It is becoming almost impossible to keep up with international news lately, much less to make any sense of it, particularly where western state actors are concerned. It becomes a bit simpler to understand radical Islamicism: they're insane, and evil. But the western state actors are a different matter, and at or at least near the top of the list is France, still one of the world's great powers, still able to project military force globally, with a large economy, a sophisticated technology and a long national, cultural, and philosophical history. It is as impossible to think of the history and development of western institutions and philosophical and artistic culture without France as it is without Italy, Spain, Britain, or Germany. It simply cannot be done. Which makes French actions in the wake of the international, i.e., western sanctions regime against Russia - at least at first glance - difficult to understand.
The difficulty is highlighted by the fact that after the final defeat of Napoleon, French geopolitics assumed a much more cordial relationship with Russia, culminating in the Triple Entente that would fight the Central Powers in World War One, which was being fought one hundred years ago today. The victory of the Central Powers over Russia in early 1918 and their final surrender to the Allies later that year, and the rise of Bolshevism and the French role in the Russian civil war that followed World War One, put those relations in the deep freeze until after the Second World War, when under De Gaulle and the Fifth Republic, more amiable relations were restored between the two countries. In this respect, it is worth recalling that De Gaulle's thermonuclear deterrent, the force de frappe, was as much about securing French independence from Washington, and deterring Germany, as it was about deterring Moscow(though that too, was a consideration for French strategic policy makers).
Then came the USA sponsored coup d'etat against the Yankovich regime in Kiev, the installation of the current and quite backrupt (and quite Fascist) regime in Kiev, the deterioration of relations between the West and Moscow, and of course, the referendum in the Crimea, its reunion with the Russian Federation, and western outrage at the "illegality" of the action. Following this we had the affair of the non-sale of the Mistral class helicopter aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, for which Russia had contracted. There was also, you'll recall, a dizzying round of diplomacy conducted by M. Hollande and Frau Merkel with Mr. Putin trying to negotiate and broker some sort of deal, and to head off even further deterioration of relations between Europe(read Paris and Berlin), and Moscow. In that context, I suggested, despite those two European powers' mouthing of the Washington-sanctions-Mr. Putin-is-an-evil-neo-Bolshevist-throwback-to-Stalin line, that firstly Mr. Putin was no such thing, and that secondly while Paris and Berlin may be publicly mouthing concurrene with Washington, privately they were none too happy about it, and of the two, I suspected that France was the most so. I suggested that one had to "watch France" carefully, and that there would be a series of signals - slowly and unofficially at first, then gaining traction and more official approval - expressing France's displeasure with the direction things were taking accross the pond. I did not, however, expect it to come so quickly, as this RT article shared by Mr. G.B. suggests:
There are two statements made in this article, widely - and perhaps deliberately and cleverly - separated by the RT editorial staff. One occurs toward the beginning of the article, and the other toward its end, but when viewed together, as I cite them here, outline quite an interesting and suggestive picture:
The head of the mission, MP Thierry Mariani said in an interview with Russian business daily Kommersant that it will consist of nine members of the French National Assembly and one senator. Eight members of the delegation represented the center-left “The Republicans” party, led by Nicolas Sarkozy and two more represented centrists and leftists.
In April, a delegation of 20 French lawmakers headed by Thierry Mariani paid a visit to Moscow on Sergey Naryshkin’s invitation. During this visit all its members criticized EU sanctions against Russia. In particular, Mariani called the restrictions “silly and not yielding any positive results.”
French lawmakers said the April visit was a friendship gesture and spoke of similar signals coming from other European governments, who are seeking to mend ties with Russia. (Bold-italics emphases added)
Now this is intriguing from any number of perspectives, not the least of which is the fact that the French delegation were of members of former French President Nicholas Sarkozy's party, indicating that the delegation, notwithstanding official expressions of "regret" from the French Foreign Ministry, had a measure of high level and unofficial support from within the well-trained French technocracy and the French tradition of bureaucratic statecraft. Sarkozy himself, let us recall, has close ties to the giant chemicals company Sanofi, which in turn, is a successor to Hoechst, which in turn was a component of I.G. Far-you-know-who-ben. So one can guess, without too much imagination that those "similar signals coming from other European governments" include not just Madrid or Rome, but predictably unhappy circles in Berlin and Frankfurt. Recall that within the last two years we've seen an odd pattern emerging from Frau Merkel and her cabinet, as first the German Interior Minister, de Maziere, from a family of long military and political involvement in Germany, and a long tradition of support for American and the Atlantic alliance, objected to Washington's current course and unipolarism. This was followed by the ridiculous claims of German Defense Minister von der Leyen, when she claimed the Luftwaffe had only a few operational aircraft and an insubstantial inventory of spare parts even for those aircraft (uh huh... sure). That was followed by Foreign Minister Steinmeir's speech to a group of German businessmen in Berlin calling for the necessity for Germany to bite the bullet and assume a more military stance on the global stage (doubtless with the non-operational Luftwaffe and its lack of spare parts). Meanwhile, Frau Merkel plays the part of the oblivious Hausfrau. The reality, of course, is that these statements simply could not have been made without her knowledge and tacit approval. Notwithstanding her public support of the sanctions, the quiet reality is Germany and Russia are slated to expand their energy deals. Then of course, there was Greece, and Paris and even Washington were trying to put the brakes on Berlin.
So from the French point of view, rest assured that a restoration of more amiable relations with Russia is a high, though quiet and unofficial priority.
What to look for? Well, certainly more "visits" of this sort can be expected, but don't expect to hear about them in the American media. But the fact that this delegation was from M. Sarkozy's party, who so strongly supported Washington in, for example, Libya, indicates that there's been a turn inside France. And all it will take is another De Gaulle to complete that turn. And if there are any "Gaulists" left in France, then Washington has problems.
The other thing to look for? Watch Britain and, for that matter, the British Commonwealth nations. Britain, you'll recall, has joined China's Asia Infrastructure (note that word) Development Bank. And I strongly suspect that that's the least of the things they're discussing in the various London clubs.
See you on the flip side...