The subtle differences between Macron and Merkel on Biden’s America

The subtle differences between Macron and Merkel on Biden's America

What unites and what divides Macron and Merkel on the idea of ​​Europe in relation to America

Many commented on Emmanuel Macron's recent releases, but the most lucid and timely was Lorenzo Castellani, who analyzed the long interview of the French president in the magazine Le Grand Continent in Panorama , taken up in Italy by Corriere della Sera .

Castellani has the merit of perfectly grasping Macron's evolution from a "progressive and more left-leaning" leader to an "expression of a new social conservatism, moderately nationalist, pragmatically realist". A realism that, however, seems to leave room, we would say too much, for "some neo-Enlightenment illusion", such as that "strategic autonomy" that the French president indicates to Europe, implicitly declining it in terms of equidistance between Washington and London on the one hand and Beijing on the other.

Macron appears realistic in the analysis of internal dynamics, in recognizing the failures of globalization in European and Western societies, in the rejection of multiculturalism and in the awareness of the Islamic threat, in the re-evaluation of the nation-state and in the reaffirmation of popular sovereignty.

On immigration, and in particular on the Islamic threat, he is an eye-opening, pragmatic Macron. The break with both the leftist rhetoric of welcome, "no border" ("today we are witnessing a profoundly undue use of the right of asylum") and multiculturalism ("we are not multiculturalists, we do not add 'one upon the other the ways of representing the world ”, we must not apologize to anyone for our freedoms and our way of life).

Trumpian echoes in the critique of relocations, which have "forced part of our population into a feeling of uselessness, with profound economic, social but also psychological dramas". The middle classes in particular, and some of the weakest sections of the population, “have been the adjustment variable of globalization. And this is unacceptable, unsustainable, and we have undoubtedly underestimated it ”.

Again Trumpian echoes in the defense of the Westphalian system of nation-states: “Many of the problems do not arise at the level of the nation-state, it is true, and this presupposes cooperation. But cooperation does not imply the dissolution of the will of the people. Indeed, it presupposes knowing how to articulate it ”. Macron then says that he does not believe in the end of the nation-state: “I do not believe at all that this is a crisis of Westphalian sovereignty. (…) Furthermore, in everything I do at the international level, for me the most important element is always the sovereignty of the peoples. Every time we tried to replace it, we created imbalances. So I am deeply attached to this principle… to be jealously guarded ”.

Less realistic, however, on international dynamics, when the French president shows himself inclined to neo-Gaullist and anti-Atlanticist suggestions, invoking for Europe a “strategic autonomy”, which for years we have considered a dangerous illusion in Atlantico Quotidiano .

In continuity with his predecessors, Macron is aware that the fate of France is now inextricably linked to that of the European Union, in the sense that the latter is functional to the projection of power and the political objectives of the former. When French presidents say "Europe", they mean France. This sort of "European sovereignty" of Macron, therefore, is only the screen of French nationalism. Paris has always seen the EU as the only way left to pursue its ambition of grandeur . And now that the UK is out, being the only nuclear power left, it raises.

"It is a question of thinking in terms of European sovereignty and strategic autonomy , so that we can count on our own and not become the vassal of this or that power without having more say in the matter".

The European Union as the third power between China and the United States in a multipolar world, a sort of neo-Carolingian Europe is taking shape, we commented here on the Atlantic on the occasion of the signing of the Aachen Treaty.

For the French president, it is "the only way to impose our values, our common voice, to avoid the Sino-American duopoly" (which would imply having to take sides …). Indeed, it evokes a "Paris Consensus", a direct challenge to the liberal economic order designed by the so-called Washington Consensus . The focus is also on the supremacy of the dollar, of the Anglo-American language and law, as instruments of submission of European companies to the United States.

The United States will understand and respect us, Macron is convinced, "if we are sovereign with our own defense", "we must continue to build our autonomy for ourselves, as the United States does for them, and as China does for self". Again, Europe must learn to do for itself, like America and China.

Let's be clear: one thing is that Europe takes its safety seriously, and therefore bears the burdens to such an extent that it no longer appears as a free-rider in the eyes of Americans. If it is a question of spending more on defense, of taking on greater international responsibilities as Europeans in our areas, for example the Mediterranean and the Middle East, we can only expect approval from Washington.

But with "strategic autonomy" and a dying NATO (as the French president has repeated several times) we mean something else. In Macron the Gaullist and anti-Atlanticist vein beats strongly: we Europeans “are not the United States of America”. There are common but also conflicting values, and it is "unsustainable that our international policy depends on them or follows in their footsteps".

