An Appraisal Of Macron’s Assertion Of France’s Role
By prince Ekale Mukete
French President, Emmanuel Macron, delivered an extraordinary rambling speech recently, in which he expressed aloud his thoughts on the future role of France, European nations and European Union in the world stage. What came out starkly clear from his ramblings was the fact that fear has gripped France for the apparent loss of its hegemony around the world, in particular, in its former African colonies.
President Macron believes that there is a general power shift from Europe. This is a view filtered by a uniquely French perspective, delivered by a French president to a French audience. I daresay that it would be unpalatable to other Europeans, especially Germany, and the Western Anglo-Saxon protestants (WASPs) made up mainly of the US, the UK and Australia. President Macron is wrong here for two reasons: 1) The United States has largely dictated the World Order in the western hemisphere, and influenced the world order globally since the end of the second world war in 1945; 2) If there was a dominant European power, a larger audience would easily agree that it would be Germany and not, even remotely, France.
“We live together in this world, and the envoys here
know this world better than I do.”
¬ President Emmanuel Macron
This false modesty of the French President in his opening statement above reminds me of a portion of Othello’s grand statement in the beginning of that eponymous Shakespeare tragedy:
“And little of this great world can I speak,
More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnished tale deliver …”
While Othello was disguising the fact that he was a worldly and sophisticated Moor accustomed to the manners of polite western society, our President Macron belied his grasp of world affairs by delivering an equally sophisticated world view from a French perspective. If this was deliberate, then it could be attributed to the fact that it is election season now in France and he needs to make an impact however outlandish.
“Western Hegemony is nearing its end!”, sighs Macron
President Macron also believes that the international order is being upended in a whole new way, and that this is a major upheaval in our history, with far-reaching consequences in almost all the regions of the world. This view only makes sense when seen from the glass darkly of a French citizen. Otherwise, it is nonsense. Those of us on the African continent have other concerns that occupy our minds and time, such as escaping generalised poverty and attenuating the exploitation of our natural resources by the so-called first world to which France belongs.
There is no general power shift as I have said above. Instead, the French nation, through its foreign policies, is caught in the shifting sands of time. Isn’t it instructive that no such complaints or intimations of nostalgia are emanating from other European nations? As for the United Kingdom, it is sailing a steady course of implementing its BREXIT strategy – and under the leadership of Boris Johnson, this seems to be going according to plan.
The United States is also sailing a steady course in apparently calm seas. In recent years there have been a spate of articles and media noise heralding the end of American hegemony and economic dominance, and even the demise of the US dollar. I will paraphrase the famous American author, Mark Twain, by saying here that the reports of the demise of the USA as an economic or military power are greatly exaggerated. Furthermore, the predominance of American soft power, largely represented by its popular culture of films, music, fashion, education and that holy grail called “The American Dream” is still at its zenith throughout the world.
In this extraordinary speech, so many issues were raised that provoke a reply by people just like myself in Cameroon and Africa. I shall proceed by reproducing his speech below, and making comments where necessary.
Yes, I must admit that Western hegemony may be coming to an end. We have become accustomed to an international order based on Western hegemony since the 18th century. This is an Enlightenment-inspired France from the 18th century.
This is a 19th century Britain led by the Industrial revolution. This is an America that emerged from the 20th century rising from two world wars.
COMMENT: The dictionary definition of hegemony is, “leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others”. This is pre-21st century thinking is more aligned with the life and times of Otto von Bismarck, the German statesman and father of “realpolitik”. Why would President Macron tie the existence of Europe and the West to a need for social, cultural, ideological, economic dominance or influence today? I don’t think this viewpoint is shared by other Western nations, especially the WASP countries (USA, UK, Canada and Australia). Those of us in Africa and the rest of the world would simply be amused.
France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have made the West great for 300 years.
COMMENT: Really? By wholesale theft of natural resources from their former colonies? Is this the reason behind this nostalgia for hegemony? It is estimated that Britain extracted from India alone $45 trillion between (1764 – 1938) during a span of over 200 years of colonisation. Enough to keep both the landed gentry and working classes of the UK in relative comfort and wealth for years to come.
And it seems that throughout Macron’s astonishing speech, he deliberately avoided any narrative that would bring Germany into the conversation. There can be no credible assessment of Europe’s contribution to world politics, economics, culture and social organisation without the story of Germany’s industrial might, military power, intellectual prowess and cultural significance.
France is culture, England is industry and America is war.
