French President Emmanuel Macron was recently forced to apologize for his approach to COVID-19 during his TV address to his nation as he told viewers that France’s own lockdown will be extended until May 11. As his reputation at home takes a battering, the French President is using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to assert himself on the global stage.
Macron’s Proposal for an International Truce on Conflicts
Macron is leading efforts to negotiate an international truce and he is optimistic that he can secure the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said on French radio that he had secured the agreement of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to approve of a global ceasefire.
The French leader has confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump were on board.
Macron’s ambitions extend beyond the UN Security Council. He also intends to negotiate truces in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen to secure a lasting peace. If he manages to win Putin’s support for UN General Secretary António Guterres’ call for peace, which received scant attention before the French President attempted to boost international support for the General Secretary’s message, Macron would have almost fulfilled Guterres’ goal. Even if an international ceasefire happens, the French leader cannot receive all the glory for making this moment happen because it was not his idea in the first place.
Most of the UN Security Council Supports Macron
There is no doubt that Trump, Jinping and Putin, who lead some of the most powerful countries in the world, are understandably focused on domestic issues as the coronavirus preoccupies their attention, but this has resulted in a power vacuum that needs to be filled, which Macron is currently doing.
Since he became the French President in 2017, Macron has always performed better on the international stage than at home. Before he implemented a lockdown, the French leader had to deal with the gilets jaunes rebellion and transport strikes against his proposal for pension reform.
Although he is passionate about the EU, Macron has often found himself quarreling with European leaders by blocking EU enlargement. He once said that NATO is ‘brain dead’, but the breakdown in relations between Iran and the US provided the French President with an opportunity to demonstrate that he is capable of negotiating peaceful solutions.
Though neither Trump nor Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani have acted on the French leader’s proposals for peace, they should form the basis of a future agreement. Macron drew up a four-point plan that involved the US lifting all its sanctions in Iran in exchange for the end of Tehran’s nuclear program.
How COVID-19 Has Transformed Macron’s Global Presence
COVID-19 provided Macron with another opportunity to distinguish himself from Trump. He slammed the US President for threatening to withdraw funding from the World Health Organization at the very height of the most significant pandemic this century has witnessed so far.
The Chinese Government has also been on the receiving end of a verbal lashing from the French. According to CNN, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attacked the Chinese ambassador to France for criticizing the West’s response to the epidemic.
Even if the French President’s ceasefire becomes a reality, there is no guarantee it will last beyond COVID-19. The Taliban are likely to continue their activities in Afghanistan once the coronavirus has reached its peak. Iranian militias may further enhance their presence in Iraq when the pandemic is over. Russia and Turkey will want to maintain their influence over Syria. This peace will probably be temporary.
Macron’s call for peace is likely to be a distraction from growing dissatisfaction with his administration’s handling of the coronavirus at home, but securing an international ceasefire will be a huge boost to his presidency on a global stage.