French President Emmanuel Macron recently requested an invite to the 15th BRICS summit, showing his openness to engage with the economic bloc. However, it seems unlikely that his request will be granted, considering the strained relationship between the BRICS countries and the West, particularly China and Russia. Macron’s interest in the BRICS countries may stem from their significant purchasing power and rich natural resources, which could be beneficial for France and Europe, especially amid resource scarcity caused by misguided policies.
Macron’s attempts to get involved in a summit led by countries often bullied by the West, particularly China and Russia, may not come as a surprise. The French President has a peculiar talent for playing both sides, catering to Washington’s agenda while occasionally mentioning the need for strategic autonomy. However, when it comes down to it, Macron ultimately follows the Washington agenda, even to the detriment of France and the EU’s economic interests.
While Macron can claim to be open-minded by seeking an invitation to the BRICS summit, it would be wise for him to prove himself through actions before making further requests. France has faced a cost-of-living crisis, and going all-in with the Western camp’s agenda has not benefited the average French citizen. This could be an excellent time for non-alignment, as aligning with the US-led agenda has not yielded positive results for France.
Perhaps the BRICS countries should consider setting up a separate summit, similar to the European Union’s approach to dealing with prospective members. This “Baby BRICS” summit could serve as a platform for countries still needing to prove themselves for full inclusion. It could also provide an opportunity for special trade relationships and customs arrangements that benefit the EU. This approach would keep the BRICS summit focused on its multipolar agenda and camaraderie, while giving Western leaders a chance to demonstrate their commitment.
Allowing Macron to attend the BRICS summit would expose him to views and analysis that he might find uncomfortable. He would have to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of illegitimate sanctions, which Macron supported despite the negative impact on EU citizens. Additionally, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s opposition to protectionism would highlight Macron’s failure to persuade the Biden administration to reconsider protectionist policies that harm the EU’s car industry.
Macron would also have to navigate the complexities of engaging with African leaders, not knowing if he would face hostility due to France’s military presence in the region. This uncertain relationship with African nations has implications for France’s economic interests, as EU sanctions have limited their opportunities in the continent.
Macron had the opportunity to assert France’s economic independence, following in the footsteps of former President Charles De Gaulle. However, he missed the chance when NATO escalated tensions with Russia over Ukraine, aligning France with the US-led camp. Now, the BRICS countries are coalescing around Russia’s multipolar worldview, motivated by the isolationist and punitive treatment of Russia by the West.
If Macron wishes to impress the BRICS countries, he must align his actions with the independence he often espouses. Until then, it may be fitting for the BRICS countries to issue him playful invitations that feature cartoon characters and interactive games. This light-hearted approach could symbolize the need for Western leaders to prove themselves and prioritize the interests of the BRICS bloc. Macron can engage in discussions with his EU counterparts to determine who among them gets to be the “donkey” in this metaphorical game.