French President Emmanuel Macron with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I’ve written little on how France is affected by Europe’s economic suicide over Ukraine to please its leaders’ masters in Washington. Rather, when not speaking of that self-inflicted head shot in general terms, my attention has been on Germany, its economy ruined as manufacturers either ceased to trade or relocated in the USA in the face of soaring energy costs.
Tweet on Nordstream sabotage. Sikorski is a Polish MEP married to US writer, Atlanticist and Russophobe, Anne Applebaum. But even before Washington’s economic terrorism and eco-vandalism in the Baltic, Germany stopped buying Russia’s cheap energy on the fatal miscalculation that her economy would speedily collapse. US-groomed EC leaders, unable to admit their hubristic folly, seem bent on doubling down on it – putting them increasingly at odds with their citizens.
(Germany’s woes, and by extension Europe’s, spell the weakening of America’s trade rivals. This is the sole US gain from the war it’s spent years provoking and, with that mission accomplished, despatching UK flunkey Boris Johnson to Turkey to spike peace talks in the spring of ’22. Even brisk military industrial complex sales – boosting dividends for those holding shares in Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and other players in the US death sector – will be negated by future losses now those fancy weapons, at eyewatering costs not only to the US taxpayer but to the world at large by way of tithes exacted by a dollar rule itself in decline – have been literally outgunned by cheaper but grimly effective Russian arms turned out by a sector run for profit, yes, but under Kremlin control. 1 And that’s before we even get to the broader consequences for a superpower, the limits to its reach now laid bare. )
But Berlin’s blues – and Europe’s given both Germany’s role as industrial powerhouse, and vast trade surplus with the EU – are one thing. Anyone who reflected, as distinct from being swept away by the associated propaganda blitz, on this made-in-the-West disaster deduced long ago that ‘soldiers of fortune’ from every part of the planet will have bee-lined, in the early months, 2 to Ukraine; drawn like iron filings to a magnet of fat pay for those with the requisite experience.
One part of that world is France. Over to you Andrew Korybko, writing today, January 23, on the hit to the prestige of a former colonial – and current imperialist 3 – power still coming to terms with its recent ejection from Africa:
Turning a blind eye to its citizens’ mercenary activity in Ukraine backfired by leading to a major loss of prestige instead of the expected gains.
Russia carried out a successful strike against dozens of mercenaries in Kharkov last week that ended up killing at least five dozen of them, the majority of whom were reported to be French. Moscow blamed Paris for their deaths by turning a blind eye to them traveling to Ukraine, which Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu claimed that his country is powerless to prevent because “we are still a democracy”. That sheepish response lent credence to the Kremlin’s claims and left the Elysse with egg on its face.
What just took place was a powerful blow to French prestige since it represents the largest single loss of its mercenaries in recent memory. It remains unclear exactly how qualified each of the deceased were, such as if they were naïve self-styled “volunteers” or had prior experience with their armed forces, but Russia’s strike nevertheless taught France a lesson that it won’t soon forget. Turning a blind eye to its citizens’ mercenary activity in Ukraine backfired by leading to a major loss of prestige instead of the expected gains.
Paris thought that the dispatch of its citizens to that country would imbue their own with “glory” after they came back from their “safari” with a bunch of stories to tell about how many Russians they killed. Fighting against Russia isn’t the same as fighting against non-state actors in Africa, however, since the first has the technological prowess to kill these mercenaries before they even know what happened. That’s exactly what occurred after they took Russia’s media-reported “weakness” for granted.
The Mainstream Media spent the first 18 months of the special operation from February 2022 till the undeniable failure of Kiev’s counteroffensive in August 2023 peddling fantasies about how quickly the West was about to crush Russia via their Ukrainian proxies. The idea that Russia would repel that unprecedented assault and then put Ukraine back on the defensive was deemed impossible, which is why many traveled there to participate in this supposedly historic operation to get some of the “glory”.
Even though Mainstream Media radically recalibrated their official narrative about this conflict from fall onward, many mercenaries still didn’t believe that Ukraine had already lost and that all the fighting since then is basically aimed at perpetuating the conflict for the military-industrial complex’s sake. They remained naively delusional about its dynamics and couldn’t imagine that Russia is anywhere near as formidable as it actually is, which explains why they still continued traveling to Ukraine to fight it.
It’s therefore not just the French government that’s to blame for the deaths of its mercenaries like the Kremlin claimed, but also the Mainstream Media for imbuing them with completely false perceptions about this conflict that led to them wanting to travel there for “glory” in the first place. Instead of receiving what they came for, they’ll now be sent back in body bags (if any identifiable pieces of them remain that is), with all the ignominy that they and their country just brought upon themselves.
French prestige will struggle to recover from Russia’s powerful blow since its mercenary community and permanent bureaucracy alike are still in a state of shock. All that it took to give them both an unforgettable reality check from the Mainstream Media’s lies was one attack in Kharkov last week. The most misguided among them might still travel to Ukraine regardless and continue warmongering against Russia respectively but society as a whole should reflect on whether staying the course is really worth it. 4
* * *
- The superior performance of Russian weaponry in Ukraine is one aspect of a wider issue; the superiority, in providing for the mass of its citizens, of an industrial capitalism over its hyper-financialised forms in a West whose pursuit of neoliberalism has subordinated the state to the narrow interests – see here and here – of rentier elites.
- From what I’ve picked up, and this is hardly rocket science, mercenary arrivals in Ukraine dried up long ago: a canary, we might say, in that unfortunate country’s coalmine.
- Modern imperialism, whose major powers show high but not total overlap with those of the colonial era, is defined by the export from global north to south of monopoly capital, and south to north repatriation of profits – or more precisely, surplus value. (Another way of putting this is that the relations of production studied by Marx and Engels in mid 19th century Britain became increasingly globalised – north = capital; south = labour – after WW2.) Where the wealth transfers of European colonialism were enforced directly by armed might, those of imperialism are enforced by armed might mediated by debt and by dollar rule. The threat to imperialism – from Eurasia rising … from the BRICS … from a steady weakening of both petrodollar, and dollar as world reserve currency – and the inept but terrifying responses by Washington and its satellites to that threat are what now make the world so dangerous.
- A characteristically nuanced 25 minute discussion of this whole affair appeared on The Duran a few hours after I finished writing today’s post.