In words, of course, Macron is not leaning towards Beijing and seems sincere ("what I say is even more true for China"). But in fact, in the results, his is a doctrine in opposition to the United States, since releasing Europe from Washington's orbit would do a huge favor to its strategic rival: China. As explained by François Godement, of the European Council on Foreign Relations , in Beijing they interpret this European discussion on strategic autonomy not as evidence of a more united, more mature and stronger Europe, but, on the contrary, as a sign of weakening. , given that in this way the EU is moving away, separating from the main guarantor of its security: the United States. The dismantling of the transatlantic alliance – underway for some time by the Franco-German-led EU, not by the Trump administration as many think – is not accompanied by a strengthening of its geopolitical position. In short: the risk is to end up in the arms of the Chinese, an appendage of Eurasia.

The Macron doctrine, however, clashes with Berlin's pragmatism and Levantinism, which sees Donald Trump's exit from the White House as a narrow escape, precisely that of having to choose between the security umbrella offered by the US and his own Eurasian vocation.

In Berlin they have no crickets on their heads, they are perfectly aware of two things: first, an autonomous Europe as regards its security is simply an unrealistic hypothesis; second, starting a process in this direction would mean having to recognize the French leadership in the defense sector, and in practice handing it over the keys to EU foreign policy. Among other things, the French nuclear arsenal would not be enough. At the very least, the rearmament of Germany would also be needed, which at the moment appears not politically feasible, due to foreseeable internal and external resistance. Macron sees the common European defense, obviously French-led, as an alternative to NATO, the Germans as complementary.

The answer from Annegret Kramp-Karrembauer, defense minister and president of the CDU, arrived in the interview with the French president is unequivocal. She reiterated – as reported by – that "the most important ally in security and defense policy was and it's still the United States of America. And they will remain so for the foreseeable future ”. "Without America's nuclear and conventional capabilities, Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves." "Compensating for all this would take, according to serious estimates, decades."

In no uncertain terms, AKK therefore branded Macron's idea of ​​"strategic autonomy" as an "illusion": without NATO and the US, security, stability and prosperity in Europe are not guaranteed.

A discourse of reality, but if today it is delivered in Berlin in such explicit terms, it is also because of what is happening in Washington.

If you remember, not very long has passed since German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a Munich brewery, said that Americans and British could no longer be trusted and that Europe had to learn to "do it alone", had to take his destiny in his hands. Similar speeches, even in official contexts, followed one another during the four years of Trump's presidency. Not much different from what the French president claims today.

But in the aftermath of the American presidential elections, Merkel has already changed her tone: congratulating Joe Biden, she said that Germany and Europe are ready to face the world challenges "side by side" with the United States, including the pandemic , of course, the climate and international trade. Europeans know that "they must take on more responsibility", "make greater efforts on the security front". But as Germans, he recalled, "we have personally experienced what role the United States plays in the freedom and democracy of the world". “We are allies in NATO and we share fundamental values ​​and interests”. America remains "our most important ally" and, "rightly", expects "greater security efforts" from us.

The turning point is obvious. He is turning the page and preparing a relationship with the new US administration on a different basis, more similar to that established in the 8 years of Obama's presidency.

Trump's main fault, in the eyes of the chancellor, is having exposed the German (and European) mercantilist policy, jeopardized exports, called allies to order and requested proof of loyalty to the detriment of relations and economic interests , grown with Moscow ( Nord Stream 2 ) and Beijing ( 5G , exports, investments).

To Biden , Berlin offers a greater commitment on defense spending and broad cooperation on the China dossier, but this is because it rightly expects not to receive the costly demands made by Trump. Even the Germans are increasingly worried about Beijing's aggression and impatient at the lack of progress on the trade policy front, but they don't want to be drawn into a Cold War against China and expect Biden to work towards normalization.

In conclusion, what's the point? Berlin wants Europe to be as equidistant as Macron, but it knows it cannot do without the security guaranteed by the American taxpayer, and therefore knows it has to make some effort to maintain the alliance with the US, especially with Biden is convinced that it can continue to pursue its Eurasian vocation undisturbed and without risk both with China and with Russia. Obviously, by relying on Washington when needed to have more leverage in its relations with Beijing and Moscow. Being able now to count on the fact that the new US administration will not ask for proof of loyalty that could spoil them. Macron, on the other hand, would like to replace the US security umbrella with the French one, since this field, not the economic one, is where Paris can claim its leadership in Europe. But with Biden in the White House, the German nein strengthens.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Sat, 21 Nov 2020 06:13:08 +0000.