British officials have been increasingly voicing concerns about France’s attempts to boost its military leverage in the US and have of late stepped up efforts to prove that the UK is looking forward to remaining America’s most reliable defence partner even post-Brexit, The Telegraph reported citing a memo.
“When there’s a new policy problem, who will the US pick the phone up to first? The danger in the coming years is more of the time that will be Paris rather than London", one well-placed UK source said.
The cited official further speculated about France’s policies noting they “have seen an opportunity and are now taking it". “If roles were reversed we would probably do the same thing", the source added.
Britain retains its role as a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, unlike France, and continues to closely cooperate with the Americans on nuclear and defence matters. Meanwhile, it appears France is hardly hiding efforts to boost its clout, with Emmanuel Macron unable to resist the temptation to take a veiled dig at the historic “special relationship” between the US-UK while delivering a speech to the US Congress during a 2018 visit.
“The story of France and the United States is a story of an endless dialogue made of common dreams, of a common struggle for dignity and progress", Mr Macron pointed out further stressing it is “the best achievement of our democratic principles and values". “This is this very special relationship", the French president said.
There are warning signs that France could find enough means to throw down the gauntlet in the upcoming years to challenge Britain’s status as “the most trusted military partner". Another area is a gradual recent increase in the number of defence think tanks, a sphere where France is also apparently overtaking Britain, The Telegraph remarked.
Brexit developments, meanwhile, can’t help but impact the UK’s diplomatic standing, as the UK is winding down its involvement in the European External Action Service
One former UK official who spent time in Washington noted that DC's establishing ties with France has been going on for years.
"The UK was always trying to be the closet and best defence partner and was slightly nervous whenever the French were positioning themselves in that way", the source was cited by The Telegraph as saying. There were those, however, who dismissed the concerns.
“I have heard several times during my diplomatic career that France will supplant the UK's special relationship with the US, including in the defence sector", Sir Mark Lyall Grant, former UK national security adviser and former permanent representative at the UN, said, adding that “it has never happened and I do not think it will happen".
“To use a marital analogy, there might be occasional American flirtation with the French, but they always return to the familiarity of the US-UK relationship", Grant added.
What slightly contradicts the reports, is Macron's rhetoric about NATO's cerebral death, although it later emerged he did not mean the organisation as such, but the way it functions.
Last month, Macron said in an interview with The Economist that NATO was "brain dead" and questioned the ability of the alliance to guarantee its collective defence.
According to President Trump, what hampers full-fledged effective cooperation between NATO members is the lack of adequate "burden-sharing" by European partners in the alliance. The US has repeatedly accused France and Germany of not spending sufficient funds on NATO's defence.