COMMENT: And Germany is what? Ask baby boomers (born after the second world war) and millennials (born after 1980) what America represents to them, and the answer will be obvious to both groups: freedom, democracy, the American dream, computers, Silicon Valley, hamburgers, films, Disney, Music, Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, internet, cryptocurrencies etc.
President Macron is being dishonest even to his target French audience. Not surprising as this is election season.
We are used to this greatness that gives us absolute dominance over the global economy and politics.
COMMENT: The greatness came about, not from coercion, but from the fact that the Western countries provided better offers and answers to the challenges of the world – especially during the 20th century – than from any threats or coercive policies. Although this was not absolutely the case at all times, most countries were free to choose from various ideological models: monarchy, capitalism, democracy, communism, home-grown autocratic models, socialist systems etc.
It would therefore be misleading to think that the West had absolute dominance. It is common for the West to ignore the influence of heavily populated countries on the planet. For instance, it would be humbling to realise that while English is the most widely spoken language in the world with almost 1.4 billion speakers, it is closely followed by Mandarin Chinese with 1.2 billion speakers – and with Hindi and Spanish taking distant third and fourth places with 600 million speakers and 543 million speakers respectively. It is equally humbling to note that the four largest newspaper markets in the world are: China with 107 million copies sold daily, India with 99 million copies sold daily, Japan with 68 million copies sold daily and the US with 51 million copies sold daily. Finally, it is The Times of India which holds the crown as the world’s bestselling English language newspaper, with a daily circulation of 3.2 million copies. Where do you peg the influence of the Western world in these humbling statistics? Heavily populated countries like Indonesia, Brazil, and Nigeria are not necessarily hegemonistic, but influential in their own right.
But things are changing. Some crises come from our own mistakes in the West, while others come from the challenges of emerging countries.
Within Western countries, the many wrong choices the United States has made in the face of crises have deeply shaken our hegemony.
COMMENT: Naked dishonesty. How can the wrong choices only be attributed to the US? Whenever the so-called “Western Countries” have themselves made wrong choices, they have counted on American military power and influence to rescue them. And in making such a pertinent accusation against the United States, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for President Macron to provide some proofs and examples?
Note that this didn’t just start with the Trump administration. Other presidents of the United States made other wrong choices long before Trump: Clinton’s China policy, Bush’s war policy, Obama’s world financial crisis and Quantitative Easing policy.
The wrong policies of these American leaders are all fundamental mistakes that shake Western hegemony. However, on the other hand, we have greatly underestimated the rise of emerging powers.
COMMENT: Come on! Why only concentrate on America’s failures as perceived by you?
Underestimate the rise of these emerging powers, not just two years ago, but as early as ten or twenty years ago. We underestimated them from the beginning!
We must admit that China and Russia have achieved great success over the years under different leadership styles.
India is also rapidly emerging as an economic power, and at the same time she is also becoming a political power. These countries – China, Russia, India – now compare to the United States France and the United Kingdom.
COMMENT: Here again, President Macron conveniently leaves out Germany, giving the reader the feeling that France suffers from an inferiority complex when placed beside Germany for comparison purposes.
Let’s not say anything else. Just their political imagination is far stronger than that of today’s Westerners. After they have strong economic power, they start to look for their own “philosophy and culture”. This has nothing to do with democracy or not. India is a democratic country, and she is also doing the same, i.e. looking for her own “national culture”.
When these emerging nations find their own national culture and begin to believe in it, they will gradually get rid of the “philosophical culture” that Western hegemony has instilled in them in the past.
And this is the beginning of the end of Western hegemony!
The end of Western hegemony does not lie in economic decline, not in military decline, but in cultural decline.
COMMENT: Exceedingly condescending about the superiority of Western culture!
The Slavs and Mongolians in present day Russia were cultural power houses when those inhabiting Gaul (present day France, mainly the Celtic and Aquitani tribes) were yet to be subdued and civilised by Roman conquest.
India and China had, not one but several, civilisations running concurrently and going back several thousand years BC.
Where are the European equivalents of ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophical and cultural giants like Archimedes, Euclid, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Hippocrates and Pericles? Where are the European equivalents to compare with Buddha in India and Confucius in China, in the same time range? Enough said.
It is wishful thinking that Western culture has influenced Indian, Russian, or Chinese cultural habits, just as it would be presumptuous to think that western gastronomy has altered the Cameroonian love and penchant for local dishes such as qua coco, garri and okro soup, water fufu and eru, ndole, achu, katikati, fufu corn and nyamanyama, mbongochobi, Kwangkalan and esuba, to name a few.
