Cambridge: France's leaders proposed a new alliance of "goodwill powers" in an attempt to revive the type of global diplomacy that they say is being jeopardised by the United States, Russia and other countries that favour unilateralism over cooperation.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the plan during a speech at Harvard University Friday, suggesting that Europe should align itself with countries like India, Australia, Mexico and other "powerful democracies" that share a commitment to multilateralism.
His speech described an erosion of the brand of diplomacy that brought nations together following World War II and led to the creation of the United Nations, saying some countries now resort to disinformation and intimidation to pursue their own interests.
Speaking through an interpreter, he told The Associated Press that he believes the United States "methodically and regularly jeopardizes the fundamentals of multilateralism" through its approach to the UN, trade deals and other international agreements.
"Do we have to suffer that situation without doing anything, without taking any kind of initiative? I think our point of view is that we don't," he said. "In these uncertain times, it is important that we speak up."
Although it's still little more than an idea, the coalition would intend to go on with or without the US. Still, the minister denied any attempt to isolate America, saying it would be embraced and could play a strong role if it chooses to join.
"We don't want to create any opposition. Our objective is to revive multilateralism, which has been the way of doing things since the end of World War II," he said. "It's not against anybody, but we see it as a real issue."
The proposal builds on French President Emmanuel Macron's recent calls for greater global cooperation, including a Tuesday speech at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Macron decried nationalism and self-interest in his speech, which followed shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump gave his own address defending an America-first policy and saying he rejects "the ideology of globalism" in favour of "the doctrine of patriotism."
At Harvard, Le Drian made few direct references to Trump but cited behaviour by the US and Russia as two major factors in his decision to pursue a new alliance.
He criticized the US for backing out on deals including a 2015 accord meant to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and he lamented that Russia and other nations have paralysed the UN Security Council by invoking their veto power to block action.
But he said there are plenty of other nations that would make good allies for France and its neighbours in Europe as they confront global problems including cybersecurity, immigration, climate change and international crises in Syria and Libya.
Le Drian listed India, Australia, Japan, Canada and Mexico as possible allies that are committed to global cooperation. He issued a call "to create with them a collective action to initiate and suggest solutions."
Still, he said discussions are just beginning, and it's too soon to know which countries may sign on.
"Goodwill is just goodwill. It's open to anybody," he told the AP. "It's something that is being discussed as a way of getting out of the quagmire we're finding ourselves in."