By: Sophie Boulter, Outgoing World News Editor
Emmanuel Macron was re-elected as French President, the first to be re-elected since 2002. His victory carries important implications for the United States and Europe.
As the Russia-Ukraine war rages on, the EU continues to evolve. The bloc has never put up a more unified front than it has now, in reaction to Russian aggression; from sanctions to divestment to shifts away from Russian energy, the crisis has brought Europe together.
Against a backdrop of a militaristic Russia, a hostile China and a neutral India, the U.S. needs a robustly unified Europe more than ever. Macron can bring this unity abroad — if he tempers his arrogant impulses. He needs to bring world leaders together, rather than driving them apart.
At home in France, he has been called “Jupiter” due to his unilateral, imperial style of leadership. He is personally unpopular in his country. His style — meant to convey to his citizens and the wider world that France is still strong, despite its twentieth century decline — seems to polarize the left, right, and center of France.
Indeed, France still holds a considerable amount of clout around the world, despite its relative decline after the second world war. The second largest economy in the EU, France also has the only United Nations Security Council veto in the bloc.
Macron’s victory over National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen is an implicit rebuke to anti-EU sentiments in France. An unabashedly pro-Europe leader, he is eager to give the bloc strong powers and autonomy; yet, many who voted for him in the runoff did so not because they liked him, but because they despised the far-right views of Le Pen.
Still, he joins German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in supporting a closer, more powerful EU. Macron hopes that his leadership will lead to puissance, or great power status, for the bloc.
His re-election is a symbolic victory for the European security community, too. Many in the EU have come to believe that Europe needs protection beyond what is offered by the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) — protection that they should provide themselves.
Macron’s plans for European strategic autonomy are not universally popular, but are still influential among those who think that Europe should be able to protect itself without relying upon the U.S. Regardless, it may help American interests to have an autonomous Europe that is still allied with liberal values.
This is particularly important given the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The crisis left much of eastern Europe — from Poland to Moldova to Latvia — fearful of Europe’s capacity to defend against a possible Russian invasion. The rest of Europe was largely blindsided by Russia’s aggressive, ideologically-motivated militarism.
Initially skeptical of Macron’s vision, leaders such as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte have come to embrace strategic autonomy.
“We have to enhance our open strategic autonomy, something France has been urging for a long time,” Rutte said.
Macron acknowledged as much himself, pointing to the crisis as something which “no longer belongs to our history books or school books, it is there, before our eyes.”
For this reason, he and other European leaders argue that now is the time to strengthen EU autonomy and military capacity.
If this happens, the US will have a stronger, more independent and more capable partner in Europe. But this is subject to Macron himself — if he cannot overcome his arrogance and personal unpopularity in France, his international vision may never come to fruition.