The thought by President Macron and his ilk that western cultural heritage has had a decisive impact – over countries where they wielded power and influence in the past – is not only misleading, but an unfortunate delusion.
Where a cultural heritage is imposed on a foreign society it oftentimes takes the form of, and remains, a superstructure from which good elements are subtracted and assimilated into the indigenous culture. Such cross-fertilisation remains a good thing. But President Macron is mistaken to overestimate western cultural influence.
When your values can no longer be exported to emerging countries, that is the beginning of your decline.
COMMENT: The only pervasive cultural influence is that generated by “Soft Power”. The United States is the dominant nation exercising this power in this day and age. It is a power that is never imposed or exported. Rather, its appeal lies in the fact that people around the world are emotionally attracted by it to such an extent that they adopt it as their own. The undisputed paragons of this phenomenon are the baseball cap, all genres of American music, the hamburger, and American entertainment celebrity influencers, to name but a few.
I think the political imagination of these emerging countries is higher than ours.
Political imagination is very important. It has strong cohesive connotations and can lead to more political inspiration.
Whether we can be more daring in politics, the political imagination of emerging countries far exceeds that of Europeans today. All this deeply shocked me!!!
China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty, and more will be lifted out of poverty in the future, but in France, the market economy is increasing income inequality at an unprecedented rate.
The anger of the middle class in the past year has brought about profound changes in the French political order, and since the 19th century, French life has been in a kind of balance.
Personal liberty, democracy, a wealthy middle class. These three are the tripods that balance the politics of France, but the crisis is born when the middle class is no longer the cornerstone of our country; when the middle class thinks its interests are being compromised.
They will have fundamental doubts about democracy and the market system. Can such a system still give me a better life?
They have the right to be so sceptical, and have the right to join a radical political movement.
In the UK, the fall of the political system is even more pronounced. The resounding slogan of “Brexit, Take Back Control”, says it all. The people believe that their destiny is no longer in their own hands, so they want to “take back control”.
And the direct way to “take back control” is to leave the EU. They hate the EU. They hate the old-fashioned politics, and they want something more politically imaginative.
In the final analysis, the political system of the past failed to benefit the British, and even made their lives worse and worse, but the political leaders at the top did not realise this. So, they failed. As for the United States, although Americans belong to the Western camp, they have always had different humanitarian standards (implying religion) from Europe. Americans’ sensitivity to climate issues, to equality, to social balance, does not exist in the same way as Europe does (implying that the gap between rich and poor in the US is much larger than in Europe).
There is a clear gap between American civilisation and European civilization. Even though the United States and Europe are deeply aligned, our differences have always existed. Trump’s coming to power just magnified the differences. I must stress that Europe is different from the United States.
Of course, the European civilisation plan cannot be decided by Hungarian Catholics or Russian Orthodox Christians, but Europe’s long-term follow-up with the United States to expel Russia from the European continent is not necessarily correct.
The United States needs to confront Russia and Europe, but does Europe need it? Europe cooperates with the United States to expel Russia, which may be the biggest geopolitical mistake of Europe in the 21st century.
The result of expelling Russia is that Putin has no choice but to embrace China, and this just gives China and Russia a chance to warm up. Letting one of our competitors combine with another to create huge trouble, which is what the Americans have done.
If Europe hadn’t expelled Russia, Russia’s policies would never have been so anti-western. Now, in terms of geopolitics, it is impossible to give so much help to the great powers of the East.
COMMENT: The above statement smacks of the French acting as sell-outs. The problem of Russia in the last 20 years has been Vladimir Putin and not the Russian people.
Let’s transpose the statement to the context of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power before 1936. When spurned by the rest of Europe, Hitler turned around and embraced Russia in the manner that Vladimir Putin – spurned by Europe – has turned around and embraced China.
But a snake remains a snake. Hitler induced Stalin into a state of false confidence by committing Nazi Germany to sign the famous non-aggression deal with Russia, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. But true to character, Hitler turned around and surprised Stalin by invading Russia. Russia was saved by and exceptionally brutal winter, massive military support from western allies and that indomitable spirit in individuals for defending the motherland at the price of martyrdom. This is what Vladimir Putin has done in Eastern Europe in general and Ukraine in particular. He is a modern day version of a mass murderer called Adolf Hitler.
