At this rate, there’s no longer any credible chance that France will revive its independent foreign policy traditions after the five major foreign policy mistakes that Macron made over just the last two years. He’s dealt such damage to his country’s reputation that it’s impossible to repair as long as he remains in power.

France’s interception of Iranian missiles over Jordan earlier this month is Macron’s latest mistake that further discredits his country on the foreign policy front. Back in 2018, the French leader claimed credit for preventing Lebanon’s slide into civil war the year prior after its diplomatic intervention helped resolve the crisis that arose from former Prime Minister Hariri’s scandalous resignation while in Saudi Arabia. It was around that time in late 2017 that Macron also started talking about building a European Army.

These moves made many think that France was trying to revive its independent foreign policy traditions, the perception of which was lent credence by Macron telling The Economist in late 2019 that NATO had become brain-dead. America later took its revenge on France by poaching a multibillion-dollar nuclear submarine deal from it with Australia two years later in order to create AUKUS. The divergent foreign policy visions between these two over the five years from 2017-2021 had clearly become a trend.

That began to change after the NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine broke out half a year later in early 2022, however, since France immediately jumped on the American bandwagon by sanctioning Russia and arming Ukraine. That was Macron’s first major foreign policy mistake since it discredited the perception that he worked to build from 2017 onward of France reviving its independent foreign policy traditions under his leadership.

All the while, the Achilles’ heel of this approach remained Africa, where France continued lording over its former imperial subjects through a crude form of neocolonialism that retarded their socio-economic development. There wasn’t much dynamism on this front until 2022-2023 after the respective patriotic military coups in Burkina Faso and Niger combined to liberate the Sahel from France’s “sphere of influence”, prior to which Macron could have reformed this policy in order to preemptively avert that.

Therein lies the second of his major foreign policy mistakes since failing to treat these countries with the respect that they deserve, especially by not offering emergency aid to help them manage the domestic crises brought about by the West’s anti-Russian sanctions, ultimately spelled the end of “Françafrique”. France could have instead promulgated a truly independent foreign policy there designed to retain its historical influence in modern-day conditions that would have enabled it to better compete with Russia.

The panic that France’s retreat from the Sahel provoked in Paris prompted Macron to compensate by trying to carve out a “sphere of influence” in the South Caucasus centered on Armenia. To that end, his country joined the US in trying to poach Armenia from the CSTO by exploiting false perceptions of Russia’s unreliability. This information warfare narrative was aggressively promoted inside Armenian society by the ultra-nationalist diaspora lobby based in France (Paris) and the US (California).

While this was successful in the sense that Armenia froze its participation in the CSTO and has decisively pivoted towards the West, from whom it’s now seeking “security guarantees”, it was arguably a pyrrhic victory for France because it ruined relations with Turkiye. Seeing as how that country commands immense influence across the Islamic World, France’s pro-Armenian policy can therefore be considered to be Macron’s third major foreign policy mistake since it negatively affected how Muslims view France.

As for the fourth one, this concerned his threat in late February to carry out a conventional military intervention in Ukraine, which he specified could occur around Kiev and/or Odessa in the event that Russia achieves a breakthrough across the front lines sometime later this year. The reason why this can be considered a major foreign policy mistake is because it instantly exposed the deep divisions within NATO over this scenario after many leaders condemned his reckless claim that it “can’t be ruled out”.

He evidently thought that presenting France as extremely hawkish on Russia would appeal to the Western elite and their society, but the exact opposite ended up happening after they reacted with appall. Far from looking like a leader, France looked like a loose cannon that risked sparking World War III by miscalculation, with some worrying that Macron’s infamous ego was finally becoming a danger to all. These newfound perceptions understandably discredited France in the eyes of its allies.

And finally, the fifth and last major foreign policy mistake thus far was when Macron ordered his pilots in Jordan to intercept some of the missiles that Iran launched against Israel as retaliation for the bombing of its consulate in Damascus. In doing so, he dealt a deathblow to France’s soft power in the Islamic World, which he’d work so hard to improve after his diplomatic intervention in Lebanon in late 2017. By openly siding with Israel, Macron also risks provoking the wrath of French Muslims.

This demographic is easily mobilizable and has a track record of disrupting society with the large-scale protests that their community leaders have organized on various pretexts over the years. They’re also an important voting bloc too, those among them that are citizens that is, which could greatly impede his ability to appoint a successor once his second term expires in 2027. French Muslims might vote for other candidates and therefore reduce the chances that Macron’s preferred one makes it to the second round.

Macron’s spree of major foreign policy mistakes might not only be due to him personally but could also be at least partially attributable to systemic factors. The Valdai Club published their study on “Crafting National Interests: How Diplomatic Training Impacts Sovereignty” last month, which argues that the reforms implemented under his administration risk diminishing the role of national diplomatic traditions. In practical terms, national functionaries are transforming into global ones, or basically US puppets.

After all, while Macron has the final say on foreign policy, he’s also advised by diplomatic experts on the best possible approach for advancing French interests in any given situation. Instead of conceptualizing these interests as national ones like they did early on in his presidency during the 2017 Lebanese crisis prior to his early 2022 reforms, the year in which everything began going downhill, they began to conceptualize them as inextricable from the Collective West’s. This amounted to a cession of sovereignty.

The end effect was that France enthusiastically joined NATO’s proxy war on Russia, lost its “sphere of influence” in the Sahel, ruined relations with Turkiye (which were already weakened due to Macron’s prior controversies) by allying with Armenia, lost the trust of NATO allies by revealing details about their secret debates over conventionally intervening in Ukraine, and discredited itself before all Muslims by openly siding with Israel against Iran upon shooting down the latter’s incoming missiles over Jordan.

At this rate, there’s no longer any credible chance that France will revive its independent foreign policy traditions after the five major foreign policy mistakes that Macron made over just the last two years. He’s dealt such damage to his country’s reputation that it’s impossible to repair as long as he remains in power. Even worse, he’s whacking a hornet’s nest at home by risking more Muslim-driven unrest over his hardcore pro-Israeli policies, all of which bodes ill for France’s future over the coming years.

 

 

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