Macron is right, Europe must come out of America’s shadow and reject the bipolar, Cold War era world view pedalled by Washington
The French president is showing signs that he’s willing to follow the path first forged by General De Gaulle, who kicked US forces out of France and pulled the country out of NATO to preserve sovereignty and independence.
It was a remarkable statement from a modern European leader. During a visit to Lithuania this week, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems. We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the US and China.”
Macron has shown repeated signs of wanting to lead an effort to reject global models that are now as outdated as the Berlin Wall. And that includes Europe’s role in the world as a third major pole in this multipolar world now divided primarily into East and West. But it has been an uphill battle. Old institutions that depend on outdated paradigms have shown that they’re willing to sacrifice peace, prosperity, and progress, rather than be forced to take a hard look in the mirror.
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NATO, which exists to make US foreign policy seem like a multilateral coalition effort in the same way that a gang leader who wants to beat someone up always asks his posse to accompany him, is one such institution. And it hasn’t escaped Macron’s attention.
“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told the Economist in an interview last year.
Macron was referencing American unilateralism under President Donald Trump. But when has cooperation with other countries ever mattered beyond the US paying lip-service to the idea? When have other NATO nations not been strong-armed into backing an intervention or initiative that the US had already decided that it wanted?
The French president has said that NATO – created for the sole purpose of opposing the old Soviet Union – should modernize its raison d’être in light of new threats. “Is our enemy today, as I hear sometimes, Russia? Is it China? Is it the Atlantic alliance’s purpose to designate them as enemies? I don’t think so,” Macron has said, suggesting that terrorism could be the new boogeyman instead.
While visiting French troops this week serving a NATO mission in the Baltics – who are there on the pretext of protecting the region from Russia – Macron also underlined France’s initiative of strategic dialogue with Moscow. Equally absurd is the fact that Macron is constantly having to defend any rapprochement with Russia, as though diplomacy and cooperation should be strictly reserved for nations with which you’re already in total lockstep.
Europe has to forge its own agenda and partnerships, even if NATO decides to stick to shadowboxing with the ghosts of past conflicts. If Europe doesn’t look out for its own interests, no one else will. The US certainly won’t. Whenever American interests come into conflict with Europe’s, it’s always Europe that takes the hit.
For example, Europe was set to be the primary commercial beneficiary of the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. The American government had long been in unilateral control of who could or couldn’t do business in Iran, granting certain companies waivers and exemptions from sanctions at their sole discretion. Lifting all sanctions in exchange for inspections was set to be a boon for Europe’s economy. But because Trump decided to withdraw from the agreement, Europe’s plans were dashed.
And it was only because the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to supply Europe with Russian gas, is at odds with US interests, that European companies and governments have been repeatedly threatened by the US. “We will do everything we can to make sure that that pipeline doesn’t threaten Europe,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “We want Europe to have real, secure, stable, safe energy resources that cannot be turned off in the event Russia wants to.” Translation: Washington wants Europe to buy their gas and to be dependent on America. This would also allow the US to threaten to turn off the supply at any time. And to prove just how much Pompeo cares about Europe’s welfare, he’s also wielding sanctions against European companies involved in the project.
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These examples show that the existential threat to Europe isn’t Russia. It’s not Russia that’s always trying to drag European countries into questionable foreign interventions. It’s not Moscow that’s harming the continent’s economy by threatening it with sanctions whenever it adopts a position at odds with Russia’s own interests.
Macron has the right idea. And he’ll continue to face enormous pressure, bullying, and manipulation attempts for attempting to foster European independence and prosperity through increased diversification of its interests and a better balance of its partnerships.
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