15.11.2018 Author: Deena Stryker

The Trump-Macron Debate


Unlike with other allies, periodically, the US relationship with France sours. Even people only half-interested in international affairs are aware of that. What is disturbing this time is that two parts of that relationship are in trouble: the nuts and bolts of defense, and fundamental geo-political concepts.

When French President Macron —who will clearly inherit Angela Merkel’s crown as the leader of Europe when she retires next year — referred to the need, shared openly by Merkel, for Europe to take responsibility for its own defense, “including, eventually, vis-a-vis the US” he was not suggesting that Europe should view the US as an adversary — or that the US views Europe as anything but an ally. He mentioned the US to make a point — in English, it would have been introduced with the expression ‘for that matter’ as in ‘anything can happen’. Donald Trump made a big deal of what was in fact, an off-hand remark, intended to convey its general nature.

Much more serious is the lack of agreement in terms of political concepts. Macron is the product of an elite French education which rests on a firm philosophical foundation as well as an intimate knowledge of history. Trump’s knowledge of political philosophy is null and as for history, in its place are ‘deals’. The two were bound to run into trouble, however much each, for different reasons, may wish to cooperate.

Macron correctly stated that ‘patriotism’ is the opposite of nationalism: pride in one’s history and one’s country’s achievements, versus disdain for other nations. Trump doesn’t do nuance, making the distinction drawn by the younger man all the more crucial. Making America Great Again is, in fact, the mirror image of Charles De Gaulle’s ‘grandeur’. However American superiority is not the same as French ‘rayonnement’, and even a typical American president would have to tread softly without carrying a big stick.

Like De Gaulle, Macron wants to retain control of French forces, HOWEVER, unlike the General, he is campaigning for a paradigm shift, his convening of a Peace Forum was intended to actively enroll as many countries as possible in a commitment to negotiations instead of war. Meanwhile Trump, although sincerely wishing to avoid a nuclear exchange with Russia or China — or even lesser players — has not yet made that attitude part of a broad commitment to negotiations over aggression. His claim that the French were learning German before the US became involved in European affairs couldn’t be more ridiculous: France and Germany have been enemies going back centuries. And it’s precisely with that long chapter over, that together, each with its own particular strength, they have ruled Europe since the mid-fifties, their unison increasing with each decade.

The recent introduction of Russia into this mix as partner of both, will never be emulated by the United States, not only because it inhabits another part of the globe, but because it can only imagine itself as top dog. If Europe partners in future, it will not be in the name of so-called shared ‘values’ but with a multifarious, but mutually respectful Eurasian community.

Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.