Tuesday, April 24, 2018


President Macron is the first head of state to make an "official visit" to the United States "under" Trump. The two leaders bragged a lot about their mutual understanding which started for real when they met in Paris last Bastille Day. The American president fell for the French panache and promised himself to be a match in due time (the same happened to Hitler after he had received an over-the-top ceremony and parade by Mussolini).

Indeed, the body language in this Franco-American lembrace was almost embarrassingly spectacular. Kisses, embraces, a flirt allegro con brio, were for all to see.  The French president took the initiative--noblesse oblige--but he found in Trump an obliging, if not skilled, partner. 

It is hard to guess what the results of this Sumo love-fest might be, given Trump's penchant to agree with the last person he talks to. Nevertheless, one could argue that Emmanuel Macron is the winner.  After all, he managed to transfer to France the role which was traditionally played by the United Kingdom. Theresa May (like Angela Merkel, expected in Washington on Friday) suffers from a debilitating, diminished relevance. France is becoming America's chosen ally.

The score on particular issues looks more ambiguous but Macron was able to dislodge certain issues from Trump's purgatory. He did not achieve a reversal but he created some diplomatic flux, mostly regarding Syria and Iran. Where Trump  tried to distance himself from the geo-political quagmires by denouncing (Iran deal) or quitting (Syria), Macron suggested  more long-term engaged measures in a multilateral form.

The French ideas regarding the Iran deal tend to complement it by various measures which would address both the strategic shortcomings of the existing agreement (which has to be prolonged) and the collateral nefarious actions of Tehran in the region. Hence the need to take up the Syrian problem and maintain a military presence until a political solution might be found, so that Syria becomes a buffer against Iran's push to the Mediterranean. Macron looks into an alternative for past initiatives regarding Syria which amounted to nothing. Wisely, he alluded to the involvement of regional powers together with the US, Russia and Turkey.

It is unclear if the hawks around Trump will be complacent. Besides that, Trump remains a joker in this diplomatic give and take. In the press conference he veered again between hostility (the press), denial (previous administrations) and blunder (Kim Jong-Un = "honorable").  He looked as if he had studied Berlusconi's body-language as to appear more European (in his mind), but both the model and the result are more awkward than convincing. The official dinner is already becoming the talk of "this town" (Mark Leibovich's satire). Trump's predecessors will be lambasted again, but their tableware will be used. The uninvited America's pays reel--arts, press, Establishment--will take the high ground and President Macron will have to do with the left-overs and the unloved. In the end he got what he came for--Donald Trump--but, for how long?

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