Home » French Envoy: Canada Should Link With Europe, Surpass ‘Weak’ Military Engagement

French Envoy: Canada Should Link With Europe, Surpass ‘Weak’ Military Engagement

France’s ambassador to Canada says Ottawa must choose between tying itself entirely to Washington or broadening its links to partner more with Europe — while also calling out Canada’s “weak” military engagement.

“This nagging question of the future American commitment offers, in any case more than ever, the opportunity for Europe, France and Canada to play a role together,” Michel Miraillet said in a French-language speech Tuesday to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.

Miraillet argued that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year was the culmination of a decade of Moscow and Beijing working to weaken democracies.

He said both Russia and China have sold their citizens a narrative of patriotic nationalism, while building up their military capabilities and involvement in developing countries, in anticipation of an inevitable decline of a faltering western world.

“This relationship goes far beyond the assertion of common interests. (Vladimir) Putin and Xi Jinping share the same hatreds, that of the West, which they want to weaken and push back … and that of democracy, which according to them leads to decadence and the disintegration of nations,” he said.

“They also became convinced of the inevitability of America’s erasure from the international stage.”

Miraillet cited the presidency of George W. Bush, without directly referencing the Iraq War, and noted the Obama administration opting against intervening in Syria or pushing back on Russia’s 2014 takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

“The withdrawal from the world stage, initiated under Obama and amplified under Trump, has proved disastrous, as it created a vacuum quickly filled by the rival powers and opened a field of expansion for Russia,” he said.

“If it was to be feared that Joe Biden would go in the same direction, especially at the time of the panic in Afghanistan, let us agree that he adopted a firm and courageous attitude in the Ukrainian conflict.”

Yet Miraillet warned that all elected leaders are subject to short-term mandates while autocrats remain in power.

“This asymmetry which has always existed between dictatorships and democracies today has a special dimension.”

He said Putin is hoping that Americans elect an isolationist president in fall 2024, and that Europeans opt for the comforts of Russian oil over the difficulty of the higher energy bills they’re paying as a result of sticking to values and democracy.

Miraillet noted France’s recent boost in military spending and proposals for deeper continental military integration. He noted France, which is a major arms producer, is pushing for more military manufacturing on the continent.

He suggested that Ottawa needs to demonstrate a similar commitment to global security.

“The same goes for Canada and its weak defence effort, nevertheless, somewhat forgetful of the memory of its past commitments, of the courage shown in all major conflicts, as in peacekeeping operations.”

In that context, Miraillet said Canada should deepen its partnership with countries such as France, in the same way that Australia has formed alliances with South Korea and Japan.

He said that as today’s world organizes itself along new axes of power, with the China-Russia pact on one side and democracies on the other, the democratic world shouldn’t align itself only with American interests — those, he said, “are not necessarily always convergent with ours, as with yours, dear Canadian friends.”

“There is, shall I say, a unique opportunity for Canada and France to act together, which involves stepping out of their comfort zone and beyond the games of internal politics to have a great destiny.”

He said “friendshoring,” a U.S. concept recently endorsed by Canada that holds that allies should rely on each other for more resilient supply chains, is “no longer an option.” He added that Canada shouldn’t constrain itself to North American partners.

Miraillet said France, in particular, wants to partner with Canada on critical minerals for green technology, on fledging small-scale nuclear technology and on hydrogen projects that can help electrify public transit.

“France and Canada have no other path than that of closer technological and industrial co-operation, of a strengthened capitalistic relationship in what is not a de-globalization phase as some have said, but more simply a decline in trade on a global scale.”

Navigating that transition requires close friends, in order for multilateral institutions to have any hope of fighting climate change, big tech and pandemics, Miraillet argued.

He said Canada faces a strategic choice, to either “accept and reinforce the logic of American decoupling, hoping to obtain in exchange more integration … or move toward a more multipolar logic, in particular with Europe.”

Miraillet noted that France and Canada are often the only ones to constantly advocate for individual rights in UN and G20 forums “in the face of Global South, which is culturally often hostile and also increasingly impervious to the interests of the individual.”

Miraillet pointed to Beijing’s sudden suspension of some of the strictest COVID-19 measures on the planet, after sustained public uproar.

“Democracies are superior to all other systems, on one condition: the condition that all concerned citizens can be persuaded to better defend them. The danger is that the refusal of risk, the feeling of comfort and the habits of our Canadian and French societies, blinds us.”

Miraillet started his term in Ottawa last fall, after serving as France’s director general of globalization and as a co-ordinator for G7 and G20 summits, known as a sherpa.

His vision of the world is rejected by Moscow and Beijing, who argue the West has not followed agreements formed after the Second World War to not encroach on local security interests.

Source : The Star