The whole background of France’s quarrel with Algeria

MOSCOW, 06 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

How much a bad president “costs” for the state, today everyone can see by the example of Emmanuel Macron. It was under him, or rather as a result of his direct actions, that the visible collapse of the remnants of the international greatness of the Fifth Republic began. If to be even more precise, deep cracks have appeared in the French dominance in the former African colonies.

And, what is remarkable, a crack in the foundation appeared absolutely suddenly for the French themselves. Last unremarkable Sunday, October 3, 2021, the General Staff of the French Armed Forces, who was working on planned activities as part of Operation Barkhane in neighbouring Mali, suddenly discovered the lack of permission for the French Air Force aircraft to fly through Algerian airspace. Without this, the calendar and financial plans of “Barkhane” appeared to be under the immediate threat.

It soon became clear that this was not a mistake due to the oversight of some clerk, but a quick and rather harsh “response” of the Algerian authorities to Macron’s interview with Le Monde. In it, Macron spoke very arrogantly about Algerian politics, pointing out that the current history of Algeria is “wrong”, like saying that there is its only “correct” and “official” (read – strictly French) version, which is “now being completely rewritten”. And that allegedly it was done specifically to “hurt more” the French.

In more recent times, there was no need to explain to politicians and diplomats why they should not talk to foreign countries in such a tone. Even with “some African ones”. Even if they were colonies. But those days, as it seems, are gone.

The current behaviour of Paris is more and more openly giving the impression of increasing hysteria, pushing the French ruling elite to take less and less adequate actions, ultimately leading to devastating consequences, first of all, for itself.

Of course, Emmanuel Macron can even be understood in a purely human way. In recent years, France has been desperately fighting to retain its place in the geopolitical top of the leading actors of the planet. And they are  frankly bad at it.

Hoping for global bonuses within the collective West, on the initiative and under direct non-public pressure from the United States, Paris “swindled the Russians with the Mistral”. But instead of bonuses, it received serious losses, both political and for the shipbuilding industry of the country. The money had to be returned to “Russians”, and even “with interest”. Later, it was managed to give the landing helicopter carriers to Egypt, but Paris lost $66 billion on this deal, without receiving absolutely nothing from Washington for this.

After Brexit, the French tried to claim special rights to leadership in the European Union, including on the basis of being the only owners of strategic nuclear weapons. But they also failed here.

Brussels managed to push through the European Parliament the “anti-crisis package on COVID-19”, which, among other things, secured for the European Commission the right to directly collect the “carbon tax” from the entire territory of the EU. Thereby reducing by about a quarter its dependence on voluntary contributions, which form the revenue part of the “pan-European budget”.

This means at the same extent increasing the pressure on everyone, including Paris, so to speak, to “stop talking in the ranks”. That is, Brussels frankly puts France on a par with Eastern European limitrophes. For the French, this is almost insulting.

And here is in addition a strategic partner and ally – the United States (on the advice of the British ) – with which the Elysee Palace has been trying to claim geopolitical equality in the world for the last three years, literally robbed the French with impudence.

Australia, which joined the trilateral military-political alliance AUKUS, immediately abandoned the contract for the purchase of a dozen of the latest submarines, which was considered in France literally the contract of the century and which guaranteed the survival of the entire French military shipbuilding. The direct losses alone of Paris amounted to $66 billion. This figure is already acquiring a clearly fatal significance for France.

Well, to top it all off, the French military aircraft industry was almost finished off by the Swiss, who decided to cancel the contract for the purchase of Rafale fighters in favour of acquiring American F-35. In money, the losses of Paris were not so great, just some €6.5 billion (however, also almost “two sixes”), but now, without a “Swiss contract”, Dassault Aviation corporation will have to close the last plant in the country for the production of modern combat aircraft. Thereby dropping France quite significantly down to the level of a “purely agricultural power”, the garland in terms of the rate of degradation to which is held today by Ukraine.

No, Paris, of course, recalled its ambassador for consultations from Switzerland  But the current state of French affairs is such that they can no longer afford to demonstrate “their deep disappointment” for a long time. After loud public statements, “when the topic in the media will settle down a little,” he will be quietly brought back. Just as Paris has already restored diplomatic relations with the United States and NATO, although it promised almost to break up the Alliance “in retaliation for betrayal”.

What else could Macron do but try to “show off” to his own voters, at least at the expense of “some Africans”? Algeria has been a painful topic for the French since its separation from the Fifth Republic in March 1962. So he tried to “show who is in charge in the house”. Only the result turned out to be not at all what was expected.

In an outburst of anger Macron “stamped his foot”, and the floor suddenly collapsed under his feet. It turned out that it was completely rotten. The Algerian authorities immediately recalled the ambassador and announced a complete ban on the use of the country’s airspace, even for transit flights of French aviation.

This marks the transition of the process of erosion of French dominance in the former colonies in Africa into a phase of public collapse of the remnants of their geopolitical influence on the entire Black continent as a whole.

It’s not even about the threat of disruption of the French operation “Barkhane” in neighbouring Mali. The closure of the route through Algeria means a doubling of the cost of logistics and an almost threefold drop in the main load capacity due to the limited composition of the French transport aviation.

“Barkhane” is a plan to reduce the French “peacekeeping” contingent from the current 5,100 to 2,500 “bayonets” by 2023. Like the United States in Afghanistan, France is losing the war with the Islamists in Mali. First of all, due to the fact that it itself does not have an understanding of ways to resolve it, taking into account the interests of all affected parties.

And, let’s be honest, France itself also nurtured Islamic radicalism among the Tuaregs. In general, Paris decided to abandon Mali to its fate, just as Washington did with Kabul. Only the Americans “ran away” quickly, briskly and suddenly, while the French tried to do it “with a special European grace”. And they got sloppy.

The government of Mali immediately turned to the private military company Wagner for help (even if Moscow denies its connection with it), and Russia very politely, but very clearly, “explained to the European Union the most correct direction of further movement”, as the head of Russian diplomacy masterfully knows how to do it.

In general, France has lost not just the sky over Algeria. Most likely, Paris will have to flee Mali quite quickly and completely. At the same time, it is losing its geopolitical influence throughout North Africa, from Mauritania to Chad.

And judging by the fact that the Malian authorities emphasise the importance of reaching an official agreement with the Wagner PMCs, and Algeria and Egypt are directly expanding purchases of Russian high-tech weapons, we are on the verge of a large-scale Russian arrival in North Africa.

In a word, the most interesting times are coming.

And the French could be advised to change their president. Of course, in full compliance with democratic norms. But, on the other hand, if Macron so quickly flushes down the toilet all the geopolitical achievements of France in recent centuries and brings Paris into the second league of world politics, then maybe it’s not worth interfering.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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