President Macron falsely opines that Russian embrace of China was because they were ungraciously rejected by Europe and the US. This assertion is naïve as Russia continues to have excellent ties with individual European states such as Germany and Turkey. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with China being friendly with China and vice versa. Cameroon is friendly with both China and Russia despite colonial and historical ties with France.
But Europe’s problem is the military. Because of the existence of NATO, it becomes very difficult for Europe to from another European army, and as long as the “European army” does not exist, Europe will be controlled by the political orders of the United States.
COMMENT: Having a European army is a non-starter because the majority of Europe is made up of small countries, except for the UK, France and Germany. It is difficult to see how those smaller nations of Europe will align themselves to the national interests of France UK and Germany. Since 1949, NATO has been the only credible and workable option as a military alliance, and the backbone of its strength and rallying force is NATO.
I wonder why the presence of the US is of such concern to France when it is the US that provides the most to the NATO budget. More importantly, it is the US accompanied by the other WASP nations (UK, Canada, Australia) that have always come to the rescue of France when they suffer an existential threat, such as when they were militarily defeated in the first and second world wars.
Sadly, when I talked about this with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we were all pessimistic. In Europe, no one has the ability to form a European army.
But the European military would be the key point to check and balance the United States. Without the European military, Europe will have no real independence at all.
Yes, the United States is an ally, our long-term ally. But at the same time, she is also an ally who has been kidnapping us for a long time.
COMMENT: Shocking statement coming from the President of a country, France, that chose to build its own nuclear deterrent on the lame excuse that France was not prepared to subject its military to the control of outsiders.
This “paper tiger” nationalism is laughable when one looks back at recent history. Where were the other European allies in the two occasions France lost its sovereignty during WW1 and WW2? They were either silenced or swallowed up by Nazi Germany. Who answered General de Gaulle’s pleas at France’s direst moments? The UK and, by extension, the US.
How much has the reality on the ground changed since then? Very little, except for the fact that Germany is now embedded by treaty in the European Union.
A European Army has little chance of being effective, and this was a fact that former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, knew all too well. Without the presence of the US in Europe through NATO, European armies will be feeble as a collective military force, and will be indecisive as a political force because of constant disagreement amongst themselves for common objectives.
There is no doubt that without a NATO, Germany would eventually go it alone, and re-arm to ensure its long-term political and military objectives.
France is a powerful diplomatic power, a permanent member of the Security Council and the heart of the European Union.
Taking Russia out of Europe may be an absolutely far-reaching strategic mistake. If France cannot pull Russia back into Europe, it will also be reluctant to continue its engagement, fueling tensions and isolating Russia.
At present, neither Russia nor any other eastern power has any interest in forming an alliance, but no one is sure if the Western world is pressing harder and harder. Will China and Russia still say with certainty that we will not form an alliance?
Is the enemy of our friend necessarily our enemy? Russia is the enemy of the United States; so must he be the enemy of Europe? We need to build Europe’s own new trust and security architecture, because if we don’t ease relations with Russia, there will be no peace on the continent.
COMMENT: The statements above makes President Emmanuel Macron a dangerous dreamer and an idealist. The problem with Russia is not the Russian people but the retrogressive world view of its leader, Vladimir Putin.
Russia would probably today have been part of capitalist Europe, and even embedded in European institutions such as EU and NATO. But a twist of fate intervened and ruined everything when Vladimir Putin swept past, unnoticed, and became Boris Yeltsin’s appointee as Prime Minister. Three months before Gorbachev took the historic decision of dissolving the unwieldly Soviet state, the KGB and some communist hardliners attempted a coup d’état which failed. Their main goal was to stop and reverse the unravelling of the communist system which Gorbachev felt had run its course and could no longer serve the citizens of the union.
Having failed, they chose an uninspiring, bland and harmless-looking KGB officer called Vladimir Putin to be groomed and set up in such a way as to attract the attention of the new President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. Putin had the perfect profile because he was a counter-intelligence officer posted to East Germany when the Berlin Wallcame crashing down in November 1989. Much has been written about his frustration and anger to see the communist power structure and privileges he had built his life and career around suddenly collapse. During that upheaval, he was stranded in East Germany, and his repeated messages to his hierarchy in Moscow for instructions elicited no response. That is how he became identified as a loyalist of the old Soviet era by like-minded KGB colleagues, some of whom were involved in scheming to overthrow Gorbachev and return to the old order.
