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François Lecointre at the École Polytechnique. Wikipedia

France’s top general warns: ‘We must not take part in US-China confrontation’

The French chief of staff said the EU must avoid a situation in which it would have to choose between the superpowers US and China. At the same time, he stated that countries like Russia, China and Turkey were competing with France in Africa.

Published: May 23, 2021, 10:58 am

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    Paris

    A high-ranking French general has stated that it would be difficult for the European Union to forge a “common political identity”. Meanwhile, the EU should not be forced into a position to have to choose one side in the confrontation between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

    In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper , the French Chief of Staff, Army General François Lecointre, spoke about the alleged dangers posed by powers that “challenge stability and international law”, particularly Russia, China and Iran. The general declared: “We are heading for a reorganization of the world order that is structured around the competition between the US and China.”

    He added that every nation would have to face the challenge of choosing which side to take.

    “It will be very difficult precisely because neither France nor Europe are interested. While our relations with the United States must not be called into question, […] we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into an unbalanced confrontation between China and the United States.”

    The US and China have argued over a number of issues over the past few years due to profound differences, including trade policy, Hong Kong and Taiwan. US representatives also urged European nations, among other things, to force telecommunications technology of Chinese origin out of their markets.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year that it would be “counterproductive” for the EU to stand clearly on the side of the US in its rivalry with Beijing.

    When asked whether the EU would succeed in achieving the “strategic autonomy” often demanded by European politicians, Lecointre said that the EU was originally built around economic relations and that forging a common political identity would be a difficult undertaking in the short term.

    “We are at a turning point. Europe will either stay where it is today and eventually disappear from the international scene, or it will be able to meet the security expectations of its citizens.”

    Lecointre also stated that Russia, like China, was becoming “an extremely dangerous competitor” in the military field, for example in submarines and ballistic missiles. He accused Moscow of “continuing to weaken our democratic model by acting in the digital realm and in the realm of influence”.

    Lecointre noted: “Today the presence of Russia, Turkey or China in Africa is worrying and destabilizing.”

    Around 500 Russian military instructors and advisers are currently stationed in the Central African Republic, a former French colony, where they support the local army in its fight against various insurgent groups. Russia has stated that its soldiers are legally present in the country because the local government had invited the Russian armed forces.

    Regarding the role of foreign powers in Africa, Macron told Jeune Afrique magazine last year that Russia and Turkey “play up post-colonial resentment” against France.

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