The United States, Russia, France… overseas as a geopolitical issue

What roles do Overseas Territories play in the international politics of the countries they administer? In a recent article, former diplomat and academic Fred Constant questions the place of French and foreign overseas territories in global geopolitics.

It’s hard to compare an isolated atoll with a territory the size of India, lands inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people and others inhabiting only a few months a year… However, the overseas territories have one thing in common: they are a geopolitical blind spot, while they play an essential role on the scene. international. This is the thesis that Fred Constant, a former diplomat and now professor at the University of the West Indies, defends in his article. “The Geopolitics of Overseas Territories, Between Reduction and (Re)valuation”.

Overseas territories are not considered an integral part of the national whole. thought Fred Constant. This is the case in France, but also in other countries with overseas territories, such as Spain, Portugal, Russia or the United States. “Many continental Americans don’t realize Puerto Rico is a US territory,” Fred Constant confirms.

How many US citizens can name their own Overseas Territories? How many of their French, British, Spanish or Portuguese counterparts could do the same?

Overseas Territories participate in the international politics of the countries that administer them. First of all, because they have many resources, including mining, in terms of employment, exclusive economic zones (EEZ) or biodiversity. “Biodiversity is strategic, because competition also takes place in these terms: ‘Who will be the most virtuous?’”, Fred Constant points out.

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These regions also allow superpowers to project their military might around the world or position themselves in the space domain. This strategic personality is not new. Overseas territories, for example, played a major role during the nuclear arms race: Powers such as France and the United States contemplated their nuclear tests in overseas territories because they were isolated, underpopulated, and subject to looser legislation.

See Fred Constant in Overseas Territories a “magnifying mirror” Logic works in the evolution of the world order. As the rivalry between China and the United States begins as a structural point of geopolitics, Western powers are separating from their territories in the Atlantic Ocean to exploit the Indian and Pacific oceans. Notably, the United States dismantled its military facilities in Puerto Rico for redeployment elsewhere. This is amazing “strategic development” It is also about the French overseas territories: in his last wishes to the armies, Emmanuel Macron announced that the French military presence in the overseas territories of the Indo-Pacific region will soon be strengthened.

Overseas Territories also allow their principal to multiply their territorial affiliations. Thanks to overseas territories, France can position itself in a variety of subjects – from deforestation in the Amazon to exploitation of the sea floor – and maintain cross-border relations with countries far from its center.

“Theoretically, overseas territories have no legal existence in international politics. Non-sovereign territories do not, in principle, maintain independent international relations,” Fred Constant remembers. In practice, even if it is often the capital that imposes its views, some overseas territories have been able to establish diplomatic relations at the regional level. But these cases are rare. “We must make the powers realize that it is in their interest to rely on overseas territories to increase their influence in the world,” pleads the academic who deems it necessary “Using the knowledge that people of overseas territories have of their regional environment” To gain weight at the Nations Gala.

France is hardly open to the idea of ​​full integration of overseas territories into its international politics. There have been changes but we have a lot of progress to make.

The powers of the French overseas communities were strengthened after the General Assembly of the Overseas Territories, which was organized in 2009. They can now sign agreements with third countries and join international cooperation organizations. Overseas Territories may also appoint representatives to embassies in their territories. This is for example the case of New Caledonia and Polynesia, represented by the French Embassy in Australia.

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If foreign countries become more and more involved, Paris keeps the last word and grants them independence or not being present on the international scene according to its interests. For example, while France supports the relationship between Reunion and India and between New Caledonia and Indonesia, it tries to curb the relationship between China and Polynesia, particularly by trying to restrict Chinese investments in the territory.

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About the Author: Irene Alves

"Bacon ninja. Guru do álcool. Explorador orgulhoso. Ávido entusiasta da cultura pop."

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