How France Is Resisting The U.S. Push To Use NATO Against China
NATO has turned its focus from Ukraine to Asia, as American officials try to prepare a united front in case Taiwan is invaded. But consensus may not be possible as another key member, France, has its own strategy.
PARIS — A few years ago, when the applications of Ukraine and Georgia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were first being discussed, a newspaper cartoon showed the leaders of those two countries wondering: “What is the Atlantic?”
The same cartoon could be drawn again today, with the meeting in Vilnius of the 31 alliance members with the leaders of four Asia-Pacific countries: Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. There’s no need to look far to find the reason for their presence: China.
Along with Ukraine, and Volodymyr Zelensky’s anger that NATO accession will not happen now, China is firmly on the Vilnius Summit agenda. It’s clear that Washington is behind the push for the Alliance to become increasingly more involved in Asian affairs. One more sign that China remains the U.S. priority, despite the war against Russia.
Asia isn't in the North Atlantic
Last year, in Madrid, NATO considered for the first time that China posed “serious challenges”. The reference to a Chinese threat was included in the alliance’s strategic document, unlike in previous editions, much to the dismay of China and… France.
In private, French officials joke that Asia isn’t in the North Atlantic… More seriously, Paris doesn’t want to get drawn into Washington's new Cold War against China.
Macron wants to to avoid a “vassalization” of Europe vis-à-vis America.
France argues that it has its own “Indo-Pacific strategy”, that the European Union also has its own and that while there are common concerns with the United States, the interests are not necessarily the same.
France has vetoed the opening of a NATO office in Tokyo, a symbolic decision that shows its disagreement. The reference to the opening of this office disappeared from the final communiqué of the Vilnius summit, which still severely criticizes China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron have tea in the Pine Garden in Guangzhou, China. April 7, 2023.
Return of "containment"
During his visit to China last April, Emmanuel Macron made waves by expressing his desire to avoid a “vassalization” of Europe vis-à-vis America. He ruled out blindly following the United States against China. NATO is part of the equation, because Paris does not want the transposition to Asia of NATO's assumed American leadership.
At this stage, there is certainly no military plan of even extending NATO to Asia. But the rapprochement, or even coordination, of the four powers invited to Vilnius is in line with the American vision of “containment” to use Cold War vocabulary, here meaning the containment of China.
In the event of a more serious conflict, in the China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, Washington wants to ensure that a strong anti-Beijing front is in place. Recently, former NATO Secretary General, the very pro-American Anders Fogh Rasmussen, went to Taiwan and urged Westerners to say out loud that they won’t allow the use of force against the island.
Beijing obviously welcomes France’s move to distance itself from the American strategy. Somewhat acrobatic for the middle of the war in Ukraine but, within NATO, France is used to being both loyal and autonomous.
- China-Russia Alliance, How The West Failed To See It Coming ›
- Big Business, No Red Phone: Why U.S. v. China Is A Different Kind Of Cold War ›
- China Is Recruiting Former NATO Pilots — Is That OK? ›
- Putin On Wagner, Hollywood On Strike, Pets On Stage - Worldcrunch ›