On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministers of France and Germany announced the creation of the Alliance for Multilateralism. It is to be officially inaugurated at the United Nations General Assembly in September, but the two countries are already in talks with other influential nations interested in joining. Australia, India, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico and Canada were specifically addressed as being interested in joining.
When asked about the United States, the AP reports the Foreign Minister of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said, “Whoever wants to join us can join us — it is against nobody.” Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, was more direct in his immediate reply, saying that he hadn’t spoken to the United States yet. He proceeded to explain:
“This alliance is an inclusive alliance,” he said. “So we don’t want a situation where countries are left out. We don’t lock out anyone. But, of course, we see multilateralism is under threat … and all of those who want to join such an initiative (should) also declare themselves to be multilateralists.”AP
“We would be happy, of course, if the United States were to join such an initiative, but this initiative has the aim to promote and strengthen the rules-based order and strengthen the international order. In the end, everyone will have to decide on which side they’re on.”
The inclusion of Japan and Australia as two of the earliest counties approached is telling. Japan is famed for its nationalistic bent, and Australia is a notoriously independent country. Seeking them as participants indicates that it is neither a sense of innate national superiority (Japan) which is a concern, nor a sense of strong patriotism and national identity (Australia) but rather policies that expect other countries to be subservient instead of equal partners.
Using a broad definition of multilateralism will allow for a potentially large number of participants. That serves the first stated goal of the organization:
The alliance’s first objective would be to show that countries that “support multilateralism and support the United Nations remain the majority in the world,” Le Drian said.DW.com
He went on to explain the second objective, “to create a network of countries ready to support multilateralism and co-operate including to fight inequality, tackle climate change and address the consequences of new technologies.”
Although not officially a direct repudiation of current U.S. policy, and the reasons stated in the discussions which lead to the announcement of the alliance have included the BRI initiative by China and moves to consolidate power by Russia, the organization reportedly developed as a response to the “America First” goals of President Trump.
Addressing the German ambassadors’ conference, Maas said in the era of “America First”, values such as cooperation, respect for international law and free trade have come under pressure worldwide.Xinhua 8/28/2018
Outside of Indonesia (which historically keeps itself unallied, in a modification of the Swiss model) the initial countries involved are traditional United States allies.
The effort to encourage primacy of American interests for American allies seems to be yielding results, but rather than aligning other nations to pursue American goals they are moving toward pursuing their national and international goals with diminished ties to the United States.