The page of the World Cup barely turned, French President Emmanuel Macron joined the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the Red Sea on Monday for the traditional Christmas dinner with the troops.
"I congratulate you for the professionalism you have shown during the various interactions with Russian aircraft and buildings with sometimes unfriendly behavior," he told the 1,700 or so sailors gathered in the aircraft hangar.
Before passing the Suez Canal and entering the Red Sea on Sunday, the Charles de Gaulle took part in the defense of NATO's eastern flank against Russia, against a backdrop of war in Ukraine, in the Mediterranean.
"The missions accomplished, the patrol zones, the flights have strengthened NATO's defensive and deterrent posture near Ukraine at war", underlined the French Head of State, referring in particular to the reassurance flights in Romanian airspace.
The Russian buildings very regularly approached the Charles de Gaulle during this mission, sometimes very closely, at the risk of hindering the maneuver of the planes, explains an officer on board.
Frictions occurred especially at the beginning of the year, after the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Developing the French presence in the Indo-Pacific
In the eastern Mediterranean and now in the Red Sea, the aircraft carrier, which sailed from Toulon (southern France) in mid-November for several months of missions, is also taking part in the fight of the international coalition under American command against the State group. Islam, especially in Syria.
This participation "also made it possible to show the competitors present in the region that France must be reckoned with", underlined Macron, in reference to Russia but also the Chinese navy, present in the Red Sea from its anchor point of Djibouti.
The Charles de Gaulle will continue its mission in the Indian Ocean, France showing its desire to develop its presence in the Indo-Pacific.
“Here again, our allies will be by our side but with always and, I want to, our autonomy of assessment and by controlling any escalation ourselves”, insisted the president.
The Head of State then visited the command post before attending Rafale launches and night landings.
He will sleep aboard this floating steel giant before joining Jordan on Tuesday.
For the last Christmas of the troops, Emmanuel Macron went to Africa (Chad in 2018, Ivory Coast in 2019).
In 2020 and 2021, he had to give it up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year, relations had also deteriorated sharply with the junta in power in Mali, where the head of state had planned to go.
France has since partly reoriented its military presence on the eastern front of NATO, in the face of the Russian threat, and reduced the wing in the Sahel, leaving Mali in August in particular.