Trump’s Visit to France Marks Reversal in Trump’s ‘Isolation’

French President Emmanuel Macron will not attempt to pressure US President Donald Trump into any difficult situation, as his goal is to make the best of a difficult situation, Dr. Igor Delanoë, Deputy-Head of the French-Russian Analytical Center Observo, at the French-Russian Chamber of Commerce, told According to Delanoë, Iran will remain a point of contention, particularly as the French and US presidents deal with the issue of Syria.

Today, we can hardly talk about a “personal chemistry” between the two presidents. Actually, their first meeting on the sideline of the Brussels NATO summit in May has been depicted as quite awkward. By inviting Trump to attend the July 14 celebrations in Paris, President Macron aims to repair initial tensions, which arose during the past weeks with regard to the climate, trade and immigration. President Macron has used symbols and history to bolster its diplomacy.

The last US President to attend the Bastille Day celebrations was George H. W. Bush in 1989, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of US Army engagement in World War I. More than a personal chemistry, both men have in common their pragmatism, which should structure their personal relations and allow them to overcome divergences.

President Macron will not moralize President Trump over thorny issues, and that should be much appreciated by Donald Trump who has been lectured almost every day since he is in office by US media and the so-called “establishment” in DC. In that sense, Macron is acting in a much different way than François Hollande or Angela Merkel did. Most probably, Donald Trump has not forgotten the tough speech they gave as a reaction to his election in November.

Trump’s Relations with the EU

The idea of having relationship between Trump and Macron to become a bridge between US and Western Europe is viable. In Eastern Europe, Washington seems to have chosen Warsaw as an entry point for its policy. In Western Europe, the US currently do not have many options. Great Britain’s foreign policy is focused on successfully implementing the Brexit, and in Germany Angela Merkel’s criticism of Trump has highlighted deep divergences between Berlin and the White House.

In the US, many people tend to see the German chancellor as the “temple keeper” or the last European leader embodying the values of liberal democracies, including economic strength. Nevertheless, the threats of new US sanctions on Russia, especially with respect to the energy sector, have prompted Angela Merkel to react toughly against Washington’s plan to interfere in European energy affairs.

The election of Emmanuel Macron and the relative uncertainties in the relationships between Berlin and Washington have therefore placed France in a particularly interesting position. One of President Macron’s core priority remains building up the EU’s unity. In that perspective, France could play the role of a bridge between Brussels and Washington. Should Macron and Trump succeed in establishing workable, pragmatic relations, it could, by the same token, partially offset the current misbalance between France and German stemming from French structural economic difficulties.

The Climate Issue, Terrorism, Iran etc.

It is unlikely that President Macron will be able to reverse Trump’s position on the climate. A new summit on climate’s change has been scheduled in Paris in December, so negotiations will be ongoing until this next meeting. For Trump, this trip to France is an opportunity to demonstrate that Washington is not as isolated as depicted by the US newspapers after the G20 summit in Hamburg. Besides, Donald Trump came to Paris with CIA director Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Lieutenant General Herbert McMaster and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.

Both presidents have tackled the issue of terrorism with their respective teams of senior advisers. Paris and Washington share the common goal of destroying Daesh and avoiding any resurgence of the terrorist group. In that perspective, Paris and Washington should team up to avoid any “coalition fatigue” in the coming month, especially after the liberation of Mosul and the coming fall of Raqqa.

Yet, the issue of Iran remains a point of contention. Trump has put under question the legitimacy of the JCPOA whereas Paris has taken this agreement for granted, like most of the international community. Trump’s threat to rebuke the JCPOA and to decide new sanctions on Teheran threaten not only to increase instability in the Middle East, but also to put in jeopardy France’s plans to revive its business in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It furthermore raises the question of the extraterritoriality of US legislation. In that regard, the “BNP Paribas” effect is actually more damaging than the sanctions per se, for they compel economic actors to over-comply with US laws, simply preventing them from doing business in Iran.  

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.