Mali’s decision to turn to Russia for help was salt in the wound for Macron and his delusional views of France holding onto the hegemony there.
The hypocrisy is both stunning and comical. Mali has been in the news in the last couple of years for having a military coup in 2020 which installed a junta and then again in 2021 when the temporary civilian leader experiment was annulled by the military who took full control.
During this period, France has also been in the news for helping Mali with its fight against terrorism as the country stands at a pivotal point in the Sahel where Islamic terror groups operate and which, we are led to believe, were threatening the stability of this West African country and former colony of France.
Macron’s perceived position at the beginning was to send 5000 French troops there are a vanguard to a UN mission to keep the extremists at a distance and install France’s supremacy. The troops sent a message to the world and to the West in particular that showing a force against Islamic extremist groups operating in Mali and neighbouring countries was the right thing to do.
Critics of Macron both in Bamako and Paris point out however that there is a hidden agenda to Macron’s Mali policy, which is to serve France’s interests as an investor in the country and to stop any impending immigration flows to Paris. The French soldiers are also there to protect French nationals working for French companies.
But the relationship between the junta and France was always a fragile one. In early January, that relationship reached a breaking point as Macron threw the lever which set those relations to ‘reset’.
The official line from France’s foreign minister is that a recent move by Mali’s military to reschedule elections in five years has exhausted the patience of Paris.
The real reason however which prompted Macron to rapidly respond to his demands to sanction the regime in Mali is Russia.
In recent days it has emerged that around 400 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group have arrived in Mali to support the regime.
This, and only this, is what has caused the fuse to jump. This is the ‘klack’ which has overloaded the circuit and got Macron in a state, to such a point that analysts in France have suggested that his decision to reduce French soldiers there since a year ago will now be accelerated following the Wagner presence.
Many will wrangle over the question whether it the reduction of French soldiers itself which prompted Russia to fill the vacuum. Or whether intelligence which got to France months ago that the regime was about to make such a move prompted Macron’s withdrawal.
In either case, it doesn’t show France and the EU to be very convincing powers in the region. France’s attitude was always a paternalistic one as it expected the regime to fall into line with the Elysee’s folly of democratising in the same way it has attempted to do in Lebanon. But the decision to turn to Russia for help was salt in the wound for Macron and his delusional views of France holding onto the hegemony in this failed state. The fact that Mali’s regime can’t take Macron seriously or rather sees through its veiled objectives and has turned to Russia is hardly surprising. In the region, Russia is playing a role more in line with what the West aspires to, but cannot pull off: regional super power hitting terror groups hard and building states. What Moscow has achieved in Syria is practically a geopolitical miracle which has won the praise and respect of former enemies in the Middle East who are now lining up in Washington to harangue the Biden administration to bring Assad in from the cold.
In Africa, both France and the EU have big ideas. The EU showed this week, by supporting Macron’s demands to hit it with sanctions, that it will support Macron’s absurd ideas about Paris being the big brother of its francophone former colonies. It’s about keeping a dream alive as, with France still playing such a paternalistic role, the EU is then afforded the opportunity to pump aid money into such countries and claim them as theirs, rather than America’s or Russia’s.
But the Mali debacle is showing the whole world how the EU model of hegemony, arm in arm with Paris, is failing. If Macron is so upset by the regime’s move that he is prepared to resort to such shameful vitriol against the regime, then France should forget about its African wet dreams and accept a new reality in the world, a new world order which we can see on our TV screens every day, which is that Russia, China and Iran are taking more power in Africa and the Middle East and are delivering on their side, when it comes to giving sovereign states what they want in return. The news just this week that China was developing new relations with Morocco is proof of that, or indeed that Beijing is helping Saudi Arabia with its ballistic missiles program. What happened in Mali is just another example of how the West’s model on hegemony is both outdated and fatally flawed. Macron is so obsessed with his media coverage and taking every opportunity to swipe at Brexit Britain’s economic success that he probably hasn’t time to read the memos from his advisors. This week France became almost a minor EU member state, turning to Nanny Brussels for help in its role as bully in the playground. Pathetic on so many levels. Just like Macron being scared that Russian mercenaries will intimidate French soldiers as part of a power struggle between Russia and the West which the latter is losing time after time in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan Belarus and even Poland. Mali has fallen, but others will follow and no new “EU pillar” in NATO would have ever prevented it.