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Colonel (ret.) Alain Corvez : France should revive her Gaullist legacy

Alain Corvez

International Strategy Consultant. Former International Relations Consultant of the Defense and Interior Ministries, Paris.


 

In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had some crucial things to say on how to improve relations among the nations of the world. Calling for moderation in the demands made by states, he suggested to do away with the formula “the military option is on the table”, and to adopt the approach of “peace is always possible”. He proposed the formula: “The world against violence and extremism”.

The world, he said, is not the result of a balance between two blocs, nor is it dominated by one single power, it has become multipolar and all states whose power basis rests upon the ballot box, that is which express of the will of the people, are entitled to the same respect of their specific characteristics and their legitimate interests. No culture is superior to the others and none should seek to impose itself.

Such a program, rooted in common-sense and universal humanism, is apparently not applied today, since endless conflicts have broken out everywhere, especially in the Mideast, but also in the center of Europe with Ukraine, or in Asia, where tensions are mounting between the United States and its allies and China. Since a direct nuclear confrontation among those powers that possess the fatal weapon is impossible because of deterrence – which remains active in spite of what some may say – they are pursuing their strategic objectives by maintaining regional crises , using their subjects as proxies.

Russian President Putin delivered a remarkable speech in 2007 in Munich, at the OSCE meeting, in which he said that a new balance in the world was being created without hegemonies, that would have to be adapted to. He added that democracy should take hold everywhere but should respect differences in race, culture and opinions, and should not let an authoritarian, dominating majority oppress one or more minorities, but rather that majority should take into account the aspirations of all the population.

More recently, a UN resolution called on the international community to establish new relations among States, recognizing the differences and respecting them, and inviting nations to defend their justified interests with moderation, and to reject the extremisms that bring violence. This resolution, which took up President Rouhani’s proposals was adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2013. It urges nations to defend their interests through dialogue and the respect of differences so as to build “a world without violence and extremism” in which inevitable rivalries will be allayed through international consultations and not by war.

The Western media, it must be said, gave very little coverage to this important event.

The future of humanity is at stake, because men can now wield a power which would let them blow up our planet in a fit of madness. Deterrence has worked until now, and has saved us from a cataclysm. The balance of terror has so far stopped those who might have wanted to destroy their enemy by launching a nuclear salvo, because they knew they would be annihilated in automatic retaliatory strikes. Certain war-hawks, however, would clearly like to persuade us that the United States has an anti-missile shield to protect it from nuclear second strikes, which gives it total military supremacy and does away with the concept of deterrence. That is obviously not true, since no shield or “iron dome” is entirely impermeable and none will be in the middle-term. Moreover, the new space powers invent every day new weapons to wipe out the supremacy of any adversary.

The peoples of the world, whatever their economic and cultural wealth may be, must be equal before the law. No culture can claim to be preeminent, or consider itself the beacon of the world. The Liberty whose statute lights up the world at the entrance to the Hudson Bay belongs to all nations, and none may claim to be superior, even it momentarily enjoys economic and military superiority over the others.

France would do well to remember her intellectual heritage of the “Enlightenment”, and the level of worldwide prestige which General de Gaulle brought her to, by refusing to align France with any bloc – at a time when it was much more difficult to leave NATO than now; he defended the right of all peoples to decide their own destiny, and advocated understanding among all the nations of the globe that welcomed him during his many trips around the world, because he was familiar with the various cultures, and wherever he went – in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, he proposed to respect all men and women with their differences. That is also what guided his wish to build a Europe of nations that would preserve their specific characteristics and their sovereignty. That Europe, in his view, was supposed to open up to wide-ranging cooperation with Russia and beyond.

For us in France, who have the second Exclusive Economic Zone thanks to our overseas territories on all five continents, everything should incite us to follow a policy of world citizens, by maintaining relations based on respect, confidence and cooperation with all nations.

In that respect, the diplomatic choice our country has made to base its actions on the Sunni Arab monarchies that deny human rights completely, and to attack those countries that are fighting against the same Islamic terrorism that those monarchies support, is totally absurd and contrary to our historical tradition. What’s more, all experts agree that those reactionary regimes will not last long, faced with the threats of internal disputes, of the rise of different oppositions, and the remoteness of their American protector.

When democratically elected leaders come to power in the Arab peninsula, how will they judge our connivance with their former oppressors? If Israel has become their objective ally today, it is because the Israelis also fear the gradual withdrawal of a United States willing to end the “fitna” (dispute between Shia and Sunnis), and they have benefitted from the terrorism of a DAESH (ISIS) which has never threatened Israel. The sale of planes, ships and weapons system does not justify such a misalliance. Indeed, the United States is changing their policy in the Middle East by moving closer to Iran, and could eventually decide to fight more usefully against DAESH, whose sponsors they know well. One can understand why Israel and the peninsula’s Wahhabis are worried about being in the same leaky boat.

The wish for a world of peace was expressed many times by General de Gaulle, who anchored his prophetic visions in a profound philosophical reflection, which led him to deliver messages to the entire world, which the powerful people did not always appreciate, but which were supported by the peoples. Speaking to Mexican academics during his trip to Mexico in March 1954, he gave a philosophical and political message of striking modernity still today, 50 years later. I will read one short excerpt from that:

Indeed, beyond the distances that are shrinking, beyond the ideologies that are weakening, and the political systems that are losing steam, and unless humanity destroys itself some day in a monstrous self-destruction, the fact that will dominate the future is the unity of our universe; One cause, that of man; one necessity, that of world progress, and consequently of assistance to all those countries that desire it in order to develop; one duty, that of peace; these constitute the very basis of existence for our species.”