It is obvious that Yeltsin felt he was making the right choice to discourage any potential sabotage of his government and policy of rapprochement with the West by being in synchronisation with the KGB which had always been embedded in the machinery of Government. But his choice of Vladimir Putin proved fatal tohis and Gorbachev’s view of a new capitalist Russia in footstep with the rest of Europe, the EU and its erstwhile arch-rival, the United States.
Yeltsin’s success in introducing free-wheeling capitalism amongstthe Russian masses in a short spate of time was a mitigated disaster in the sense that the coupons of shares to former state corporations that were distributed to individual Russians were quickly sold off to astute business men at ridiculous discounts. They finally ended up in a handful of Russians and foreign financial institutions. These lucky Russians became known as Oligarchs.
Soon after Putin came into power, he realised that the genie was out of the bottle and there were things that could no longer be reversed. He therefore maintained the skeletal framework of Yeltsin’s capitalist revolution while centralising power to an even greater extent around himself. As for the oligarchs, Putin made a deal to allow them to keep their gotten wealth in return for strict loyalty to his person and for acting as proxy to his vast investments that are reputed to have made him the richest man on the planet.
President Macron is therefore naïve to think that a Russian state with Vladimir Putin at the helm will be amenable to his table top idealism which is designed to sculpt a Europe where France will be the leader and principal arbiter. Any thoughts of a future merger between Russia and Europe – economic, social, cultural, military or otherwise – will depend on who is leading Russia at the time because hyper-centralisation in administration and decision-making will be an enduring feature in Russian polity for a long time to come.
Americans say Russia is a country that invests heavily in weapons and military equipment. It has a declining demography and an aging population.
Americans ask me, should we be afraid of such a country as Russia? Should we reconcile with such a country? I asked the Americans, how about swapping the positions of Russia and Canada?
Comment: This is not a good example because both the United States and Canada are neighbours to Russia in the North West flanks of their respective territories.
In addition to economic turmoil and geopolitical turmoil, the third major turmoil we are now experiencing is undoubtedly the technological revolution turmoil. Big data, internet, social media, artificial intelligence when big intelligence spreads out in globalisation. The progress of information technology is developing at an unprecedented speed.
One problem with the globalisation of intelligence is the globalisation of emotion, violence, and even hatred.
The technological revolution has brought us profound anthropological changes, and it has also created a new space for us, a space that requires human beings to re-examine and formulate rules.
This is a new technology rule space that the world has never touched, and it is also a rule of the internet international order that everyone should agree with and participate in.
But before this new set of rules is fully established, the new technological revolution has brought us not only economic imbalances, but also anthropological class contradictions and ideological contradictions.
Ultimately, it will bring heavy tearing and instability to our proud democracy. All the envoys here can see the economic turmoil, geopolitical turmoil, information technology turmoil, and democratic turmoil.
All these upheavals are happening at the same time, but what do we do? What do we need to do now? Are we going to continue to be observers, to be commentators, or to take on the responsibilities we have to take?
But one thing is for sure, if we all lose our political imagination and let the habits of the past decades or even centuries dictate our strategies, and then we – president of the republic, minister, diplomat, soldier, everyone in this room – continue to do things the way they were done in the past, surely we are going to “lose control”. And after we “lose control”, what awaits us is disappearance.
Civilisation fades away, Europe fades away, and the moment of Western hegemony fades away with it.
COMMENT: What an unjustifiably pessimistic view of the world today according to French President Emmanuel Macron. Even the COVID-19 pandemic could not have evoked this kind of pessimism around the world, and particularly in Europe.
Secondly, there is a false premise here that once Europe can no longer impose its cultural values around the world, decline would begin, leading ultimately to the extinction of Europe as a force that counts. What false logic!
Does the popularity of European classical music, Italian operas, European paintings, French gastronomy and Haute Couture, German vehicles and German technological prowess depend on imposition or hegemonistic mechanisms? No. They depend on soft power, and the pure delight and pleasure that they give to the eyes and senses of the beholder.
Ultimately, the world will revolve around two poles: America and China, and Europe will have to choose between these two rulers.
COMMENT: Nonsense! If I want to buy a bottle of Chateau Petrus wine, a bottle of Perrier-Jouët Champagne, or an expensive French perfume, it is preposterous to think that I will be forced to acquire those items under Chinese trade terms and conditions for the sole reason that China happens to dominate global trade at that period. Equally, if I were to buy a Mercedes Benz car, it is outlandish to think that I would address myself to a Russian vehicle manufacturer for the sole reason that I must respect Russia as the dominant Military power.
