France in the Indo-Pacific: The Need for a Pragmatic Strategic Posture Focus stratégique, No. 117, October 2023
As US-China rivalry reaches its peak and the likelihood of a high-intensity conflict in the region seems greater than ever, this report advocates for a pragmatic recalibration of France’s strategic posture in the Indo-Pacific. This adjustment should be grounded in a realistic reframing of ambitions and an analysis of France’s core interests and the threats it faces.
The deteriorating security environment in the Indo-Pacific region poses a significant threat to French and European interests. Paris needs to fully understand the global implications of a major crisis. Four high-risk areas for high-intensity conflict stand out as particularly relevant to French interests: the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, and the northern Indian Ocean (in relation to Iran). Maritime security, environmental security, and the management of common resources (oceans, space), referred to as “non-traditional” security risks, are already sources of escalating tensions and factors of conflict in the medium term.
These potential crises in Indo-Pacific would have a major impact on maritime transport, energy supply and digital flows and would pose at least a triple challenge to France: safeguarding its overseas territories and the well-being of its citizens, securing maritime flows—encompassing both commerce and energy—, and maintaining its credibility as a power in the Indo-Pacific and on the global stage.
Given the strategic stakes and risks, several recommandations are made in this study, with the objective of clarifying, rationalizing, and strengthening the French strategic posture in the Indopacific. France must in particular adopt a more pragmatic strategic approach; acting as a "balancing power" must be an idealistic aspiration and give way to a more pragmatic position, especially against the United States. This stance would allow France to engage with relevant and effective initiatives and groups.