The French and the World

Map_of_FranceFrance plays hardball when it comes to geopolitics, and it has for a long time. This past weekend was absolutely no exception to the rule, as the French foreign minister went public with his criticisms of the plan that was being hammered out by a group of six nations (France, the US, the UK, Russia, Germany, and China) with Iran, and effectively ended the plan as it stands.

Of course, we shouldn’t think this odd of France. General Charles De Gaulle, the statesman responsible for the foundation of the Fifth French Republic, was a skilled practitioner of realpolitik, making France the fourth nuclear power, ejecting all foreign troops from French soil and publicly distancing France from NATO, as well as vetoing British entry of the European Economic Community (now the EU). Shrewd statecraft as well as decisive action is France’s strategy, and an effective one at that.

It was France that led the charge into Libya during the Libyan Civil War, and France that intervened in the northern Mali conflict last year. France does have geopolitical interest in preventing a nuclear Iran, namely keeping the “nuclear club” tightly controlled and thus increasing its own power as well as preventing Iran from challenging the largely stable status quo in the region. With that said, keeping Iran nuclear-free is good for business. As one of the world’s major military manufacturers, it is in France’s best commercial interests to ensure that conventional (i.e. non-nuclear state versus state) warfare remains the default for the Middle East. Even more so, France is home to incredibly predatory intelligence agencies that have made France a home for the world’s worst industrial espionage against other countries.

France is one of the world’s great powers, and it has been for hundreds of years. It is reluctant to do anything that might relinquish this title, and since the days of Talleyrand, France has been playing great power politics quite adeptly.

Published by Alex Garland

Alex Garland is a staff writer for The Politic from Galivants Ferry, South Carolina. Contact him at jeffrey.garland@yale.edu.

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