Macron’s visit to Beijing stirred up controversy, causing divisions within the European Union and between EU countries and the United States. His comments on the need for Europe to achieve strategic independence from America were met with surprise and criticism from some EU countries and the US, who accused him of promoting Gaullism and ingratitude towards America’s contributions to the West, including France.
Macron believes that the real battle for Europe lies in establishing itself as a powerful political, economic, and military bloc alongside the major global players such as the US, Russia, and China. He views the conflict in Ukraine as a systematic assault on Europe, which underscores the need for Europe to act in its own interests rather than those of others.
During his visit, Macron reaffirmed France’s support for the “one China” policy, recognizing Beijing as the sole legitimate representative of China and Taiwan as an inalienable part of China. He urged Europeans to adopt an independent stance on the Taiwan issue, calling for peaceful resolution based on Beijing’s proposal of “one country, two systems.” Interestingly, he echoed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s views on the unprecedented changes occurring in the world today, which have not been seen for a century.
President Macron appears to have had enough of the internal protests in France, which have been fueled by the country’s poor economic conditions, high prices, energy losses, and other issues. He believes that the United States bears a significant responsibility for these problems, particularly after canceling the French Australian submarine deal worth an estimated 35 billion euros. The US persuaded Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines under a new deal with the US and Britain, known as Aukus, causing France to suffer significant financial losses. The US and Britain view the submarine deal as a strategic shift in the world, leading to the tripartite alliance between England, America, and Australia. However, if France were invited to join the alliance, it would not accept it. Additionally, US protectionist policies on some local industries have caused further losses for French exports to the US.
During the war in Ukraine, the US requested that European countries participate in the economic blockade on Moscow and not buy gas from Russia in exchange for America’s pledge to supply European countries with gas. However, the price of American gas was significantly higher than that of Russian gas, leading to additional burdens on the French citizen. The US justifies this by stating that the US does not produce gas but sells liquefied gas to European countries, which is heavy, and the cost of transporting it by ships is very high. Therefore, it cannot sell them gas at a low price as Putin was doing, as he used gas as a political weapon in dealing with Europe. Additionally, the companies that sell American gas are private, so the US government cannot exert any pressure on them.
Since becoming president in 2017, Macron has called for strengthening Europe to lead the world by forming a unified European force. He has advocated for the formation of a European army, so that Europe would not remain dependent on NATO, which today consists of 30 European countries as well as America. He believes that leadership should be in European hands, specifically in the hands of France, due to its significant role in the international arena and extensive colonial history. In 2019, Macron declared NATO clinically dead and advocated for seeking another form of alliance in which Europe would have a leading position.
Before the war in Ukraine, Macron visited Moscow in 2022 and met with President Putin, affirming that there would be no Russian invasion of Ukraine, contrary to what the United States was saying. France was the most affected by the severance of relations with Russia after the war in Ukraine, leading to increased protests that destabilized security and stability in France. The war caused European citizens to lose the luxurious life to which they had become accustomed, and it appeared that America did not care about the suffering of Europeans during these crises. Macron delivered a speech stating, “We do not want to humiliate Russia,” not out of love for Russia or President Putin, but out of his conviction that nuclear Russia cannot be defeated, and increasing pressure on Moscow will have severe consequences for the whole world, particularly Europe.
Macron’s approach to the Ukrainian issue as a mediator rather than a party to the conflict marks a significant shift. French support for Ukraine in its war against Moscow was limited compared to that of other European countries. As a result, some European countries, particularly Western European countries, severely criticized Macron for seeking Chinese President Xi’s intervention and employing his relationship with Moscow to persuade it to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis.
The United States believes that Europe has not fully embraced the fourteen principles declared by US President Wilson in 1918, which included the right of peoples to self-determination. These principles were not favored by the two colonial states at the time, Britain and France. Similarly, Europeans did not agree with the American position on the tripartite aggression against Egypt in 1956, which aimed to establish a European position subordinate to the United States.
During the height of the Cold War in 1966, Charles de Gaulle rebelled against NATO, seeking to make France a mediator between East and West. However, in 2009, Sarkozy brought France back into full membership with NATO after 43 years of de Gaulle’s withdrawal and expulsion of American bases from France. NATO welcomed this as an enhancement of the alliance’s strength.
De Gaulle sought Eurasianism and closer ties with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and today, Macron is pursuing a similar strategy at the expense of the Atlantic, seeking to forge closer relationships with China and Russia. De Gaulle aimed for France to be a third power between the Soviet Union and America, and Macron seeks for France and Europe to be a force between China and America, ultimately achieving France’s dream of leading the European continent.
The United States believes that Macron is denying its role in protecting and defending Europe, especially since the US has participated in past European wars against Nazism and fascism, and helped France twice, protecting it from Nazi occupation. The US also played a crucial role during the Cold War, preventing Europe from falling under Soviet Union control. Additionally, the US joins the Europeans today in their war against Putin’s Russia, which seeks to expand and return to its imperial era.
The US argues that Europe’s dependence on it has led to a lack of initiative in increasing its power and spending on its armies. Europe has only been united once, in 1990, when US President George H.W. Bush declared that Europe was now free and united after the Soviet Union’s defeat. The current international system, in which the US played a significant role in formulating, has given Europe two permanent seats in the UN Security Council, taking into account the historical rivalry between Britain and France, at the expense of other countries and blocs.
The United States believes that any international system will have only one seat for the European continent, which will most likely go to Germany. Germany seeks to rebuild its military force, allocating an additional budget of 100 billion euros to make its army the largest and strongest in Europe. Additionally, the German economy is the largest on the European continent, contributing 27% of all European industries, followed by Italy with 16% and France with only 11%.
Finally, the US contributed to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, providing in-kind and cash donations as well as long-term loans to recover its economies.
It appears that French-American relations will not easily return to their previous state, despite Macron’s phone conversation with President Biden after visiting China. France has taken practical steps towards distancing itself from its alliance with the US in favor of its own interests, particularly in cooperation with Beijing, which does not interfere in the internal affairs of countries and does not link its economic cooperation to specific political agendas.
Macron’s statement on the importance of reducing dependence on the US dollar was seen as a stab by Washington, leading to great indignation in Eastern and Central Europe and parts of Western Europe, where countries felt that his statements were focused on France, not the EU. Hungary’s Prime Minister was seemingly the only leader to support Macron, and he also supported Russia in its war against Ukraine, questioning the usefulness of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.
The President of the European Commission, whose visit to Beijing coincided with Macron’s visit, saw that he was speaking on behalf of France, not the European Union, which opposes any change in the Taiwan situation. Beijing has successfully created a rift in the Western alliance led by the United States and responded to Macron’s request for the Chinese President to listen to Zelensky’s request for a phone conversation.
The phone conversation was successful, and both parties agreed to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries and name an ambassador for Ukraine in Beijing. China also announced that it would send a delegation to Ukraine and other countries to listen to the viewpoints of all parties, representing a victory for Beijing’s “diplomacy of reconciliation” and a defeat for the United States, which had previously rejected the Chinese initiative to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, considering it worthless.