Macron’s HOT political moves: From troops in Ukraine to abortion rights 

  • In recent weeks, the French President has openly discussed military aid to Ukraine, including the option of deploying ground troops, despite the disagreements between NATO leaders. 
  • Despite opposition from far-left and far-right, the French National Assembly approved a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine, supported by President Macron and his team. 
  • He secured a major political victory by enshrining abortion as a constitutional right. 

Why is Macron’s heat level HOT? 

Answer: Amidst ongoing farmers’ protests domestically and escalating tensions in Ukraine, Macron secures significant political victories both at home and abroad, positioning himself as a formidable force in European politics.

Recent remarks from Emmanuel Macron have been vocal and assertive; he has said the unthinkable: France does not rule out deploying troops on Ukrainian soil. Despite disagreements among European leaders and a warning of escalation from Putin, Macron has doubled efforts to support Ukraine, convening an unexpected conference in Paris with leaders including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Polish President Duda.

Macron urged increased support for Ukraine, including military aid like medium and long-range missiles. Discussions on ranged tactical missiles intensified in 2023, notably after a leaked conversation among German military officials regarding the TAURUS missiles. Chancellor Scholz reaffirmed Germany’s stance against delivering TAURUS missiles on March 13th, reflecting cautiousness amidst the potential escalation of conflict as Germany’s involvement could be viewed as direct by Putin. 

British and French allies urged Germany to step up its assistance to the Ukrainian army. Macron, positioning himself as more passionate about Ukraine than Scholz, has engaged in a passive rivalry. Recent developments have enhanced Macron’s perception as a charismatic and powerful leader, contrasting with criticism faced by Scholz domestically and internationally.

Another victory for Macron was the passage of a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine in the French National Assembly, following a similar deal with Moldova earlier in March, which once again puts his domestic opponents under political pressure. Opposition National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen expressed solidarity towards Ukraine following an abstention from her party on the Ukraine-France bilateral security agreement vote.

In a possible landmark political victory, Macron secured abortion as a constitutional right despite opposition from religious and conservative factions. His administration staunchly advocates for women’s rights, with recent polls showing 85% public support for enshrining abortion rights.

What is changing Macron’s heat level?

Answer: Uncertainty regarding military aid to Ukraine in the US amidst the elections, and lack of charismatic leadership in Europe.

Macron’s material ability to replace the United States’ assistance to Ukraine is untenable at the moment. Historic European strategic reliance on the US adds particular constraints to the President’s ambitions. Yet, domestic American divisions over funding for Ukraine coupled with German vacillation gives Macron a unique opportunity to rhetorically stand out, even if France is unable to put its money where Macron’s mouth is.

With President Biden and former President Trump vying for public support, the issue of military aid to Ukraine dominates the 2024 campaign. Trump and his allies, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, exhibit passivity towards aid, prioritizing border security and questioning the usefulness of assistance. 

Amidst this uncertainty, Macron has an opportunity to assert leadership. However, French military aid to Ukraine falls behind in comparison to Germany, let alone the United States. From 2022 to 2023, Biden pledged almost $50 billion in military aid, with Germany providing less than half of this figure. The gap remains massive; if France wants to step up, they first have to catch up with countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden

On the other hand, European politicians and their constituents are carefully assessing the implications of providing or withholding aid to Ukraine, a situation most visible in Germany. While Scholz and Foreign Minister Baerbock vocally support Ukraine, their coalition government faces constant attacks from both left and right, addressing concerns ranging from inflation and soaring prices to the risk of confrontation with Russia. In this light, President Macron appears as a more feasible candidate for the position of European leader.

What is driving Macron? 

Answer: An urgent need to solidify his political future by emerging as a popular figure inside and outside of France, overcoming passive political rivalry with Scholz.

Over the years, Emmanuel Macron has been viewed as a contingency candidate. In recent French elections, the center-left and far-left factions have struggled to unite behind a single candidate against the consistently ascendant far-right figure Marine Le Pen. Similarly, Le Pen has failed to sway the center-right and market liberals, exacerbating the division and polarization in French politics. In both the presidential elections of 2017 and 2022, Macron only managed to defeat Le Pen in the second round, with all other political forces rallying behind him, except for the far right. Despite these victories, Macron’s approval ratings have consistently remained negative, largely attributed to a fear of the far right.

This constant pressure puts the French president in a position to transform his “best of the worst” reputation. This could be the moment when Macron and his team are feeling the weight of uncertainty. Through assertive actions, such as proposing the deployment of troops on Ukrainian soil and sharing photos of himself engaging in boxing exercises, Macron seeks to convince the public that he is the leader capable of confronting Putin, surpassing the likes of Scholz, Sunak, or any other European figure.

Last but not least, Macron is preparing for the European elections coming up this summer. With all the polls showing an unprecedented lead for the far-right, Macron does not want the RN to overtake the European parliament seats for France as the 2027 presidential and National Assembly elections can be seen over the horizon.

What does it mean for you?

Answer: More military aid to Ukraine; more pressure on Germany and preparation for every possible outcome from the US election. 

While most NATO member state leaders carefully deny the idea of deploying troops in Ukraine, Macron could cross this line and openly provide training assistance on Ukrainian soil. This move could further strain the peace process or potentially slow down the advancement of Russian troops, serving as a measure of deterrence.

For French citizens, Macron is sending a message that although he might not be able to run again in 2027, his political movement with the new young progressive Prime Minister Attal is here to stay. It will once again force both ends of the political spectrum to address the “Macron problem.”

European citizens might witness the gradual decline of the “traffic light” coalition in Germany. With most polls showing the conservative Conservative Democratic Union (CDU) party ahead and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) nearing second place, Germany’s potential return to conservative politics could significantly influence the future of the continent. CDU leadership is skeptical of continued military support for Ukraine, and the Russian links in the Afd might bring further division in the Bundestag – jeopardizing aid. Losing its second biggest provider of military aid would pose a large threat to the Ukrainian war effort.  

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the American and European public are bracing for the 2024 US presidential election. With the currently unpopular Biden attempting to defeat former president Trump, the future of the war in Ukraine could depend strictly on the outcome. While it remains unknown what Trump has planned for Putin and Biden seems to be remaining on his stance of maintaining military aid to Ukraine, one thing is certain: either decision will have major implications on European and global security, either by escalating or de-escalating tensions.

Potential members of NATO are tired of never-ending promises that NATO’s doors remain open. The Ukrainian frontline keeps deteriorating and Russian propagandists quite successfully exploit the so-called ‘fake NATO promises’ online, which could force Moldova and Georgia to rethink their entire geopolitical course. Moldova, with its frozen conflict, remains prone to Russian interference as de-facto Transnistria has recently pleaded for Russian protection. On the other hand, the Georgian government has been playing a somewhat neutral stance since the invasion of Ukraine and is planning to bring back the controversial ‘foreign agent’ bill that was heavily criticized in the West and praised in the Kremlin.