Pragmatism Still at the Heart of Macron’s Foreign Policy

The heart of the foreign policy course of French President Emmanuel Macron is pragmatism based on respect for all parties, says Valdai Club expert Tatiana Romanova.

On Tuesday, September 19, French President Emmanuel Macron told CNN about the key role of Moscow in resolving the situation in Syria and around North Korea, as well as the need to respect Russia, taking into account its history and the history of Franco-Russian relations. According to Tatiana Romanova, an associate professor of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics, Macron remains faithful to the pragmatic foreign policy course chosen at the beginning of his presidency.

“Macron is a strong politician who understands that it is impossible to exclude Russia [from world politics], which means that it is necessary to negotiate with it,” she said in an interview with “Respect is the basis of any agreement with any partner.”

According to Romanova, Macron took a constructive position from the beginning of his presidency and his latest comments are rather continuation than some radical change of the line toward Russia. “He has never fallen into any extremes,” the expert said. “We remember that one of the first meetings of Macron as president was a meeting in Versailles with Vladimir Putin. France has traditionally been active, and this is exactly what has always allowed it to counterbalance the economic power of Germany. Whether it will work now depends on Macron.”

The heart of Macron's foreign policy is pragmatism, Romanova stressed. “Pragmatism is respect of all parties and trying to take into account the views of all when looking for a compromise solution,” she said. “This is rejection of maximalist demands in favor of demands that take into account the interests of all, and the result becomes more stable, more predictable. It is not like there are only winners and losers.”

This approach is manifested in Macron’s position on Syria. For several months, he has argued that for France, “Assad must go” is not a pre-condition of the Syrian settlement. “On the one hand, it is pragmatism, and on the other it is recognition that Bashar Assad has a fairly stable position in Syria, which means that we need to negotiate with him,” Romanova said. “There is understanding that it is possible to contribute to a peaceful settlement not only through the support of only one of the groups, but also by trying to put both sides at the negotiating table.”

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.