USΑ – France: A New Alliance in the Spotlight

Originally published in the Greek newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 588, p. 46 on July 22, 2017

At the end of last week, US President Donald Trump visited Paris on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the First World War, which was celebrated on the occasion of the fall of the Bastille. This is the third meeting between the two Presidents in a short time after the summits of the G7 and G20. This visit was held in the shadow of recent revelations about the US President’s son’s encounter with the Russian lawyer before the US elections, and have created tension in Washington. The objectives of the visit are many, others are obvious and others are hidden.

The US needs the relationship with the European Union. Their British allies, due to Brexit, have created a big gap between the US and the EU. The tense German stance towards the Trump decisions calls on the US government to find an alternative ally in Europe. Thus, Macron’s position to keep up with the US government against the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and its confirmation that the French administration will join the US in a possible blow against it, has greatly encouraged Trump to increase the level of cooperation between the two countries.

The French administration, on the other hand, is well aware of the great need for US support in many international issues, most notably the Libyan crisis. France, which was one of the most important players in overthrowing the Qaddafi regime, proved unable to end the conflict alone. Libyan gas and oil are crucial for France. Moreover, the increase in Russian influence on Libyan soil intensifies the pressure within the French administration for a quick solution to meet its energy needs. This cannot be achieved without the cooperation of Paris and Washington, as only Trump can bring all the local players to the same table to give a final solution that will favor France. Finally, the rise in US shale oil can offset France’s growing energy needs, creating a new market for the US side.

The important role played by France in Iraq and Syria in the framework of the International Coalition for Combating Terrorism is supportive of the new US government, which is trying to end ISIS in the region, expanding its influence by creating many military bases in the area. France, which has withdrawn from the region since the 1950s, returned to revive its presence. In Iraq, it has a military base north of Mosul and one north of the capital, Baghdad, and has two military bases in the northern part of Syria. This presence of the two countries is a greater incentive for their administrations to increase the level of co-operation among them, against the growing Russian influence in the northern part of the Middle East.

A French source assured me that the results of the talks between the two Presidents were unexpectedly positive despite the differences in their views on different files. The alliance between them can make a decisive contribution to managing the ongoing crises in the Middle East and North Africa.