Paris, France—France looks to reduce its military dependence on the U.S.

The French Defence Minister Florence Parly announced a proposition to curtail U.S. weapon systems imports in an attempt to minimize the damage of a possible arms exports block.

We must “gradually wean ourselves off our reliance on a certain number of American parts,” said the French Defence Minister.

“We have had trade difficulties linked to the prospects for exports. And we know that these difficulties are linked to strategic questions and often to problems of commercial rivalry,” added Parly.

Current U.S. weapons legislature can be used to curtail exports to European customers in order to protect the industry.  Europeans are anxious over reports that President Donald Trump will impose a weapons exports halt, with unpredictable results to the readiness of many EU militaries.

Previously this year, the U.S. halted a sales agreement between France and Egypt for a number of SCALP cruise missiles because, although French-made, they contain an America-made part.  Emphasizing the French reasoning, Parly said about the incident that France is “at the mercy of the Americans.”

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The French are particularly concerned over the Future Combat Air System (SCAF) jet project. Led by France and Germany, SCAF is meant to design and produce the next-generation European combat jet. The French Dassault Aviation and the European Airbus are cooperating on the project.

Stressing the French dependence on the U.S., Parly said that the French military had to secure authorisation from Washington to deploy its Reaper drones in counter-terrorism operations because they are built by U.S. General Atomics.  The U.S., of course, wouldn’t object to French strikes against terrorists in Africa. But what happens if the next French target request isn’t that clear-cut?

Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a European strategic autonomy. He proposed “cooperation reinforced almost automatically, which will mean that, for member states who agreed with the reform, we could have a real solidarity of intervention if one state was attacked. . . a kind of reinforced Article 5.”

The EU also announced $23 billion for its 2020-2027 defence budget, which is separate from the individual EU member-states budgets. Most of these funds will go toward research and development projects.

One could hardly blame the French for wanting to secure their national interests. Of course, transatlantic cooperation should be a priority. However, if the allies’ strategic goals begin to diverge, then they ought to acknowledge it and discuss it.  Friction in an alliance makes its contesters contend.

“Is that satisfactory? No. But we don’t have any choice,” Parly concluded in a pragmatic tone.