But France has made no decision on the carriers, infuriating at least one former French military official I spoke with here. “Canceling the contracts is in part being treated as an issue of 1,000 jobs for the vulnerable shipbuilding industry,” he says. “But this is about the very credibility of our foreign policy.”
Indeed, at the United Nations, France has been a staunch opponent of Russia’s aggression, helping to lead the Security Council last Saturday to a 13-to-one vote against Russia (China abstained). “It is extremely dangerous if we accept that a country simply takes over a territory by force,” Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. “We are going back to 1914, and we are in 2014. It is the message we were trying to send to the Russians. You cannot simply use force to solve your problems.”
True enough, which is why it’s important for the West to act decisively if it hopes to deter future aggression. John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., notes that China has laid down territorial claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea and has sometimes sent military forces to occupy them. “You can bet they’re watching the West’s response to Crimea,” he told me.