Commentary

Gloves are off as fierce economic competition looms

(FILES) A file photo taken on May 2, 2018 shows French President Emmanuel Macron (2/L) and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C) standing on the deck of HMAS Waller, a Collins-class submarine operated by the Royal Australian Navy, at Garden Island in Sydney. (Photo by BRENDAN ESPOSITO / POOL / AFP)

When it comes to vital US interests, all bets are off. For years activists, human rights advocates and European diplomats have charged that Washington's foreign policy is replete with hypocrisy: They talk about values but serve ultimately their own interests.

This may be true with all nations, but Paris should be the last capital to complain about trading values for interests. Iraqis haven’t forgotten how Paris armed Saddam Hussein and was building his nuclear reactor. Ironically, France oil giant Total some days ago signed a $36 billion oil deal with Baghdad.

The French foreign minister had the nerve to point fingers at Washington and London for the fiasco of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but this came only after Paris felt “betrayed” when the submarine deal with Australia was disclosed

The angry French reaction in the aftermath of the British-American submarine deal with Australia, will certainly jeopardize the Biden administration's early efforts to solidify transatlantic alliances following NATO and traditional US allies’ unease caused by the Trump administration.

It is clear that Washington’s priority is to confront China, which has increasingly been challenging American economic and military global leadership. The American pivot towards East Asia began under the Obama administration and it is now manifesting itself through military-muscle flexing hand-in hand with the commercial and economic cold war.

“America First” remains Washington’s top priority, but unlike its predecessor the Biden administration will articulate it in a more eloquent and diplomatic language. The strain in relations between Washington and Paris is not what most expected when the US expressed its desire to cement relationships with traditional allies and approach global crises by forming coalitions; US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is known to have good ties and extensive background in France, but this didn’t prevent the current diplomatic flare-up with Paris.

Following the election of President Joe Biden, Washington and Paris started close coordination on regional issues such as Lebanon and the Iranian nuclear negotiations. However, the recent tensions may impact Paris’ enthusiasm in doing Washington’s bidding when the latter prefers to take the back seat approach, mainly in Lebanon.

The fierce competition among global powers would certainly give regional players leeway and opportunities to play them against each other, with Iran, Turkey, and whoever emerges as an Arab regional power being the prime candidate to leverage the West and assert themselves at the expense of smaller powers.

If the Cold War witnessed regional wars, a nuclear race and covert operations, the trade and economic war has the potential to escalate into major confrontations in all aspects of life in order to maintain or reclaim global leadership. The battlefield is every industry and across the world

 

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