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Uncommon Decency

Oct 27, 2021

“France does not know it, but we are at war with America. It’s a permanent war, an economic war, one seemingly without deaths and yet a war to death.” This quote from former French President François Mitterrand illustrates the ancestral gallic defiance toward the US “hyperpower,” one that continues to inform French strategic thinking. So when the US entered secret negotiations with Australia and the UK to launch the AUKUS defense partnership—thus scuttling France’s 90-billion dollar submarine contract with Australia—Mitterrand’s warnings turned prophetic. Even the usually diplomatic Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian spoke of “a stab in the back.” This extraordinary diplomatic coup de théâtre happened amidst an ongoing conversation on the concept of European strategic autonomy, a topic Uncommon Decency covered in depth last year. Can the EU become a geopolitical actor in its own right, and not just a geopolitical playing field for the great powers of the 21st century? Following the events in Afghanistan and Australia, we take stock of where this conversation is headed—and whether the transatlantic relationship has suffered as a result—with The Economist’s Sophie Pedder and the Atlantic Council’s Benjamin Haddad.

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