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Macron’s pyrrhic victory over Trump

The Washington Post

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(Ludovic Marin)

It was another embarrassing European visit for President Trump, who traveled to Paris on Friday for ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It might have been an easy opportunity to mend fences and honor the sacrifices of Washington’s traditional allies. Instead, Trump only underscored the widening gulf between the United States and its European partners.

Before he even landed, Trump provoked controversy by attacking French President Emmanuel Macron over comments Macron made on international security.

Then, on Saturday, Trump skipped a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, which honors U.S. soldiers killed in the Battle of Belleau Wood — because of rain in Paris. The decision sparked a furious reaction from American commentators and observers elsewhere, who said the bad weather should not have stopped Trump from doing his duty. A host of other leaders and dignitaries, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, braved the elements to pay their respects.

“Rain was a regular feature on the Western Front,” Tobias Ellwood, a conservative British parliamentarian and the country’s minister for veterans, quipped in a tweet. “Thankfully it didn’t forestall our courageous heroes from doing their job.”

On Sunday, Trump — in addition to Russian President Vladimir Putin — skipped a procession of dozens of world leaders, who walked collectively down the Champs-Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe. The symbolism was not lost on the watching press. Then, by that well-known monument, Macron delivered a pointed rebuke of Trump’s “America First” agenda.

“Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said. “By placing our personal pursuits first, with no regard for others, we erase the very factor {that a} nation holds dearest, and the factor that retains it alive: its ethical values.”

Whatever “bromance” as soon as existed between Trump and his French counterpart has lengthy pale, regardless of a few polite tweets shared this weekend. Trump withdrew from each the Paris local weather accord and the Iran nuclear deal, ignoring Macron’s efforts to steer him in any other case. He has cheered the rise of right-wing populists all through Europe, together with home rivals of Macron. Meanwhile, the French president has consciously styled himself in opposition to Trump.

“I believe [Macron] has shed any phantasm about Trump that flattering him will probably be a manner of getting concessions,” Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution advised The Post. “But he’s hesitant to push again exhausting as a result of he’s unsure what that can get him. It’s cautious realism.”

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Macron insisted that his beliefs should not these of the jet-setting “globalist” caricature evoked by Trump and his far-right counterparts in Europe, however are as a substitute these of a practical internationalist conscious of the shared challenges dealing with world leaders.

“I might say I’m a patriot. I do consider in the truth that our individuals are essential and having French folks is totally different from German folks. … But I’m not a nationalist,” Macron mentioned. “I’m a powerful believer in cooperation between the totally different peoples, and I’m a powerful believer of the truth that this cooperation is sweet for everyone, the place the nationalists are generally far more primarily based on a unilateral strategy and the regulation of the strongest, which isn’t my case. That’s most likely our distinction.”

In that perception, Macron is joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel — arguably an important institution determine in Europe however a diminished chief now clearly within the twilight of her profession. “It’s straightforward to destroy establishments, but it surely’s extremely tough to construct them,” Merkel mentioned Sunday, as soon as extra defending the post-World War II worldwide order that has assured a lot of Europe many years of peace and prosperity.

On Saturday, Macron and Merkel went to Compiegne, the place the armistice that ended World War I used to be signed — and the place Hitler compelled France’s give up in 1940. At a website of nationwide victory and defeat for each international locations, they rallied for unity.

But such an emotional scene might not fairly replicate the spirit of the current. Like Macron, Merkel has warned of Europe’s must strengthen itself collectively within the face of an unreliable United States. Yet each leaders face stiff political checks at house.

Macron’s approval rankings slumped to file lows in latest months. A ballot final week positioned Macron’s centrist ruling social gathering behind the French far-right forward of subsequent 12 months’s elections for the European Parliament. And Merkel’s announcement that she is not going to search reelection as German chancellor was seen as a mark of the waning clout of liberal centrism on the continent.

As each the far proper and the left collect energy, European leaders are struggling to seek out frequent floor on points starting from financial coverage to immigration and find out how to confront the Kremlin.

“Europeans are too deeply divided amongst themselves — and on the basics,” Dominique Moïsi, a international coverage analyst on the Institut Montaigne in Paris and former Macron marketing campaign adviser, advised my colleague James McAuley. “He’s weakened by the truth that he’s orphaned by Merkel and he’s weakened inside by the spectacular fall of his reputation.”

These divides — and his personal home travails — hobble Macron’s makes an attempt at international management, analysts recommend. “There is a transparent north-south division over the euro disaster and an east-west division over migration and Russia,” Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations advised The Post. “You even have extremely polarized societies in most member states, and that does imply that having a single chief of Europe is sort of utopian in the mean time.”

As a part of the pleasantries of the go to, Macron declared his “nice solidarity” with Trump. But the true bond they share might merely be that of presidents combating uphill battles.

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