French President Emmanuel Macron had enough to say in a new and lengthy interview with Europe 1 radio to anger officials in both Washington and Moscow.
While calling for greater independence in European defense he managed to take aim at both Russia and the United States, saying “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the US.” He proposed in the Tuesday interview while at an event commemorating 100 years since the end of WWI that European leaders create a “real European army” not only to better defend the continent against Russia, but also to extricate French and European policy from that of the United States.
“We won’t protect Europeans if we don’t decide to have a real European army,” Macron said. “We must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States,” he asserted.
He further framed the idea in terms of combating rising nationalism and populism at home which might threaten the fragile peace on the continent, in an indirect reference to the build-up of tensions behind WWI. He called for a “stronger, protective Europe,” and decried an “increasingly fractured” continent that’s recently witnessed nationalism on the ascent.
Amidst discussing the ambitious proposal, which could make NATO further obsolete in the long-run, the French president took a swipe at Trump. Speaking of President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Macron said:
When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.
He said, “Russia… is near our borders and has shown it could be threatening,” and alarmingly described that “Peace in Europe is precarious.”
The closest thing to a current “EU army” that does exist (if it can be called even that) – the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) – is generally perceived as more of a civil and emergency response joint EU member mechanism that would be ineffectual under the threat of an actual military invasion or major event.
There’s been similar grumblings over the US decision to pull out of the INF in Germany, though Macron was the first head of state openly level the charge that the Trump White House is now putting European security at risk. Germany and France and other European countries have also sought to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, and have sought ways to circumvent US sanctions on Tehran.
Within the past year Trump has pushed for NATO countries to pull their weight in terms of defense spending. According to 2017 numbers, the U.S. accounted for 51.1% of NATO’s combined GDP and 71.7% of its combined defense expenditure, which amounts to more American funds to NATO than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK and Canada combined.
Thus the natural and long term by-product of a “real European army” — as Macron is suggesting — would be the slow eroding and demise of US power in the region, something that Putin would also no doubt welcome, so maybe there’s actually mutual interests in Paris and Moscow here.