France opens a new front against Turkey and Russia in the Caucasus

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column


Baku is outraged by a document calling for recognition of the so-called “NKR”, adopted in the French Senate. Some suggest recalling the ambassador, others propose to expel France from the OSCE Minsk Group, etc.

I suggest looking at the issue more broadly, before taking any action. In particular, to consider the issue in the context of French-Turkish confrontation (and now, probably, French-Russian confrontation as well) and France’s attempts to become a neo-empire.

After Britain left the EU, France remained the only EU country, which has nuclear weapons, quite a strong fleet and, of course, is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Mr. Macron was tempted (and apparently still is) to play a neo-emperor in a situation when the old world order is crumbling, and the new one has not yet been established.

This required: a) to strengthen positions in the former areas of traditional French influence (which new actors have been eyeing for a long time); b) to take advantage of, among other things, the fading influence of the United States in southern Europe and the Greater Middle East, in order to take over new territories.

However, there is a problem, because now in some of its former colonies in Africa France, in addition to China, had to compete with Turkey, and if China prefers creeping economic expansion, the Turks count on getting faster results.

Thus, France “fought” with Turkey in Libya, where Turkey and Italy support the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, while Paris and Moscow backed Khalifa Haftar.

As is known, the army of Haftar, and he himself, were not able to fulfil the expectations of their sponsors, despite significant assistance, including from a number of Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. This game has so far been won by Ankara and partly Rome.

In Syria, France could not get a sufficient room for maneuver, since Paris came late, and everything was already divided.

France, relying on several Lebanese clans, struggles for influence in Lebanon, where Turkey’s positions are weak so far, but Lebanon is not a country in which a single force may dominate, due to the tribalism and complex structure of Lebanese society.

Eastern Mediterranean became the next arena of clashes between France and Turkey. Here, too, France relies on the weak Greece-Cyprus alliance, and partially Egypt. Turkey’s harsh and sometimes tough actions did not allow Paris and its coalition to achieve any tangible success in this confrontation. And against this backdrop, hostilities resumed in Karabakh. Azerbaijan is Turkey’s ally. Unlike most of our citizens, I do not believe that the Armenian lobby in France is running the entire show.

Of course, there is a lobby, and it is strong, but there are also top interests of France, for which the Armenian diaspora and Armenia are pawns (as they were in 1915) and the Karabakh conflict is an instrument for achieving geopolitical goals. The most advantageous situation for Paris is continuation of hostilities and involvement of Turkey and Russia in the conflict (note the statements of Lavrov, and then Putin, about attempts to undermine implementation of the trilateral agreement). But as we know this did not happen, therefore Paris pulled out two more trump cards from its pocket, i.e. “protection of the Christian cultural heritage in Karabakh” and recognition of the so-called “NKR”. Also, let us not forget the statements of Macron about “Syrian mercenaries”, allegedly fighting on the side of Azerbaijan and the hysteria of the French press about this topic.

If one looks at the document that the Senate adopted, one can see that there, in plain text, are repeated all the accusations of the French that they voiced from the first days of the war, and some more. And one of the main emphases is placed on Turkey.

By the way, an interesting fact, 305 out of 348 senators voted “for”, which means that there is a broad political consensus on this issue, and no doubt that the Elysee Palace, along with the Foreign Ministry, gave the green light (if they were not the actual initiators) to this document.

Below, I would like to analyze the issue point by point.

“The document is not binding, and it should not be taken seriously, especially since the French Foreign Ministry also opposed it” – any document that was adopted with such a broad consensus could get a completely legitimate status when it is convenient. The important thing is not what the French Foreign Ministry said publicly, but what they will say behind closed doors. I am sure that the document will be used to blackmail Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey. This is a kind of a stick in the hands of Paris (as previously were “human rights” and “freedom of speech”).

“Expel France from the OSCE Minsk Group” – The Karabakh issue is being resolved in the Ankara-Moscow-Baku format and the OSCE Minsk Group became obsolete, so expulsion of Paris will only have a moral significance, but it could be done. This could deprive the French of their formal instruments of influence. Now, if France could be replaced with Great Britain, it would radically change the situation. But as I said, the Minsk Group became obsolete.

“We need to actively invest in France, invite French companies to Azerbaijan and strengthen ties” is an interesting idea, but in this case it is pointless. Since France is not a banana republic, it is unlikely that it will change its policy because of the potential benefits of cooperation with Azerbaijan. On the contrary, we can tie ourselves to a dangerous actor, and then have to think about how to get rid of this dependence. I would advise supporters of rapprochement with France to look towards Foggy Albion. Britain is the last empire in Europe, and after leaving the EU, it will finally be able to play (and is already playing) a more active role in the region.

“Hit French companies” – to be honest, I am also a supporter of this measure, but in a balanced and purposeful way. One thing is the imaginary benefit for Paris from cooperation with Azerbaijan, another thing is real companies and tenders. Here there is room for maneuver for us, and if we manage to involve Turkey in this matter as well, the effect may turn out to be quite significant.

To sum up, I want to emphasize once again that what we are seeing is not France’s blind support of the Armenians, and not a scheme of the Armenian diaspora (although they contributed too, of course), it is the state policy of France. And we pay this price because we are winners and we want to be an independent country, as both defeat and victory have their own price. If you want to survive in a jungle, you have to show your teeth sometimes, even to those who are stronger than you are. Draw conclusions and consider issues in depth.

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