French President Emmanuel Macron once again is impetuously chasing national and personal glory in the capitals of autocracies. First, he repeatedly tried appeasing Vladimir Putin at Kyiv’s territorial expense, before and after the start of the Russian president’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Now, having failed to persuade Putin, Macron appears to be attempting to do the same by cozying up to Chinese President Xi Jinping to the detriment of Kyiv and its Western allies, including the national security of the United States.
As former U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) caustically posted on his Twitter feed on Sunday, “Why is this always the French?” Why indeed? And, why now, in the face of Moscow and Beijing’s assault on the international order, as it has existed since the end of World War II, is Macron willing to play into Russia and China’s autocratic “multipolar world” designs at the expense of global democracy?
Macron’s pursuit of his vision of European “strategic autonomy” is nothing new. Neither are his repeated failures to pull it off. For all his ambition, he keeps misreading the room, particularly when it involves Ukraine. “New NATO,” Poland especially, wants nothing to do with his grandiose concept of a France-led European “strategic autonomy.” Warsaw painfully still remembers Paris’s failed pre-World War II security guarantees.
When war broke out on Sept. 1, 1939, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, France — despite its guarantee to march on Germany — “merely advanced five miles into the German Saarland,” where it “stopped and stayed stopped.” Poland, after the war’s end, found itself on the inside looking out at the West. Warsaw’s reward for believing in France? Decades of brutal Soviet domination.
Yet, despite repeated rejection by NATO, Macron persists. On Sunday, while aboard Cotam Unité — France’s Airbus A330 version of Air Force One — returning to Paris from a three-day state visit to China, Macron’s never-ending machinations to establish France as a “third superpower” at Europe’s expense, took a far darker and divisive turn. The French president acerbically called for Europe to cease being “America’s followers,” lest the continent get “caught up in crises that are not ours.”
Recklessly, Macron also asserted that “Europe should not follow U.S. policy over Taiwan,” despite Taipei being increasingly under the threat of a Chinese invasion. Macron’s comments came on the heels of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the U.S., where she met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and received the Hudson Institute’s Global Leadership Award. Beijing, in response, sanctioned the hosts of both events.
Macron’s self-defeating journey into the darkness of Xi’s world and oft-repeated attempts of autocratic appeasement for vainglory is evocative of James Tyrone, the lead character in Eugene O’Neill’s 1956 play, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Macron, like Tyrone, is a “vain actor,” seeking ever-elusive success and international standing at the expense of his NATO family. Like Tyrone ignoring his wife Mary’s drug addiction, Macron remains oblivious to that which he wishes not to see, including Putin and Xi’s addiction to autocracy on a global scale.
In Macron’s case, however, he fails to comprehend that he would have Europe trade its benign “dependency” on the U.S. in return for eventual subjugation by Moscow and Beijing — in effect, trading democracy for autocracy and “strategic autonomy” for economic slavery. Moreover, to the extent that France is “dependent” on the U.S., it is a reliance forged by the blood and sacrifice of American troops in defending France and ensuring the survival of the nation’s motto — Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité — spanning both world wars.
More than 60,000 troops, nearly half of all U.S. servicemen and women interred abroad, are buried in 11 cemeteries covering 626 acres across France. These consecrated graveyards, maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, also commemorate 7,032 American soldiers whose remains were never found. Their locations in French regions — Meuse Argonne, Somme, Lorraine and Normandy — mark the bloody fighting by U.S. troops in defending and liberating France, not once but twice within living memory.
How hypocritical it is, therefore, that Macron, president of a country whose territorial integrity was twice restored by the U.S., is so eager to deprive Ukraine and Taiwan of their own, all in the name of “strategic autonomy.” Like Tyrone, Macron is seemingly self-unaware. NATO views him as unreliable in the defense of eastern Europe’s security. Now, with his calls for closer cooperation with Beijing, France’s allies in the Pacific will question Paris’s reliability as a security partner as well.
To answer Kinzinger’s question as to why, it is likely due, in part, to a combination of ego and petulance — ego dating to Charles de Gaulle’s “exalted and determined” self-conceit that ever since has infused the Élysée Palace and its subsequent seven presidential residents straddling George Pompidou to Macron, and petulance over the ongoing fallout related to AUKUS, the trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., and the late 2021 decision to equip and sell Canberra nuclear-powered submarines as a counterweight to China’s growing military might in the Pacific — resulting in Australia backing out of its $65 billion conventional submarine deal with France.
It is also because France has yet to fully find its post-World War II place on the international stage. Failed attempts at continued global relevance included the fall of French Indochina in the Pacific in 1954 and Mideast Suez Crisis in 1956 — resulting in the loss of influence throughout the world. Paris fared no better in the decolonization of its African colonies, particularly the violent end of 132 years of colonial rule in Algeria after a nearly eight-year war.
If France is to remain relevant in the Western world, Macron must recognize his role is that of an equal partner, not that of a modern-day Napoleon. For now, however, Macron is lost in the fog of the war in Ukraine, not dissimilar to the night fog that overtakes the Tyrone house at the end of O’Neill’s play. Macron cannot see past the dysfunction of his actions, and consequently, the French president’s long day’s journey back from Beijing is leaving France’s future lost yet again in the fog of a Parisian night.
Source : The Hill