Tuesday April 23, 2024

Macron’s vision

By Abdul Sattar
April 16, 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to China augurs well for a world that faces the possibilities of conflicts in Europe and Asia. The visit might pave the way for a new world order based on the principles of mutual respect, non-aggression and cooperation. Such an order might be beneficial for countries that have been defying American hegemony and seeking to resolve disputes through diplomatic means instead of resorting to military tactics.

The French president has distanced himself from American hardliners who want to take an aggressive position over the Taiwan issue, asserting that Europe has no interest in an acceleration of the crisis over Taiwan. Macron believes that Europe should pursue a strategy independent of both Washington and Beijing. He is of the view that the region should not accelerate the conflict but take time to build its position as a third pole between China and the US.

Macron thinks that Europe must better fund its defence industry, develop nuclear and renewable energy and reduce dependence on the US dollar to limit its reliance on the US. The French president travelled to China with a 50-strong business delegation including Airbus and nuclear energy producer EDF, which signed deals during the visit. During the visit, Macron held a six-hour long meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Macron’s comments might not go down well with Washington that had troubled ties with Paris even during the cold war despite being its ally. It is positive that Macron wants to end Europe’s dependence on the US but such dependence will continue to haunt Europe as long as there are conflicts and wars in the world. Europe has been a close ally of the US in triggering conflicts in different parts of the world. Macron cannot put all the blame on Washington for the conflicts witnessed during the last 70 years or before.

France itself was a colonial power that subjugated various countries, and some of the worst conflicts of the modern times were caused by the French colonial mentality. For instance, Paris cannot blame anyone for the bloody war in Algeria that claimed 1.5 million lives between 1954 and 1962 alone. The use of French military might against the people of a subjugated country cannot be forgotten and forgiven on the pretext that the French leadership was following some American dictation that forced it to resort to the brutal crackdown.

Similarly, it were the French who plunged Indo-China into a terrible conflagration that claimed millions of lives over the decades. French colonial masters were not ready to give up Vietnam, pinning hopes on American support and trying to create an impression that if the US did not support Paris in maintaining its hold over Vietnam, it would not be trusted by Europe. This French attitude was said to be one of the factors leading to American intervention against Vietnam. Even today France guards its interests in its former African and other colonies, sending troops to maintain the hegemony of leaders it installed before leaving these countries.

The concerns that Macron has expressed over a possible conflict in Asia is worth appreciating. But before Paris could do anything to ease tensions in Asia, it should play a significant role in dousing the flames of war that are knocking on the door of Europe. The unfolding catastrophe in Ukraine could have been avoided if Paris had worked for the dismantling of Nato.

If the French leadership really wants to secure European borders, it really needs to extend an olive branch to Russia that has been wary of the designs and goals of a military alliance that should have been discarded long ago. Europe’s security lies in allaying Russian fears regarding the machinations of Nato and the US. Therefore, sincere efforts should be made to resolve the Ukrainian imbroglio in an amicable way. This could be done by halting Nato’s eastward expansion and making a no-war pact with Moscow. Such a pact will ensure Europe’s security besides paving the way for a world that is free from all types of war machines, including Nato. France is accused of playing a leading role in the destruction of Syria and Libya. Its alleged interference in the internal affairs of Syria plunged the country into a terrible civil war that not only forced more than 11 million people to flee their homes but also caused immense destruction to its infrastructure with the Arab country, losing more than $200 billion because of this devastation. It also lost over half a million people.

The decimation of thousands of people in Libya is also attributed to French policies and the mentality of interference. In 2011, French forces began military intervention in Libya, later joined by coalition forces with strikes against armoured units south of Benghazi and attacks on Libyan air-defence systems. This attack may have weakened Gaddafi but also paved the way for the arrival of militants who carried out ruthless plundering of the African country.

So, before France could play an important role in the stability of various regions in the world, it needs to tender an apology to the people of the countries it invaded, destroying the lives of millions.

Paris should also give up this rhetoric of defence and strategic interests. It should rather focus on human development across Europe and other regions. Despite the end of the cold war, Europe has been allocating a substantial amount of money on defence and other non-productive purposes. The Ukrainian conflict has plunged the continent into a deep recession with working-class people across the region facing immense hardships that have created conditions which might be exploited by the right forces in various countries of Europe. They are already ascendant in countries like Italy and Hungary and if economic hardships do not end soon, more European countries might witness the rise of xenophobic miscreants, including France where the National Front is already one of the biggest parties.

If France really wants to prove that it is one of the leading powers of Europe and capable of leading the continent, it must come up with a mechanism that could extinguish the flames of war in Ukraine. It should also play a leading role in putting an end to anti-Russian hysteria that could be exploited by Europe.

Europe’s tensions with Russia will only increase its dependence on Washington instead of reducing it. If France could normalize ties with Germany which occupied it during the Second World War and if it can befriend the UK with which it fought for over 100 years, why can’t it extend a hand of friendship to Moscow with all sincerity. Europe’s salvation lies in normalizing ties with the largest territorial entity in the world rather than looking across the Atlantic.

The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: