Germany and France have announced the creation of a new ‘Alliance for Multilateralism’ to support international cooperation and the UN. Is it a much-needed step to counterbalance the US, or a reaction to the excesses of Trump?
On the one hand you could say it’s a sign of Europe’s biggest powers finally showing some teeth to the US.
As cited in Deutsche Welle, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the first objective would be to show that countries that “support multilateralism and support the United Nations remain the majority in the world.” US President Donald Trump wasn’t mentioned by name, and while both he and his German counterpart Heiko Maas stressed that the initiative wasn’t directed against America, it was clear when Le Drian talked about the “consequences of unilateralism and isolationism” who he was really referring to.
It’s clear too that many of the world’s leading problems, whether we’re talking climate change, organised crime, terrorism, protecting endangered wildlife and saving the world’s oceans, can only be solved through an international, multilateral approach. We need international institutions which are respected and we need binding international agreements. Acknowledging this does not make one a ‘globalist’.
Yet, on reading about the proposals of Germany and France, I’m still a little bit worried. Just how genuine is the commitment of these leading European powers and indeed others who have reportedly been showing interest, to the UN and acting in accordance with international law?
Back in 1999, when we had a Democrat president, France and Germany joined in the illegal NATO attack on Yugoslavia, which did not have UNSC authorisation and was even in breach of NATO’s own constitution. France too played a leading role in the destruction of Libya (which again took place under a Democratic Party president) and against all the diplomatic norms, recognised the Syrian rebel ‘National Coalition’ as the “sole representative of the Syrian people” in November 2012, even though it was highly debatable as to whether the rebels even had majority support in the country.
So for France in particular to hold itself up as the custodian of what is ‘correct’ international behaviour – in contrast to the uncouth ‘cowboy’ Trump – is a bit rich to say the least.
Venezuela also comes into the equation. Both France and Germany, the champions of ‘multilateralism’ and obeyers of the correct rules, followed Trump and the Americans in recognising the opposition politician Juan Guaido as the interim President of Venezuela – against all the diplomatic norms.
A genuine return to a rules-based international order, would mean all the countries of the world, big or small, agreeing to respect the charter of the United Nations.
France and Germany and many other countries in the world have legitimate grievances against Trump and his unilateralism, but it is a massive mistake to believe that current problems are down to one man. What really is the problem – and this goes totally against the idea of the sovereign equality of UN states – is the belief that some countries namely the Western powers and their global allies, have rights to interfere in other countries’ affairs which others don’t.
Just ask yourself what the French reaction would be if the Syrian government declared that the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Wests) were the sole representative of the French people. Or if the Venezuelan government recognised Jean Luc-Melenchon or Marine Le Pen as the interim president of France.
So yes, the ‘Alliance for Multilateralism’, in as much as it shows Europe implied criticism of the US, is to be given cautious support.
But the leading protagonists need to start practicing what they preach before we start to pop the champagne corks.