This is usually how intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover are expelled from a country when they are caught red-handed. Diplomacy does not like scandalous details, but a few days ago the exposure of French intelligence presence in Azerbaijan was reported. So, the version that the diplomats declared personae non grata were directly connected to the failed agent network is more than legitimate.
Of course, one could refrain from questioning the authenticity of the leaks saying that the network exposed in Azerbaijan covered several countries, that the failed French agents in Baku, among other things, monitored the staff of the Ukrainian embassy in Azerbaijan, and even more so from connecting the dots right up to Macron’s scandalous statements about the need to “save the face of the Kremlin” at the expense of Ukraine, and draw a clear line between fact and conjecture in general.
But one thing is certain. First of all, it is no secret that the French intelligent services are operating in Azerbaijan, more precisely, against Azerbaijan—and that a variety of “covers” are used for that. Suffice it to recall the ICRC employees, citizens of Lebanon, who collected military information and even photographed military facilities (!) for the French secret services during the 44-day war, for this information to be then passed on to Armenia.
On the other hand, in the world of intelligence services (and diplomats) there are plenty of ways to resolve issues without flashy releases, summoning of ambassadors and public expulsion of diplomats. Thus, the current spy scandal should be considered in a general context: France’s behavior towards Azerbaijan in recent months goes beyond all bounds of decency. And given France’s cuddles with Armenia and taking anti-Azerbaijani provocations to the level of state policy, Baku, for quite understandable reasons, chose not to spare Paris’s ego and brought out the dirty laundry for all to see, even if it is Made in France.
Maintaining state-to-state relations is a two-way street. If Paris expected Azerbaijan to stand quietly by while France openly supports Armenian aggression, gifting armored vehicles to Armenia and erasing all references to Azerbaijan in the Evian city park, they were sorely mistaken.
Finally, what happened in Baku is another failure of the French secret services. The Azerbaijani security service has undoubtedly once again demonstrated high professionalism and proved to be a much stronger opponent for the French agents than Paris had expected. But French intelligence has been suffering one failure after another lately.
Experts now acknowledge that French “knights of the cloak and dagger” simply overlooked the political processes in Africa, from where France is now being unceremoniously kicked out. It is not only and not so much about Russia’s increased activity as about the growth of anti-French sentiments in this region. They did not anticipate the developments and the outbreak of war in Ukraine. And, of course, they failed to predict how events would unfold in the South Caucasus.
The dismissal of the head of French foreign intelligence, Bernard Émié, speaks for itself. Two years ago, Macron dismissed his predecessor, Jean-Pierre Palasset, for “utter unprofessionalism”. Last March, the head of military intelligence, Eric Vidaud, was dismissed for failures in Ukraine. This is a systemic failure of intelligence.
Apparently, the French intelligence services were eager to step up to the mark when they were ordered to declare an AzerTAC correspondent a spy in response to Azerbaijan’s support for the anti-colonial struggle of the people of New Caledonia, to plant bugs in the UNESCO headquarters to get important offices in the organization exclusively for Audrey Azoulay’s protégés, but they failed to do their actual job properly.
Moreover, those in the know warn that this happens with the intelligence services most often when those at the top, i.e., in the Élysée Palace, want the intelligence services to give them only the information they want to hear. So, Emmanuel Macron can, of course, take his frustration out on the intelligence chiefs, but the responsibility for the failures of French policy in almost all areas lies primarily with him. All the Napoleonic plans of the current French leader have fallen apart. France is being kicked out even from its own colonial African backyard. And this is not only a matter of prestige, but also of access to valuable resources.
One can imagine how Yerevan feels watching yet another disgrace of the French intelligence service. They had so many hopes pinned on the protection from the “big sister”, especially after their hopes for Moscow, which simply does not care about Armenia, and for Washington, which had to find common ground with Baku, had collapsed. They made so many optimistic plans, they waited: just a little more, it is happening, soon, so soon… But in reality, France is just rapidly losing points: there is no spot without an imprint of someone else’s boots on the back of Paris’s pants.
And while France, especially “after Macron”, still has a chance to work on its mistakes, Armenia does not. An independent player may have a chance to get even. An outpost is doomed to go down together with its metropolis, no matter new or old.
Translated from Minval.az