Europe will lose control completely, so I believe in only one thing so far, and that is bravery – the political strategy of daring to break through and take risks.
This kind of political strategy, which is different from the old Europe in the past, will lead to the failure of many things now, and there are also a large number of commentators in the country, and critics who say that it will not succeed.
But what is fatal is not the comments and criticisms, but the loss of “brave heart” and “imaginative thinking”, and I think that only by trying some brave and imaginative politics can we profoundly reflect the French National spirit, the best method.
COMMENT: President Macron engages here in feel-good sentiments and the need for a pep-up talk to his French audience. But where was this French national spirit during WW1 and WW2? We hope things will be different this time.
Only France can re-establish a profound European civilisation; only France can consider the issue of European survival from the perspective of European strategy and international politics.
COMMENT: A ridiculously tall order for France in a European space, peopled by political giants such as the EU and the UK. I’m afraid here that France is attempting to punch above its weight class, judging from its past performance.
The French spirit is a tenacious spirit of resistance and the pursuit of a different world. The spirit of resistance will never succumb to the inevitability and adaptability of affairs.
COMMENT: Only in Africa, since the disappearance of Napoleon Bonaparte. President Macron is right about one thing, which the French excel in: resistance. The French are experts at creating resistance networks every time the French government is decapitated in a major war. Unfortunately, resistance alone has never been sufficient to give them victory without external assistance from the very collective of WASP countries that he has repeatedly vilified in his speech.
This kind of task is carried out in the extraordinary spirit of the French people’s soul, and only France can change the historical trend that Europe is gradually being swallowed by “two poles”.
Next, France will have to establish a timeline of several important Agenda directions to take. The first is the “Eurasian Agenda”.
France will promote a better integration of China’s new Silk Road with the European Connectivity Strategy, but this integration must be done with respect for our sovereignty and rules.
COMMENT: I’m puzzled why France, under Emmanuel Macron’s leadership, would leave all the opportunities of creating alliances with other European nations within Europe, and leap over to integrate France – and ostensibly Europe – with a Chinese communist party propaganda initiative whose hidden agenda is domination of global trade routes to ultimately weaken and surpass France’s tolerant big brother and military protector, the United States.
Ten years ago, we made some mistakes in the integration of Europe and Asia. When Europe was dealing with a major financial crisis, and in order to obtain assistance, it was forced to carry out privatisation of state assets to reduce some of Europe’s sovereign debts.
From Italy in the South to England in the North, vital assets were acquired by the Chinese. But we don’t blame the smart Chinese for what happened. We can only blame ourselves for being stupid.
In addition, in the face of the rise of China, France must also establish a “French strategy” with the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.
This is a “supplement” to France’s strategy of welcoming China’s Silk Road. If we help our opponent in one place, then we have to check and balance it in other places. This is the usual way of politics.
COMMENT: By trying to be too clever, you end up being clever by half. It is because your opponent is also busy sizing up your moves!
France must establish “French influence” in the Indo-Pacific region to balance the rise of China’s power in the region. After all, France has millions of residents and 10,000 soldiers in the region. France wants to become one of the main maritime powers in the sea.
The second important Agenda of France is to give priority to the establishment of European sovereignty. I have talked to many people that European sovereignty is by no means an empty word, but we have already made the mistake of leaving the voice of sovereignty to the nationalists.
Nationalists by no means represent our sovereignty, which is a good word, and represents the core of our democracy. But if the government loses control over everything, there will be nothing left for sovereignty.
So nationalists have the right to have their voices heard, but they in no way represent European sovereignty.
For decades, Europe has built a strong and friendly market, but at the same time, we are also the most open and naïve.
And when we discuss European sovereignty, we must also include the United Kingdom very deeply. Regardless of the final outcome of Brexit, European sovereignty includes the United Kingdom.
The other direction of European sovereignty is national defence. Regarding European defence, there has been np progress since the 1950’s, and it is even forbidden to discuss.
But it’s time to build an initiative with more national defence sovereigns, relying on European funds and European armies.
I think this is the best time in decades to discuss “European Defence Sovereignty”, which requires all the envoys here to work harder.
Another focus of European sovereignty is Europe’s thinking about borders, which will also extend to the topic of population and immigration.
As Europe has experienced an unprecedented migration crisis since 2015, we must move away from the emergency management regime for refugees in order to create a sustainable talent landing mechanism.
