Macron plays host to Russia's Putin at Versailles. Photo: Kremlin handout

In a recent interview with the Guardian, French President Emanual Macron signaled a significant shift in French foreign policy, espousing a rejection of “neoconservatism imported into France”:

“My line is clear: one, a total fight against terrorist groups. They are our enemies …. We need the cooperation of everyone to eradicate them, particularly Russia. Two: stability in Syria, because I don’t want a failed state. With me, there will be an end to the kind neoconservatism imported into France over the last 10 years.

Democracy isn’t built from the outside without the people. France didn’t take part in the Iraq war and that was right. And France was wrong to go to war in Libya in this way. What was the result of those interventions? Failed states where terrorist groups prospered. I don’t want that in Syria. Three: I have red lines on chemical weapons and humanitarian corridors. I said it very clearly to Vladimir Putin. I will be uncompromising on that. So the use of chemical weapons will be met with a response, and even if France acts alone.”

Igor Delanoe writes for Al-Monitor on what this could mean for France’s cooperation with Russia:

“An enhanced partnership with Moscow regarding Syria would help Paris get back into the diplomatic game while also distancing itself from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Compared with the uncertainties of US foreign policy stemming from the election of President Donald Trump, Russia’s actions in Syria look far more predictable and consistent to France. Moreover, in past years Washington has been reluctant to recognize any political role for France in Middle Eastern issues, especially concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From that perspective, a rapprochement with Russia could provide more room for Paris vis-a-vis Washington. Moreover, some observers have criticized France for its alignment with the Saudi agenda, especially regarding Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Here again, teaming up with Russia would allow the French to offset their partnership with Saudi Arabia.

France and Russia share a set of common goals in the Levant: Both have seen a fair number of their citizens join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, both oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction across the region, both are willing to fight terrorism and both have supported the Syrian Kurds. However, these convergences should not be overstated, for they don’t indicate that France and Russia share the same strategic agenda: Paris seeks to regain its influence in the region, whereas Moscow has already achieved this goal following its military intervention in Syria. Should Macron’s moves bear fruit, they would also provide France with a greater role in Syria’s reconstruction.”

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