Le Courrier Du Soir published an article entitled “Bad news for Macron: in one year Russia gained $1.7 billion through arms sales to African countries, to the south of the Sahara”. Indeed, France is far behind Russia in arms sales to Africa. Official Paris is confused. Russia dominates the arms market in the former French colonies while political influence of France is diminishing:

"Following recent political developments that fueled tension into diplomatic relations between France and Mali, as well as between France and the Central African Republic, everything indicates that influence of Paris is waning in sub-Saharan Africa in favor of Putin’s Russia. In Mali, the soldiers who seized power had been trained in Russia and the Central African Republic. The rise of Russian influence even sparked the ire of Emmanuel Macron, who suspended humanitarian aid of several million euros intended for this country".

The French edition is convinced that this situation will worsen over time for official Paris. Meanwhile, Moscow does not hide its satisfaction with the capture of the African arms market, slowly and confidently pushing France out of it. In an interview with the media, Emmanuel Macron explained the situation by saying that the President of the Central African Republic is completely dependent on Moscow: “Faustin-Archange Touadéra receives assistance from Russian PMCs in the fight against rebels threatening to invade Bangui” (capital of the CAR).

In addition, Russia and the Central African Republic have signed an agreement on the extraction of minerals, which allows Russian monopolies (basically – Putin’s friends) to explore deposits of African gold, diamonds and uranium. Therefore, all the stated actions of official Moscow fit into the concept of the Russian armaments cooperation strategy.

Meanwhile, one should not forget that post-colonial African countries are still holding grudges against France as well as frequently remain hatred towards the former metropolis. However, this is not the root of the problem. In today’s world, a country that adheres to democratic values ​​and is one of the EU’s standard-bearers cannot, by default, be a reliable strategic partner for an authoritarian African regime. Therefore, the love fluctuations between the two above-mentioned dictators can be described by paraphrasing the famous phrase of Gleb Zheglov: “Here they have love with interest, here they have a den”.

Ways out of the crisis for the French defense industry

If we ask ourselves what options President Emmanuel Macron may have for solving the problem of loading the national enterprises of the military industrial complex, the answer is obvious. Clearly, it is necessary to shift the focus to other markets and engage in deepening the armaments cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries: Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan.

Thus, in May 2020, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine adopted a Plan (Vision) for the modernization of the Air Force of Ukraine until 2035. In particular, it is planned to gradually replace the Soviet MiG-29, Su-27, Su-24M, Su-25, Su-24MR aircraft with a single multipurpose fighter. It was also stated that already in 2021-2022 a tender for the purchase of 6-12 multipurpose fighters to be held for their trial operation, studying the forms and methods of application, as well as organizing personnel training.

It is not surprising that France immediately reacted to Ukraine’s ambitious plans. Especially, there is nothing wrong with the fact that Emmanuel Macron personally lobbies for the sale of Rafale fighters. The French media write the following about the possibility of concluding a contract with Ukraine:

"The French president believes in Rafale’s chances of winning this former stronghold of Russian industry. Paris has an advantage: its commercial system is capable of supporting such a contract".

Thus, there is no sense in being vague, positioning oneself as a profound expert to predict the content of future negotiations between the presidents of Ukraine and France. It is obvious that the topic of armaments cooperation will also be discussed during Emmanuel Macron’s official visit to Kyiv.

However, on the eve of the visit of the President of France, official Kyiv needs to have a clear understanding of what Ukraine will gain in return for concluding such an agreement. Furthermore, this is not so much about increasing the defense capabilities of the Ukrainian army, but about more subtle matters. At the end of the day, French fighters are not the only pebbles on the beach.

Receiving the comprehensive political support of France in the international arena is the prevailing factor for Ukraine. We can say that this is a matter of principle for Ukraine. Indeed, if Egypt, buying Rafale fighters, counts on comprehensive support of France in the conflict with Ethiopia, then why should not official Kyiv seize upon the situation and put forward a counter condition to Paris?! In other words, to shake the French political elite, shifting it from a state of deep concern to an active pro-Ukrainian position. After all, the French Senate was able to adopt a Taiwanese resolution against Beijing! So, what prevents French parliamentarians and senators from making equivalent decisions in relation to Ukraine, at least in terms of supporting NATO membership?!

Altogether, both Paris and Kyiv have their matters to consider. Besides, while the Champs Elysees is considering and preparing for the official visit to Kyiv, Bankova should consider pulling out a trump card and bringing to the public certain details of offers from American partners lobbying for the sale of F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters.

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