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.

A group of young women looking together at images on a wall.

Research indicates neurodivergent individuals hold key competencies to meet this demand, yet their unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 80%.

As part of its initiative to build an inclusive workplace for all, Bank of America has improved its hiring and support process to recognize and elevate the unique talents of neurodivergent employees.

Who’s in Joe Biden’s democracy club?

The Biden administration’s much-touted Summit for Democracy kicks off on Thursday. A total of 110 countries are invited, with some puzzling choices and omissions.

Illiberal Poland is attending, but not illiberal Hungary. Seven of the 10 Southeast Asian nations are out, but several quasi-democracies in Africa made the cut. Brazil's authoritarian-minded President Jair Bolsonaro is an acceptable democrat for Joe Biden, but not Bolivia's democratically-elected President Luis Arce.

The criteria to get a ticket is as unclear as what Biden’s democratic virtual get-together wants to achieve.

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Australia's former PM and current CEO of the Asia Society knows China quite well. He's fluent in Mandarin, and — for a foreigner — has a pretty good idea of what's cooking in Chinese politics.

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The French election is getting hot

Germany has been the European center of political attention in recent months, as punk-rock god Angela Merkel exits the stage after almost two decades at the helm. But there’s another big election heating up in Europe. The French will head to the polls in just twelve weeks, and the race has started to get very interesting.

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The Graphic Truth: Are you democratic enough for Joe Biden?

The Summit for Democracy, which the Biden administration has been playing up for months, kicks off Thursday. The invite-only event with representatives from 110 countries is Biden’s baby: it’s a chance for the US president to “rescue” democracy, which is in global decline. What’s less clear, however, is why some states with poor democratic records have a seat at the table, while others with better democratic bona fides don’t. Is this a real stab at strengthening democracy, or rather a naked attempt to alienate those who cozy up to foes like China and Russia? We take a look at a selection of invitees, as well as some who didn’t make the cut, and their respective democracy ratings based on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has often had to defend her work as the creator of the 1619 Project, a piece of modern journalism that has gained as much praise on one end of the US political spectrum as it has sparked outrage on the other.

Hannah-Jones admits some of the criticism was fair game — and that's one reason she’s just published an extended version of the project in book form, entitled The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. But she rejects those who’ve tried to disqualify her and the project.

"People were saying these facts are wrong... [and] that this journalism needed to be discredited, and that's not normal," she explains. "And I don't agree with that type of criticism because... it's not true.”

According to Hannah-Jones, part of the problem is the mistaken perception that the 1619 Project claimed that slavery was uniquely American. It did not, she says, but did argue that the history of US slavery is quite exceptional in another way.

"There is something clearly unique about a country engaging in chattel slavery that says it was founded on ideas of individual rights and liberty. And that was not Brazil. That was not Jamaica. That was not any of the islands in the Caribbean. They didn't pretend to be a nation founded on God-given rights. We did."

Watch all of Hannah-Jones' interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson observes an early morning Merseyside police raid on a home in Liverpool as part of 'Operation Toxic' to infiltrate County Lines drug dealings in Liverpool, Britain December 6, 2021.

Boris’ horrible, no good, very bad day. Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy. In fact, sometimes he appears to relish it. But not this time. As British authorities weigh whether to impose unpopular restrictions amid a surge in omicron cases, a video has surfaced of top Downing Street aides tastelessly joking about flouting lockdown rules last Christmas by gathering for a holiday party. At the time, Britons were forbidden to gather with friends and family during the holiday season, let alone say goodbye to dying relatives. What’s more, Downing Street has been accused of trying to cover up the shindig – a “wine and cheese” night, according to the video – until this damning footage materialized. Johnson says he is “sickened and furious” about it, and a top aide has since resigned. (Johnson himself has not been accused of attending the party.) Meanwhile, London police say they are looking into the case. The timing is pretty awful for Johnson, who is already facing party backlash over a series of blunders in recent months, as well as his perceived failure to address Brexit-related shortages of gasoline and goods. Currently, 55 percent of Britons disapprove of his leadership.

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A person waves flags as people gather after the Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill, in Santiago, Chile December 7, 2021

8: Chile’s Congress approved same-sex marriage Wednesday, becoming the eighth Latin American country to do so. Conservative President Sebastián Piñera for years opposed the measure, which would give full parental rights to same-sex couples, but six months ago changed his position, paving the way for the bill’s passage.

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