What's Macron's game plan?

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony in memory of the Harkis, Algerians who helped the French Army in the Algerian War of Independence, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, September 20, 2021.

Betrayal. Treason. Duplicity. These are some of the words used by the French government to describe the US' recent decision to freeze Paris out of a new security pact with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which nixed a contract for Australia to buy French submarines.

Macron's subsequent tough stance against one of its oldest and closest allies is unusual, including his decision to briefly recall the French ambassador from Washington, the first time a French president has done so. But this headstrong strategy is also a deliberate diplomatic choice.


Politics is personal. At least on some level, Macron is lashing out because America has embarrassed France and left Macron's own ego badly bruised. Biden could have kept the France-Australian sub deal alive while moving forward with the AUKUS security agreement under the cloak of secrecy. But instead, the US chose to tear it all up, sending a clear message to Paris: you're not that important.

For Macron, who became France's youngest-ever president at age 39, thanks in part to a large dose of self-belief, this diss cuts deep.

Strategic autonomy. Since coming to power in 2017, Macron has been a strong advocate of Europe pursuing a defense strategy independent from the US. (You may recall the kerfuffle that ensued after Macron called NATO "braindead.")

Macron has long said that France — and Europe — should deploy its military might to defend its own interests abroad, regardless of what America's priorities are. And asserting France's independence as a key player in the Indo-Pacific by selling arms to Australia — which in turn would help safeguard Paris' own strategic interests in the region — is exactly what Macron was trying to do when the US recently pulled the rug out from under him.

What's more, with Germany's Angela Merkel preparing to exit the stage in mere days, and the post-Brexit UK out of the EU, Macron has been vying to fill the bloc's leadership gap, but this snub scuttles his plan.

Looking inwards. France is just six months away from a general election that's shaping out to be a close race between the incumbent and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Le Pen, for her part, has already capitalized on France's recent diplomatic snafu with Washington to cast Macron as pandering to the Americans and unable to stand up for French interests on the global stage.

Macron, who has increasingly veered to the right on certain issues as centrism in France has lost its appeal, knows that he can't afford to look toothless, and that taking a hard line on the US could reap political benefits come election day (only 44 percent of French adults now view the US favorably).

Because close French presidential elections go to a runoff, Le Pen is still a long shot to go all the way to the top. But a string of political crises in the months ahead would increase the likelihood that another candidate, perhaps a political outsider, takes center stage — just as Macron, a former political newbie, won in an upset for the establishment in 2017.

Is Macron out in the cold? Macron took a punt in forcefully going after the US. And it's reasonable to assume that he thought EU partners would back him up more emphatically. But so far, the response has been mostly muted. (The EU's Ursula von der Leyen said tepidly in an interview that "one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable," while outside the EU, British PM Boris Johnson told Macron to "prenez un grip.")

Clearly, Paris felt ditched: after the sub snub, France's foreign minister said that EU nations need to stick together because it's the only way for Europe to "remain part of history." But as has been the case on a range of geopolitical issues, including the bloc's relations with Russia and China, the EU's 27 member states have divergent priorities.

Macron's gamble. Macron is saying all the right stuff to prove that he's nobody's lackey. And reportedly gave President Biden a piece of his mind on a call Wednesday. But if Macron fails to follow through on his threats and enforce any real consequences, he risks being perceived as a softy — exactly what he's been trying to avoid.

Colorful graphic with a woman wearing a red top in the foreground and blue background with two individuals looking on

As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.

Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.

See why.

Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

More Show less
Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

More Show less
What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

More Show less
World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.

The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A GZERO pandemic

Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal