A top general in France has warned that the world order is undergoing a monumental reorganization process, and that the European Union must steer clear of a scenario that would force it to pick sides between the world superpowers of the United States and China.
During an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, General François Lecointre, France’s chief of the defense staff (CEMA), touched on a variety of issues, including the difficult task of forging a “common political identity” between EU member states, the reorganization of the current world order, France’s role in Africa, and the growing military might of countries like Russia and China.
“We are heading for a reorganization of the world order that is structured around the competition between the US and China,” Lecointre said, adding that every nation on earth would face the challenge of having to decide which side to take.
“It will be very difficult precisely because neither France nor Europe are interested [in choosing a side]. 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.”
Lecointre’s sentiments echo similar statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year, where he concluded that it would be “counterproductive” for the EU to stand explicitly on the side of the US in its contest with China.
“A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality [sic]. This one, for me, is counterproductive,” Macron said, while speaking in English at a discussion broadcast by Atlantic Council, a US think tank.
Lecointre also spoke about the dangers supposedly posed by powers which seek to challenge the global stability and international law — particularly Russia, China, and Iran.
In the past few years, the US and China have clashed with one another over serious policy differences in trade, emerging technologies, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Officials from the US have urged its partners in Europe, among other things, to force Chinese telecommunications technology — namely Huawei 5G infrastructure — out of their markets.
When asked if the 27 member bloc would achieve some kind of “strategic autonomy” that’s often called for by EU technocrats, Lecointre noted that the EU was initially built around economic relations, and that forming a common political identity would, at least in the short term, be an arduous task.
“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,” the general said.
Before accusing Moscow of “continuing to weaken [the West’s] democratic model by acting in the digital realm and in the realm of influence,” Lecointre stated that Russia, like China, is becoming “an extremely dangerous competitor” in the military arena, especially with respect to submarines and ballistic missile technology.
At the same time, the general noted that countries like Russia, China, and Turkey are increasingly competing with France in Africa.
“Today the presence of Russia, Turkey or China in Africa is worrying and destabilizing,” he said.
Presently, some 300 Russian military instructor and advisers are carrying out operations in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) — a former French colony — where they are supporting the state’s military fight against armed rebel groups. Moscow contends that its military presence in the CAR is merely due to the fact that the local government had requested assistance from Russia’s armed forces.