Alliances, Claire-ified

Claire Conner, Assistant Opinion Editor

French President Emmanuel Macron has never been known to shy away from his own chutzpah. From the moment he stepped under the effulgent glow of the Louvre pyramid to deliver his 2017 election victory speech, Macron embraced a fiery optimism that reinvigorated the French electorate and helped him become one of the most powerful leaders in Europe.

For all of his courage and defiance, though, Macron understood the necessity of maintaining strong diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Europe, as did most American presidents.

But in the past five years, Americans have neglected this commitment, instead attempting to pursue aggressive policy goals without the support of foreign allies. The dangers of this trend were on display during the week of U.N. General Assembly meetings last month.

Macron, a consistent champion of multilateralism, refused to attend the meetings after Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. secretly ended Australia’s nuclear submarine deal with France. Regardless of the decision’s potential benefits, the Americans’ lack of open consultation was reprehensible. Under orders from Macron, France recalled its ambassador to the U.S. for the first time in history and condemned American “lies,” “duplicity,” “brutality” and “contempt” in a televised interview.

Fear surrounding this historic decision and extreme language dominated the news cycle throughout the U.N. session. The assembly intended to shine a light on global solutions and peace, but it was consumed by the repercussions of betrayal.

The chaos that ensued could not be more inopportune. After former President Donald Trump questioned NATO’s value and hung our foreign partners out to dry, President Joe Biden was tasked with reviving relationships and organizations that serve as the lynchpin of global problem-solving.

Initially, this effort was headed down the right path: Biden rescinded Trump’s decision to leave the World Health Organization and supported a patent waiver for the COVID-19 vaccine to alleviate low-income countries’ suffering from health inequity. Biden also facilitated America’s return to the Paris Climate Agreement and agreed to extend the New START treaty on nuclear weapons with Russia.

This was a necessary shift from four years of disastrous foreign policy during the Trump administration, but simply looking in the right direction does nothing if we continue to jettison our alliances and refuse to take bold, unified action.

Right now, numerous international threats like climate change, COVID-19, tensions between great powers and poverty jeopardize billions of lives. In an increasingly globalized world with increasingly globalized problems, we cannot afford to succumb to division. Biden needs to recover U.S. credibility and leadership on issues that require multilateral initiatives. It is time for him to fulfill his campaign promise of intelligent diplomatic policy that reinvigorates international organizations.

In the short term, this means restoring our relationship with France and continuing to regain the trust of our NATO allies. In the long term, the U.S. must use these connections to mend the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement body and turn adversaries like China into partners in the fight against climate change.

If Macron retains power for a second term, he may stand in front of the Louvre once again to deliver a message at the start of the 2024 Olympics. The world will gather along the banks of the Seine River to hear a familiar opening ceremony speech likely dedicated to global solidarity and hope.

But there is a terrifying risk that this optimism and unity will reveal nothing more than a fleeting glimpse into a world we refused to build. We are standing at a crossroads in foreign policy. As we move into the second year of Biden’s presidency, it is imperative that we face our challenges in a new era of cooperation.