French weapons could be used by Iran and Russia against the West

After his visit to Beirut on November 5, the head of the French Ministry of Defence, Sebastien Lecornu, spoke of the importance of “strengthening” the Lebanese army.

According to him, this is of particular importance against the background of the escalation between Israel and the Lebanese military-political organisation Hezbollah, controlled by Iran.

In response, on November 16 the mouthpiece of moderate US Republicans, The National Interest, criticised Paris’s position: “There is a high risk that any military equipment supplied to the Lebanese army will make its way to the terrorist group Hezbollah or its master, Iran. France has ignored this risk despite almost constant Hezbollah rocket attacks on the north of Israel”.

Israeli research centre Alma warned back in June that Hezbollah’s arsenal included weapons that had been supplied to Lebanon from the United States, Britain and France.

In this regard, the Israelis urged the West not to send new weapons to Lebanon. Despite this, Paris still announced its readiness to transfer several dozen advanced armoured vehicles (VAB) to Beirut. It is noteworthy that the announcement was made the day after Hezbollah leader Nasrallah announced the participation of his fighters in “unprecedented fighting” along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

The policy of French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the current escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is absolutely contrary to the general line of the United States and Britain. While Washington and London oppose a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip because “it would only benefit Hamas,” Paris on November 11 sharply called on Israel to cease hostilities. Macron called the Jewish State a killer of babies and women.”

Macron’s policies come into confrontation with the interests of the United States and sometimes the EU – not only in Israel, but also in the South Caucasus. That is with regards to the military-political cooperation of France with Armenia, whose authorities publicly recognize the military-strategic partnership with Iran.

On April 24, the secret mouthpiece of the French intelligence services, Intelligenceonline , reported that official Paris had begun preparing to build an arms export system for Armenia.

On June 12, the former adviser to the French Ministry of Defence, in an interview with Caucase de France, confirmed the supply of 50 French armoured personnel carriers to Armenia.

On November 12, two weeks after the heads of the French and Armenian Ministries of Defence signed “documents on bilateral cooperation” in Paris, Yerevan received the first batch of the expected armored personnel carriers.

On October 24, the authoritative French publication Le Monde, commenting on the details of the French-Armenian military cooperation, announced that it would include:

*Delivery of an unspecified number of short-range Mistral missiles;

*Delivery of three GM200 radars designed to detect air threats at a distance of up to 250km;

*Sending French military personnel to Yerevan by the beginning of 2024 to train the armed forces of Armenia.

Ukrainian and European media have repeatedly warned that Armenia plays the role of a large hub for the supply of sanctioned products to the Russian Federation, and is also a military and logistics support for the Russian-Iranian alliance.

On May 9, the Ukrainian information portal Unian reported: “Armenia is actively helping the Russian Federation to circumvent Western sanctions imposed as a result of aggression against Ukraine.” The Kyiv publication was echoed by the largest Romanian news resource Digi: “The drones with which the Russian Federation is attacking the infrastructure of Ukraine were transported from Iran to Russia through the territory of Armenia.” Considering all these facts, The Washington Post called on the West to “turn up the heat on Armenia, from which the re-export to Russia of a range of critical goods, including electronics, has spiked.”

Like Ukraine, Israel is also wary of French arms supplies to Armenia. “Weapons from France, having reached Tehran from Armenia, will be used there to modernize weapons supplied to Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad,” the Israeli publication Vesty noted on May 16. The largest Jewish weekly in the United States, The Jewish Press, had similar concerns: “French deliveries to Armenia are susceptible to falling into the hands of both Kyiv’s and Jerusalem’s largest enemies.”

Robert Cuttler, a Canadian analyst working for a number of Western think tanks associated with Nato, believes that “French air defence system (is) going to Russia through Armenia to be reverse-engineered in cooperation with Iran, to be re-deployed against Ukraine and Israel.”

Even the French service Forbes reported in May that military goods supplied to Armenia are highly likely to end up in Russia: Armenia serves as the Kremlin’s main logistics point for aggression against Ukraine.” However, warnings from Western, Israeli, and even French media did not prompt Paris to abandon military supplies to Yerevan.

The contradiction is especially noticeable against the backdrop of the fact that the EU is a mediator in resolving relations between Baku and Yerevan and contributes to achieving peace in the South Caucasus. Macron, on the contrary, supplies one of the parties with weapons, undermining the efforts of a united Europe. The international media have focused on this over the past six months:

June 20 2023, Ukrainian Telegraf: “Macron’s policies in the South Caucasus are in Putin’s interests, and both are obstructing Washington’s efforts to achieve peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

According to the Lithuanian publication Alfa, “Macron’s policy towards the South Caucasus does not fully coincide with the foreign policy of the European Union, the goal of which is to establish peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“The French President admitted that his position is not shared by the rest of Europe: “I will continue my efforts, even if I am almost the only one in the international family who has such an agenda,” stated the largest media resource in Romania,

According to the Latvian media “The Kremlin still has influential allies in the West who support separatism in post-Soviet states, whose policies contradict the position of the European Union. Among them is French President Emmanuel Macron.”

“In this sense, Macron’s policy in the South Caucasus is completely contrary to the EU’s foreign policy aimed at establishing peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” explained the Croatian news site Direktno.

According to the Greek publication Protothema, “Paris is undermining the efforts of Washington and Brussels to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.”

By supplying Armenia with weapons, Paris finally secured its status as one of the three military-political patrons of Yerevan – on a par with Moscow and Tehran.

This once again confirms that Macron is pursuing a policy separate from the EU and the United States, which often conflicts with their interests in the South Caucasus and the Middle East.

(Photo: Karel Šubrt, via Wikimedia Commons)

Oleg Posternak

Oleg Posternak is head of the Center for Political Research (Kyiv) and a member of the Association of Professional Political Consultants of Ukraine