“Strategic Stupidity”

I am a dual citizen of the United States and France. Of course the whole world knows the obvious, that my US president Joe Biden is a senile old fool. But it is not so obvious that my French president Emmanuel Macron is a sophisticated and clever fool, but a fool nonetheless.

Over the past several weeks Macron has been formulating a public policy he called “strategic ambiguity.” The idea was to scare Putin and the Russians that the French army might or might not show up in Ukraine to stop the Russian advance. In Macron’s mind, the Russians would be afraid to attack a NATO member’s troops, though they would not be in Ukraine as NATO. In the last couple of days there was a report that a first contingent of soldiers from the French Foreign Legion (not French citizens) had been embedded in a Ukrainian unit.

Virus Mania: Corona/CO... Scoglio, Stefano Best Price: $43.80 Buy New $35.00 (as of 07:44 UTC - Details) While acting with ambiguity might make sense in a Pariasian dalliance it makes little sense in geopolitics. Take the example of WWI. From Wikipedia we find this standard view of the causes of WW I, “Other factors that came into play during the diplomatic crisis leading up to the war included misperceptions of intent (such as the German belief that Britain would remain neutral), the fatalistic belief that war was inevitable, and the speed with which the crisis escalated, partly due to delays and misunderstandings in diplomatic communications.” My emphases are in italics. My point here is not to get in the weeds about WWI, but I have read the Hidden History of WWI | The Corbett Report, so I know there is much more to know than what is written in a Wikiedpia article.

It is Statecraft 101 that ambiguity on war between nuclear powers is very dangerous. Thus, there existed the Hotline between Russia–United States. “… the Moscow–Washington hotline, also known as the “red telephone”, although telephones have never been used in this capacity. This direct communications link was established on June 20, 1963, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which convinced both sides of the need for better communications. It was the first time used by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on August 30, 1963 and utilized teletypewriter technology, later replaced by telecopier and then by electronic mail.”

Russia’s response was strong and direct, i.e., without ambiguity. They started drills for the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Furthermore, there were statements directly contradicting Macron, French troops would be treated as enemy combatants.

The Duran, the geopolitical news and comments website run by Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou is the go-to site for understanding this topic. Their discussion explains what happened,.

The Russian called in the French ambassador (and also ambassador to the UK for a similar gaffe by Lord Cameron) explaining the situation without ambiguity. Soon after the French totally backed down. They denied that French troops were in Ukraine and that they had no plans to send any. The French have no animosity towards the Russian people. Vladimir Putin is the true president of Russia and there is no desire for regime change. I could not find confirming articles to what the Duran reported but the French ambassador did attend the inauguration of Putin. La surprenante présence de l’ambassadeur de France à l’investiture de Vladimir Poutine (lemonde.fr)

Macron’s “strategic ambiguity” reminds me of an anecdote from my working life. I worked many years in an R&D group for a big French company. One very French manager once told a researcher going to a conference “to be mysterious.” All of us expats were dumbfounded.

It was Alex that coined the term “strategic stupidity” that so aptly describes the policies of Macron and other western leaders.