All eyes are on Angela Merkel because of her unhappiness over Trump’s lecturing her on Germany’s anemic defense budget and his refusal to sign onto the fraudulent Paris Agreement on climate change. (See Kimberly Ross’s post on that subject.)
Let me digress for just a moment. Germany has no room to talk about anyone being an unreliable ally. Throughout the latter decade or two of the Cold War, the possibility that Germany would go the way of Finland and Austria was never far from the minds of NATO defense planners. Three years ago I posted on how we ended up with an armored brigade near Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. No one believed that a Soviet invasion of Germany would not involve the use of tactical nuclear weapons because Soviet military doctrine made no distinction between tac-nukes and conventional ordnance. The tac-nukes just gave a bigger bang. Yet we were not allowed to even simulate the use of, or reaction to, tac-nukes in Germany because the Germans befouled themselves at the thought of it. Germany really has no business calling anyone else unreliable. Merkel reminds me more and more of the jilted mistress in Fatal Attraction.
Back to the post.
Trump spent some time with Emmanuel Macron at the G-7. Unlike Merkel, he was upbeat about his experience.
Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron showered high praise on President Trump’s “capacity to listen” after meeting the U.S. president at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Italy, The Associated Press reported Saturday.
“I found someone who is open and willing to deal well with us,” Macron said.
Macron’s commendations of Trump followed tense discussions between G7 members about whether Trump would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate deal. Trump was the only leader who declined to pledge his support for the agreement, saying on Saturday he’d make a final decision on the deal next week.
But Macron, who was elected earlier this month, spoke more fondly of his discussions with Trump, recalling that the two men were able to communicate respectfully and productively.
“I saw a leader with strong opinions on a number of subjects, which I share in part — the fight against terrorism, the willingness to keep our place in the family of nations — and with whom I have disagreements that we spoke about very calmly. I saw someone who listens and who is willing to work,” he said.
I think The Hill grabbed this one comment a bit out of context. The Guardian has a bit of a different take on it. Their set-up is the famous white-knuckle handshake between Macron and Trump.
“My handshake with him – it wasn’t innocent,” Macron told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in an interview on Sunday. “It’s not the be-all and the end-all of a policy, but it was a moment of truth.”
The much commented-upon power play, during which each man held the other’s gaze for a long moment, was described by one observer as a “screw you in handshake form”. It ended when the US president, after two attempts, finally succeeding in disengaging.
“Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power, Macron said. “That doesn’t bother me. I don’t believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues I won’t let anything pass.”
The French president, who had never held elected office before decisively defeating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in this month’s runoff, added: “That’s how you ensure you are respected. You have to show you won’t make small concessions – not even symbolic ones.”
I think Macron has that completely correct and I think Trump would probably agree with him. The fact is that international relations are about a balance of power. A third tier nation, like France, has little value in that system except where it can make its power felt in relentlessly protecting its national prerogatives. Merkel seems to think that everyone is striving for a win-win, no matter if it is the Russians or Erdogan sending waves of refugees to destabilize Germany.
Overall, the view expressed by Macron shows that there is a greater chance of improved relations with France than there is of working closely with Merkel.