Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron: best friends or despised enemies? Their relationship seems to swing dramatically between love and hate, much like the characters in Katy Perry’s pop song “Hot N Cold.” Ms. Perry captured the essence of these two world leaders – and perhaps the overarching historical bond between the U.S. and France – in her 2008 hit:
You’re hot then you’re cold
You’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up then you’re down
Presidents Trump and Macron started their relationship with a bang, despite their seemingly polar opposite political ideology. Globalist Macron invited the newly-inaugurated American president to Paris, where Trump was immediately enchanted by the annual Bastille Day military parade down the Champs-Élysées. Then in April, the White House pulled out all the stops for a Macron visit to U.S. shores – a welcome far warmer than that received by Germany’s Angela Merkel in the same week.
The “great relationship” has turned somewhat sour – perhaps no surprise with two seemingly incompatible ideologies involved. While each man apparently thought from the beginning that he could charm, persuade and even control the other, it appears that each one’s will is stronger than the other bargained for.
As Macron espouses globalist tropes when not in Trump’s presence, he has continued to act buddy-buddy when in the two are in the same room. Despite previously sharing warm tweets and touchy-feely meetings, it seems Trump has tired of the double act, as seen on his latest visit to France, where he was expected to celebrate the centenary of WWI’s end.
Friends or Enemies?
One can only admire Macron’s nerve; he attempted to continue the knee-patting rapport, despite saying shortly before Trump’s visit that a European Army is needed to protect the continent from new and old enemies. “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia, and even the US,” he said, continuing:
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty [bilateral Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between U.S. and Russia] which was formed after the 1980s Euromissile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security. We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army. We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the US.”
Trump was quick to go on the offensive, pointing out that Europeans have been unable to meet their NATO defense spending obligations. He tweeted:
President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
Upon landing in France, Trump appeared frosty in a meeting with Macron. “We’re getting along from the standpoint of fairness, and I want to be fair. We want to help Europe, but it has to be fair,” Trump said. “Right now, the burden sharing has been largely on the United States as the President will say, and he understands that. He understands the United States can only do so much.”
Macron declared agreement, saying that “proposals for European defense are consistent” with Trump’s statement. It appears Macron – popular among global elites but suffering from a mere 21% approval rating among the French people – is desperately trying to bridge the gap between Europe and the U.S., while satisfying no one, least of all President Trump.
NATO or European Army?
France recently boosted its defense spending in line with Trump’s NATO demands, passing a budget in September that will take their defense spending up to 1.82% of GDP, with the goal of reaching their NATO commitment of 2% in 2025.
Despite his NATO efforts, Macron seems torn between the practicality of an alliance with the current “nationalist” U.S.A. and his own globalist ideology. Indeed, some have predicted that the European Union’s current “PESCO” defense union will attempt to woo E.U. member states away from NATO, in favor of further developing a European Army – a move that arch Europhile Macron is apparently all for.
The E.U. Army may be sold as a cheaper option, especially with Trump breathing down the necks of European leaders for funding they aren’t prepared to part with. Politico reporters claim to have seen a 2017 report by the Munich Security Conference stating that, “Up to 30 percent of annual European defense investment could potentially be saved through pooling of procurement.”
The possible ramifications for global diplomacy if E.U. nations were to turn away from NATO and toward a European Army are anyone’s guess – with the E.U. and the U.S. both gunning for Russia, splitting up their alliances would seem to make little sense. On the other hand, perhaps Europhile leaders feel the need to prove their union mightier than the superpower U.S. in order to achieve their end goal of a pan-European superstate. What greater evidence could there be in favor of globalism over Trump-style nationalism?
Macron made a show of attending WWI memorials, presenting dramatic ideological and moral statements on the role of nationalism in war. While some may disagree with Macron’s politics, his performance outshone that given by Trump, who missed an armistice commemoration due to “bad weather” – particularly bad optics when considering the conditions that WWI soldiers were forced to endure. He later spoke at Suresnes American Cemetery outside of Paris, however.
Europhile leaders feel the need to prove their union mightier than the superpower U.S.
Finally, at an Armistice Centennial commemoration attended by world leaders on the morning of Nov. 11, Macron made a final dig at Trump, saying that, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” The public insult may well be the final death blow for the bromance between these two presidents.
At the ceremony, intended to commemorate the end of war, we may have heard pretty speeches, but looking at the 60 world leaders in attendance, one can’t help but wonder what the occasion really means to them. With Trump and E.U. leaders sitting next to rival Vladimir Putin, globalists taking potshots at nationalists, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and his Arab adversaries, the juxtaposition prompts one not just to remember the past but to wonder about the future.