Is France inadvertently arming Israel’s enemies? — Analysis

Ariel Kogani24NEWS contributor
6 min read
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu leaves the Elysee palace at the end of the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France.
Ludovic Marin / AFPFrench Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu leaves the Elysee palace at the end of the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France.

French policy in the Caucasus and the Middle East leads to strengthening Russia and Iranian proxies

“Why are the U.S. and NATO silent about France indirectly selling sensitive military technology to Russia through Armenia? The same military technology was given to Ukraine, meaning France is undermining Ukraine's air defense.”

This is a concern raised by Taras Kuzio, an associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. An expert on Russia and the current war in Ukraine, Kuzio was shocked by the decision made by French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu to provide Armenia with three tactical medium-range air-defense radars, the Ground Master 200 (GM200) from Thales and Mistral anti-air missiles. 

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said the decision to send military aid to Armenia could trigger a new conflict in the South Caucasus, after Azerbaijan retook control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in a special operation in September.

In making the decision, Lecornu said, "We stand by our defense relationship [with Armenia], even though we're not part of the same military and political alliances. It is based on the simple principle that you need to be able to defend yourself.”

To Kuzio, this reasoning is absurd. “Armenia is a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which Russia created in the early 1990s as a counterweight to NATO. Russia’s armed forces man Armenia’s air defenses alongside a nominal number of Armenians,” he noted, emphasizing that in 2003 Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service was put under the supervision of the FSB (Russia’s Federal Security Service). So all the modern French weapons will be freely accessible to the Russian secret services.

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Kuzio is not the only one raising the alarm. “French air defense system going to Russia through Armenia to be reverse-engineered in cooperation with Iran, to be re-deployed against Ukraine and Israel. In case you have any doubts, Russia happens to literally be in charge of Armenia's air defense and to run it for them,” wrote Robert Cutler, a senior research fellow at the NATO Association of Canada and director of its Energy Security Program.

Israeli expert Professor Ze'ev Khanin, the head of the Post-Soviet Conflicts Research Program at the Begin-Sadat Center, is also concerned. He notes that Armenia not only continues to be a member of the aforementioned CSTO, but is also part of the Moscow-run Eurasian Economic Union, which Yerevan joined in 2013 instead of signing the already agreed-upon association agreement with the EU. There is also no talk yet of withdrawing the two Russian military bases located on Armenian territory in Gyumri and Yerevan. Finally, Armenia still partially serves as a military and logistical pillar of the Russian-Iranian alliance, being a major hub for the supply of goods to the Russian Federation in circumvention of Western sanctions, and a base for the military-technical supply of Russian troops operating against Ukraine.

Ramil Sitdikov / SPUTNIK / AFP
Ramil Sitdikov / SPUTNIK / AFPRussian President Vladimir Putin meets with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Sochi, Russia.

The concept of supplying weapons to Yerevan might be explained by the fact that France has a “special relationship” with Armenia, based on internal political factors. The Armenian diaspora in France constitutes close to one percent of the population, is very well integrated into French society, and has the most influential lobby. It has great relations with liberal circles and also with the conservative Catholic right.

Lecornu, being a young and ambitious politician, understands that. But judging from his provided explanation that Paris and Yerevan are not “part of the same military and political alliances,” Lecornu understands that supplying modern radars and missiles to Armenia — who is under the Russian sphere of influence — is a dangerous move.

It might be a gamble, but what is truly strange is that Paris is ready to risk other countries' security not only in one region. Last week, Lecornu declared that France would be sending several dozen VAB armored vehicles to the Lebanese army to “assist them in their patrol missions within the country” so “it could coordinate well with the UNIFIL as tensions mount between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.” 

This must be elaborated: France will provide armored personnel carriers to the Lebanese Army to be used in the areas that are controlled by Hezbollah, despite the knowledge that western weapons provided to the Lebanese Army have ended up in the hands of the Iranian proxy.

Mahmoud Zayyat / AFP
Mahmoud Zayyat / AFPFrench Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu (L) visits the base of the French contingent of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the southern Lebanese village of Deir Kifa.

“There is a risk that Western military equipment, weapons, and armaments will end up in the hands of Hezbollah to be used against Israel. The weaponry and ammunition were provided to the Lebanese army by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other European countries. These include anti-tank missiles, man-portable air-defense systems, surveillance equipment, and various electronic systems. They are quite likely to be aimed at Israel in the next conflict,” was the conclusion made by Israeli think tank Alma this past June.

Given UNIFIL’s demonstrated inability to counter Hezbollah and its bias against Israel, and the lack of guarantee from any side that the French APCs will not be seized by the Iranian-proxy group, it seems an obvious conclusion of where and how they will be used.

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