Voices from the Arab Press: France, US: United front despite high price

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 PEOPLE’S LIBERATION Army soldiers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Beijing.  (photo credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)
PEOPLE’S LIBERATION Army soldiers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Beijing.
(photo credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)

France and America: A united front, despite the high price

Al-Ittihad, UAE, December 9

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Last week, President Joe Biden hosted his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, for his first official state dinner for a foreign dignitary since entering the White House. And there were good reasons for the dinner. Macron’s relationship with the US has been turbulent as of late, and at times even tempestuous. 

The most difficult period in bilateral relations came a year ago, against the backdrop of Australia’s decision to renege on its submarine deal due to US pressure. In 2016, France agreed to supply Australia with a new fleet of conventionally powered submarines, valued at about $66 billion. But in the meantime, without France’s knowledge, Australia agreed with the US and Britain to buy more efficient and effective US-manufactured nuclear-powered submarines. 

When France discovered the existence of the new deal, Macron and the French defense establishment became furious, accusing the US of “treason.” Meanwhile, Biden was forced to admit that the way he handled the deal was “clumsy.” 

FRENCH PRESIDENT Emmanuel Macron speaks during a video conference with international partners to discuss humanitarian aid for financially-strapped Lebanon, in Paris on December 2. (credit: IAN LANGSDON/POOL VIA REUTERS)FRENCH PRESIDENT Emmanuel Macron speaks during a video conference with international partners to discuss humanitarian aid for financially-strapped Lebanon, in Paris on December 2. (credit: IAN LANGSDON/POOL VIA REUTERS)

The French military, economic and political support for the American settlements during the American War of Independence between 1775 and 1783 was a decisive factor that led to the eventual victory of the new US over Great Britain. As its oldest ally, France has held a unique spot in US foreign policy through successive administrations. 

On the other hand, the American role in the two world wars was essential and decisive for the survival of France. This applies particularly to the post-1945 period when Europe submitted itself to the hegemony of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union and was on the verge of falling into the hands of communism. In addition, covert American aid helped France become the world’s fourth nuclear-weapon state during the 1960s. 

In recent months, the Ukraine war has highlighted France’s important role in Western security, especially in the wake of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and the retirement of Angela Merkel, the powerful former German chancellor. Macron seized this moment to strengthen France’s influence in Europe and abroad, and made strenuous efforts before and after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine to negotiate with the Russian side, to prevent bloodshed. 

However, Macron’s overly enthusiastic efforts at dialogue with Moscow were not viewed favorably by American and other European leaders, and his meetings with Russian officials failed to achieve anything. Since then, Macron has won reelection and now feels more secure and comfortable in his second term as president. Although Russia could not realize its initial hopes of a quick and broad victory in Ukraine, its persistence with the military operation led to greater agreement among Western leaders that the war is far from ending, and that Ukraine should be given more military and economic support. 

It is certain that cooperation between the Western allies assumes greater importance with the advent of winter and the continuation of problems such as lack of energy supplies, high inflation rates, and unemployment. In this context, Macron will have to use his position and his experience to convince Germany and Italy that any fundamental divisions among the EU over Ukraine will be harmful and dangerous for the EU in the long run. 

As for the consensus between the US and France on how to deal with upcoming challenges in the next few months, it is more likely than not that the two countries will continue to present a united front, despite the inevitable high prices they’ll have to pay. – Jeffrey Kemp

Chinese-Saudi rapprochement stems from development, friendship

Al Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 8

The eyes of the world are focused these days on the Arabian Gulf, where several important events are taking place. The first is the World Cup, where the Asian teams in general, and the Arab teams in particular, have surprised the world with their remarkable achievements. The second is the historic visit of His Excellency President Xi Jinpin of China to Saudi Arabia, where he participated in the China-GCC Summit. 

Since the beginning of the century, the Chinese-Saudi relationship has been developing gradually on both sides. Today, they are among the strongest in the region. Throughout its history, China has pursued development based on peace and stability, contributing to the common prosperity of all nations, including the Arab world. As for Saudi Arabia, it is the best example of a nation that committed itself to build a modern and developed state while supporting the development of its neighboring countries and region. 

Therefore, it should be noted that the Chinese-Saudi rapprochement in various fields stems first from development and secondly from their common ambition of openness toward the world and their hope of achieving security and peace. Anyone touring Saudi Arabia will find themselves surprised by the extent of development across the country. Whether in Riyadh, Jeddah, al-Ahsa or Jizan, it is amazing to see how things like electricity networks extend into the heart of the desert, even into the most remote areas. A small oasis of palm trees surrounded by sand dunes and an endless desert will still be connected to the grid and enjoy modern infrastructure. 

There is an old Chinese saying quoted by President Xi, to explain the importance of development and its pivotal role in maintaining regional and global security: “Whoever wants trees to grow, must establish their roots; and whoever wants rivers to be long, he must unblock their courses.” In the context of Chinese-Saudi relations, development is symbolized by the roots of trees, and friendship is symbolized by the flow of rivers.  – Lee Che Jun

Are there signs of a breakthrough in the Russian-Ukrainina crisis?

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, December 10

The visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to the US, which lasted three days, had many connotations and meanings. President Joe Biden’s celebration of the French president and his wife also had many dimensions. Diplomatic officials said that Biden’s celebration of the French president came after the latter warned Biden of the dangers France would face because of the growing Washington-Beijing rivalry. 

Biden hosted Macron with great honor. The state visit ceremony opened with the firing of artillery shots, playing the two national anthems, and a meeting in the Oval Office that was followed by a press conference. In his speech at the White House, President Biden said that Washington couldn’t ask for a better partner than France to work with, stressing that the alliance with France remains the basis for stability in the world. Macron stressed that Paris and Washington should become sisters in arms in the face of the war in Ukraine. 

The surprise of the visit came when Macron announced to the American ABC network that he would hold telephone talks in the coming days with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, despite the Kremlin’s announcement that the Russian president’s agenda does not include time for telephone conversations with the president of France. 

Macron also stated during his visit to Washington, that permanent peace must be reached to put an end to the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, stressing that Putin made a big mistake by entering this war. On the other hand, President Biden stated that he had previously spoken with Putin to pressure him to end the war, but Putin hasn’t done anything to confirm his seriousness about this effort so far. 

Biden added: “In this case, consulting with our French allies, the rest of NATO members, and the Ukrainian president will be useful before any meeting with Putin.” Biden further stated that he is pleased to sit with Putin, but demanded that the Russian president be ready to first withdraw his forces from Ukraine, to demonstrate the seriousness of his intentions. 

Many believe that the coming months may usher in a further rapprochement between the US, NATO countries, Ukraine and Russia. In any case, the coming period will witness an effort of the European public to pressure governments to negotiate a peace treaty in Ukraine. 

Political and economic conditions might certainly be ripe for such a truce. The Russian ruble is again declining, and the Russian economy, following a year of war, is suffering a lot. In addition, Europe is exhausted by this war, after a long struggle with inflation and rising unemployment. Therefore, there is widespread hope that this war, which has exhausted all the countries of the world, will finally come to an end in the early part of 2023. – Samir Farag 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.