General de Gaulle was thus the first to defend a different organization of the world, at a time when the two rival blocs dominated the world and allowed no challenge to their hegemony. At a press conference at the Elysee on Sept. 9, 1965, he even proposed a new international monetary system :

… Thus, considering it right that an international system should regulate monetary relations, we do not recognise that the money of any State in particular has an automatic, privileged value in relation to gold which is, which remains, and which must remain, the only real standard. Thus, as we, together with four other powers, were founding members of the UN, and as we wish the UN to remain the meeting place of delegations of all peoples and the open forum for their debates, we do not accept to be bound, including in the financial order, by armed interventions in contradiction with the Charter and to which we have not given our approval. It is by being this way that we can, in the final analysis, best serve the alliance of free peoples, the European Community, the monetary institutions of the United Nations Organization.

Indeed, having regained her independence, France can become – for all the ideologies and hegemonies of the giants, for all the racial passions and prejudices, beyond the rivalries and ambitions of a champion of nations, failing which the troubles, interventions, conflicts, which lead to world war, would go on spreading.”

In the same press conference, he added his vision for the future of the world:

Moreover, the same entente of the same powers that have the means for war and peace is, for the historic period in which we live, indispensable to the understanding and cooperation that the world must establish among all its races, all its forms of government and all its peoples, without which it will sooner or later head for its own destruction. It happens, actually, that the five States on which the destiny of South East Asia depends in the final analysis, and which are the ones that possess atomic weapons, together founded twenty years ago the United Nations Organization and are the permanent members of its Security Council. They could tomorrow — if they so desired and naturally once they came together — see to it that this institution, instead of being the theater of the vain rivalry of the two hegemonies, becomes the framework in which the development of the whole world would be considered and in which the conscience of the human community would thus grow stronger. It is obvious that such a project has no chance of coming into being at this time. But if the rapprochement and then the agreement of the leading nations responsible for the world, should ever appear possible toward this end, France for her part would be quite willing to cooperate on it.”

Imbued with these visions, we are of course watching with great interest and sympathy the efforts of the BRICS and beyond them, of the emerging countries, to work toward “win win” agreements. The great project of the New Silk Road and the multitude of infrastructure projects linked to it, China’s creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is open to all and gives no participant the right to veto, the creation by Russia of the Eurasian Economic Union, which could lead to a Eurasian monetary union, are concrete indications that the world has freed itself of American control.

The United States and its allies, commonly called the West, only represent some 800 million to 1 billion inhabitants, depending on who is included in this increasingly ill-defined group in terms of its values; the rest of the world is in line with international reality by organizing itself on the basis of demographic, economic and even military weight: the BRICS represent one fifth of the world economy but only have 11% of the votes at the IMF. It is quite normal for the world to adjust balances on more realistic, fair bases.

In this new world order, Europe would do well to reconsider where its interest lies : Europe should be involved in organizing the continent in cooperation with Russia, instead of supporting the confrontation course the United States is pushing. The European Union’s hostility runs against the interests of the member countries and only pushes Moscow toward Asia, and in particular toward Beijing. The new geopolitical order has apparently not been understood by the European Union, which is becoming increasingly irrelevant politically, and economically trapped in paralyzing structures. Only France and Germany have attempted to calm down the situation in Ukraine, but much more forceful initiatives will be needed to reach an agreement with guarantees for both sides. The Ukrainian crisis could catalyze a lasting shake-up of the supranational organization which subordinates the major founding countries to the small ones on any decision related to international relations.

Sanctions are counter-productive and several countries have strongly opposed extending them, including Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus, sometimes very aggressively so. France and Germany, trapped into their position as motors of the EU, are reluctant to overly push for a reduction or the suspension of the sanctions, but, as we know, many economic groupings in these countries are exerting pressure for a change in policy toward Russia. More and more voices are heard denouncing the refusal to deliver the BPC Mistral as an unacceptable breach of contract and a stain on France’s word. The foreign relations of member states are subordinated to a policy decided in Brussels under American influence, an influence which is particularly strong in Poland and the Baltic states. For how long will the major founding countries accept this subjugation, which has them adopt positions contrary to their interests? I will not make any predictions, but clearly, the internal dissent in the EU require a restructuring based on a Europe of sovereign nations which will resume cooperation and dialogue with Russia, leading eventually to an economic and strategic partnership.

The future of humanity lies in a balanced cooperation among the countries of the world to develop their “win-win” projects, while respecting the specific characteristics and the cultures of all for the common good. War can no longer be a means to settle differences or rivalries among nations, which must be settled through diplomatic exchanges. A general, balanced disarmament should be undertaken, which France should join once the main owners of weapons of mass destruction begin to dismantle their fatal arsenals.

In conclusion, let me take up the words of President Rouhani: “peace is always possible”, in contrast to the warmongering threat “the military option is on the table”.

  1. n° A/RES/68/127, ated by the General Assembly on 18 December 2013