the world outside of the Liberal Democracies, the position of the US dollar as the main medium of exchange for International trade is under challenge; as is the right to support the defence of other nations under attack.
    President Lula of Brazil has expressed these sentiments in his recent visit to China arguing against the arming of Ukraine by the US and the EU US must stop encouraging war in Ukraine and saying the New Development Bank, also known as the ‘BRICS bank,’ could free emerging economies “from submission to traditional financial institutions, which want to govern us.”
    With similar sentiments among the petro-states this looks more like a realignment against the economic hegemony of the US, rather than an effort to play the major powers against each other to obtain the best deal possible (although, as you suggest, it may result in a better deal for the global south).
    The disregard for Ukraine’s right to call on help for self-defence as enshrined in the UN Charter, perhaps stems from the Russian propaganda that their military action in Ukraine is a war against the US and Nato Ukraine’s Liberation War rather than an imperial war of aggression to expand territory under their control.

  • Steve Trevethan 16th Apr '23 - 8:59pm

    How democratic is it for H M G to join a foreign war without telling its electorate and, possibly, its parliament?

    Might a relevant difference between China and the U. S. A be that in China the government has power/big influence over the banks and in the U S A the banks have power/big influence over the government?

    Ditto the U. K. ?

  • David Evans 16th Apr '23 - 9:46pm

    Steve, I think the most relevant difference between China and the USA is that in China, the Government can very easily have you and your family locked up for decades on a political whim.

  • economic and political hegemony are interlinked

  • Steve Trevethan 17th Apr '23 - 7:50am

    Might other nations have both attributes we do not accept and those from which we could learn, adapt and adopt?

    Might the severe incarceration of Mr Assange, apparently without conviction, indicate that some of our legal practices are not beyond criticism?

  • Indeed Steve, we all know that no legal system is beyond criticism, and I’m sure Mr Assange has our sympathy. However, I’m sure you would agree that the depth and breadth of the abuses in China put it’s evils on a totally different level and to pretend otherwise is astonishingly naive at best.

  • Steve,

    The centralised planning adopted under the leadership of Mao Zedong resulted in tens of millions of deaths and widespread destitution, just as it had done in Ukraine under Stalin in the 1930s. China’s story since liberalising its economy and banking system has been one of great economic success.
    However, with the move towards much greater consumption spending and widely available access to credit, the banking system in China has developed the same kind of vulnerabilities with over-extended credit as seen with Western banks – particularly in the inflated property sector.
    You ask – How democratic is it for H M G to join a foreign war without telling its electorate and, possibly, its parliament? Presumably, this refers to the presence of special services personnel as advisers in Ukraine. For good or bad, it has long been the policy of UK governments not to publicly discuss the deployment of special services forces.
    While I am sure, President Lula’s sentiments are well-intentioned and in the best interests of his country, leaving Ukraine defenceless against the onslaught of a regime that has shown itself to have zero respect for International law or human rights (when you have the capacity to help) would be a neglect every bit as pernicious as Russia’s illegal invasion and epidemic of war crimes itself.

  • Steve Trevethan 18th Apr '23 - 12:30pm

    Might the attached data on citizen satisfaction with government and governmental bodies be relevant?

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2023/04/01/the-lies-over-brexit-have-undermined-the-uks-body-politick/

  • Given that the U.K. doesn’t accept Taiwan as either an independent nation or as the legitimate “Republic of China” but plays along with the Beijing view that it is a “renegade province” of the undemocratic “People’s Republic of China”, it is hypocritical in the extreme for commentators here in the U.K. to criticise France’s stance on this.

  • Steve,

    I know it is a known political skill to be able to avoid directly respond to a tricky point, but to give a direct answer to your question “Might the attached data on citizen satisfaction with government and governmental bodies be relevant?”, my response to you is “No”.

    My question to you is “Is there any factor peculiar to outliers that might make you consider that the responses collected from that country may be significantly effected by responders’ fear of reprisal?”

    I’m sure you get my drift.

    All the best

  • @Paul R: The international community accepts Taiwan’s de facto independence. While Taiwan does not get a seat at the UN table, at the same time any attempt by China to take it back by force would not be tolerated, or it would have happened already.

  • Taiwan’s right to self-determination appears unlikely to be resolved by UN resolutions https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2011/09/06/2003512568.
    The Island seems to trade and interact with the Chinese Mainland without undue friction. Why the PRC wants to force the issue of sovereignty is not all together clear. The experience of Hong Kong and Macau does not suggest that any democratic politics will be tolerated in a reintegrated Taiwan and PRC efforts to do so are likely to be resisted by the Taiwanese. The post-war strategic ambiguity that has existed looks like a pretty good compromise that lets the people of Taiwan get on with their lives without the threats of the outbreak of civil war.

  • @Alex – Sorry but the international community does not accept Taiwan as being independent. If it did, it would formally recognise it either as (an independent nation of) Taiwan or as the Republic of China. That just isn’t what happens – no one is willing to tell Beijing to grow up.

    And, as for the UN seat, Taiwan had a UN seat as the Republic of China – a founder member of the UN – until the international community kicked it out and replace it with the PRC.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Apr '23 - 7:09am

    @Paul R: I wrote of “de facto” independence. The UN does not formally recognise Taiwan as independent, but at the same time it is most unlikely to back any attempt by China to take the island of Taiwan by force. Joe Bourke describes the state of play best as “strategic ambiguity”.

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