SZ Declares Macron’s Foreign Policy “Bankrupt”

10 April 2023

Germans have never warmed to Emmanuel Macron, even in the early days when he was busily trying to patch up the Franco-German “couple.” But the couple now appears to be on the rocks, if Germany’s authoritative Süddeutsche Zeitung is to be believed. In a lead editorial, the paper took aim at the interview that the French president granted to Les Echos and Politico, in which he called for European “unity” to create an “independent superpower” equidistant from both China and the US. For the SZ, this was the stuff of pure fantasy:

Macron verwendete dafür das dümmste und staubigste Argument aus der gaullistischen Mottenkiste – dass die Europäer sich aus der vermeintlich ewigen amerikanischen Bevormundung lösen müssten. Mit seinem Interview hat der französische Präsident einen Keil in Europas Beziehung zu den USA getrieben und zugleich einen Graben quer durch Europa aufgerissen. So viel Schaden mit ein paar Sätzen anzurichten, muss man erst mal schaffen.

Macron used the dumbest and dustiest argument from the Gaullist mothballs – that the Europeans must free themselves from the supposedly eternal American paternalism. With his interview, the French president drove a wedge into Europe’s relationship with the U.S. and at the same time opened a rift across Europe. It takes hard work to do so much damage with a couple of sentences. (Italics added.)

As so often with Macron, it’s easier to understand his intention than his execution. There is good reason to be concerned about the line the Biden administration has taken with China, which in my view has been unnecessarily confrontational and based on dubious assumptions about how best to compete with China’s economic ambitions (see my review of Chris Miller’s book Chip Wars in the current Democracy Journal, to which I linked in a previous post). But from there to conjure out of thin air a European superpower and an independent European foreign policy in the midst of a war in Europe that would already have been lost but for US assistance seems close to sheer folly.

If Macron hoped to distract from his troubles at home by stirring up a storm across Europe and across the Atlantic, there is reason to worry that this time he’s really lost his way. The SZ is actually a bit kind in likening Macron’s excursion to de Gaulle’s middle way, which was at least backed by a nuclear force de frappe that had a certain credibility in its time. And the French leader had the bad taste to give his interview as Chinese warships and warplanes were conducting a make-believe blockade of Taiwan. The best one can say for Macron is that US fantasies of defending Taiwan should China decide that it wants to invade are probably as fanciful as Macron’s. But he made more sense when he set out to charm Donald Trump than with this latest effort to frighten Joe Biden, which has only hollowed out a huge trench between France and the rest of Europe.

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1 Comment

  • Tim Smyth says:

    Something that needs to be kept in mind is that France actually sells significant arms to Taiwan(like Mirage 2000 Fighter Jets) unlike Germany. Second it seems to be increasingly obvious that Macron’s statement is close to a non issue in East Asia(I haven’t seen anything written about it in the local press) so the real issue is not really about France and Taiwan but as always and with everything France and the US.

    **There are host of other historical issues in the area of France/Taiwan relations such as the Republic of China actually being the one to sever diplomatic relations and close their embassy in Paris not the French side after DeGaulle’s recognition of the Mainland but I suspect these are long water under the bridge in both Taipei and Paris.

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