More importantly, we should work with the International Organisation for Migration to revive the immigration filtering work we did in Paris. The last part is about economic and financial sovereignty. We are now actively talking about Iran and continue to defend our claim to the Iranian agenda.
But the U.S. Dollar has its “speciality”, even if we decide to protect Iran. Our company will depend on the U.S. Dollar to move forward.
Note, I’m not saying we have to fight the dollar, but we need to build a real “sovereignty of the Euro”. But this process is too slow. We are progressing too slowly!
And in the establishment of a digital Euro, Europe also needs to reconsider, because digital currency will also affect future economic sovereignty.
Reconstructing European sovereignty, economic sovereignty, national defence sovereignty, and border sovereignty is the only way to truly strengthen European integration without interference from other countries outside.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us have a strong and coherent diplomacy, and at a time when Western hegemony is being challenged, we should use our respective political imaginations. Take control of Europe’s own destiny and return control to our people.
I count on you to play an important role in diplomacy, and I am grateful for these requests.
I will always be by your side to keep France at the heart of leading a range of important political issues.
Make our envoys have a strong representative power all over the world to defend our national interests, surpass our national interests, and let our values spread all over the world. I thank you!
Long live the Republic, Long Live France!
– Emmanuel Macron
COMMENT: Here again is another instance of “Dirigisme” (state intervention) overtaking common sense. It is an inclination in French administrative practice which other Europeans view with horror because it makes France to be perceived as being too bureaucratic.
There have been bold attempts by the EU in the past to unseat the US dollar as the primary reserve currency of choice, but it has always failed.
Just Fancy France as the lone Don Quixote de la Mancha hopping gallantly on a horse to attempt what others see as unfeasible!
My conclusion is that this is a scandalous and “risqué” speech by President Macron to a French audience to bolster his image as a tough and fearless President especially now that the French are going to the polls to elect a new president. It is a feel-good speech meant for the consumption of the French masses, to address the impotence and inadequacy in the French psyche, which generations of the French continue to suffer from since the tragic events of WW1 and WW2 where they lost control of their country to invaders. I think that his political adversaries will see through the veiled pretensions of Macron and laugh at the sheer stupidity of the speech.
- Thought about France being unavoidable in international politics, and being at the forefront of building a new European Order.
Wishful thinking. In the EU, everyone knows that it is Germany that counts. When Berlin sneezes, the rest of Europe, including France, catch a cold.
- France as a European power
France is a founding member of NATO in 1949, but in 1966 General De Gaulle demanded that all French military installations in France be henceforth controlled by the French. He was reacting to what he saw as US hegemony in Europe. But the truth is that this was just an ego trip, a bout of French muscle flexing to the world gallery, and really of no major concern. He knew that if France was attacked, the rest of the European powers (as well as the US) would come to their rescue as they did in WW1 and WW2.
France’s scandalous performance in both major wars of the 20th century was, and still remains, a blot on the prestige and dignity of the French national character. If they talk too much, they can be dismissed with a brush of the hand, as Putin publicly did to Sarkozy when he was President, and to Macron on several occasions recently. The other European powers (UK, Germany, Italy, Turkey and even Poland) laugh cynically at France behind closed doors. Italian politicians even dare to let the public know that even though they are at a bottom rank in terms of European military power ranking, they still rank above France.
- Resentment against the US as Slave Master.
The US has a unique political and business culture. Out of it has arisen a great appeal for all things with American flavour. Soft power is generally described as a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence. What is essential is that soft power influences, and does not impose. Even citizens of very strict cultures very willingly embrace some American cultural values such as the wearing of jeans, T-shirts and baseball caps.
The mistake powerful and influential nations often make is to tryand export culture. And coercing the adoption of culture is often met with resistance. France has unique cultural values that make it a cultural superpower and ipso facto the most visited nation in the world when judged by international tourist arrivals. But there is a difference between a cultural superpower and a world superpower whose label embraces other important attributes such as military and economic strength. France, India, Pakistan and Israel are nuclear powers, but cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered as world superpowers.
There are attributes that make the US unique in this day and age, and for a long time to come: the ability to project its military power effectively all over the globe, a political culture that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, its very strong Christian values (which by contrast is sadly in decline in Europe which is the cradle of Judaeo-Christian values), it is bordered by oceans in the east and west and therefore secure from invasion, has friendly vassal states in its North and South borders, has enough natural resources to be self-sufficient and even be the biggest producer of fossil fuels in the world etc. In short, an endless list of superlatives.
It is wrong for President Macron to think that these attributes are hampering the emergence of a France that can throw its weight around the world stage in a way that the UK or Russia does.
- The Russian Disaster.
Russia today has missed the opportunity that the last leader of the USSR – Mikhail Gorbachev – gave the Russian people on a golden platter before its dissolution on Christmas day in 1991. From the time he came to power in 1985, he realised that there was no way out of economic stagnation than by radical reforms, and more importantly that communism had failed.
In his magnanimity and selfless regard for the well-being of fellow citizens of the Soviet socialist republics and satellite states, he carried out reforms that introduced free market policies and multi-party politics. He even deliberately sacrificed his seat as leader of the only other nuclear superpower on earth. For this, I crown him the greatest politician and statesman of the 20thcentury, while Ronald Reagan remains the greatest US President of the same period. In his own native Russia, the former Mayor of Moscow, Boris Yeltsin, emerged from the elections in 1991 as President of the new Russian republic. Gorbachev was confident that Yeltsin was going to continue with the reforms to turn Russia into a capitalist nation and an economic superpower by freeing the entrepreneurial energy of Russian citizens. The immediate results of Yeltsin’s reforms were mitigated – such as the inadvertent creation of Russian oligarchs who bought individual share coupons from unsuspecting Russians who were new to the freewheeling hazards of a market economy.
But Russia lost the boat because Yeltsin was equally a reckless alcoholic who allowed himself to be misled into handpicking a quiet-spoken and self-effacing KGB sleeper agent called Vladimir Putin. This KGB operative quickly rose within the ranks of Yeltsin’s closest collaborators and won his confidence to be appointed Prime Minister. Yeltsin’s final years in office were riddled with scandals and corruption involving himself and family members, as well as rapidly declining health. It is said that his choice of Vladimir Putin as his successor was motivated by the fact that he had proven to be loyal and his KGB background would shield he (Yeltsin) from future prosecution.
Putin’s rise to power can thus be described as a tragedy brought upon Russia by a tacitly complicit Russian population, and they cannot blame anyone outside of Russia for the outcome which led to a beast in power who has now been the source of the major conflicts in Europe since WW2. It is said that you get the leadership you deserve, and Russians have no one to blame but themselves. And only they, alone, can decide to unseat and replace Putin.
Contrast the situation with that of China which was worse off for most of the 20th century. It took a farsighted and bold elderly communist party leader called Deng Xiao Ping to change the trajectory of that nation to what it is today in roughly 30 years. It didn’t even change its political system, but adopted pragmatism as the bedrock of its new emergence. Deng is famously known for basing his philosophy on this quote: “it doesn’t matter the colour of the cat, whether black or white, as long as it catches mice”.
Throughout history there have been periods of advancement and decline: half a century of enlightened leadership and progress followed by 400 years of decline as a result of wars, wicked rule or bad leadership. Russia indeed belongs to Europe, but President Macron’s hope of integrating Europe with Russia is wishful thinking. Russia is best to be broken up for their own good so that the various ethnic groups can find expressions within boundaries that they can call their own while they create enduring alliances like the states that make up continental USA or a union of nations like the EU. A hyper-centralised administration in the current land mass will never be able to develop the interior of that massive surface area that represents 11% of the land surface of the planet.
And only the South Western part of Russia, peopled by Slavs and the geographic expression known as Caucasus can indeed be accepted to integrate with Western Europe and even become members of the EU. The rest of the Russian land mass has more affinity with Asia and China as that area is peopled by ethnic stocks and cultures found in India, China, and South of Asia. A significant component of the Russian population is made up of Moslems.
To sum up, it can be said that President Macron’s rambling thoughts are also dishonest because he is avoiding to address the true reality of France, which is that despite its size, it remains a minor power even in Europe albeit the fact that it remains a cultural superpower in the world.
Which brings me to the point that he is indirectly lamenting the loss of France’s influence over Africa, as it is Africa that made the French nation great and relevant on the world stage. Thinking about France going to project power in Indochina today stinks of colonial nostalgia similar to Vladimir Putin’s current delusions. Another clear case of wishful thinking. And another confirmation of the verity that the concept of the United States as “Slave Master” – fortunately a benign one – will be with us for the foreseeable future.
It was curious to see President Macron paying grudging respect to the BREXIT decision of the United Kingdom, and exploring loudly the possibility of France taking the same route while remaining firmly in Europe just like the United Kingdom.