‘Just because the French president gives a good handshake doesn’t mean he sees himself as a champion of the liberal West,’ says Benjamin Haddad in Foreign Policy.
Pitted as ‘a direct repudiation of Trump’s populism,’ Macron was seen as ‘Europe’s best hope for standing up to Trump.’
It was Macron – who once taught philosophy and can recite Molière – the liberal defender of the EU and the free market, versus Trump, the “America First” protectionist who supported Marine le Pen, Macron’s election rival.
Yet, ‘different as they are, Macron and Trump are likely to get on rather well,’ says Haddad.
First, Macron is ‘no Hillary Clinton.’
Despite being a liberal, the French president ran on an anti-establishment platform and criticised both the major parties on the left and right.
‘Like for Trump, few “experts” would have bet on Macron’s victory just a few months before the election.’
And his first bill will aim to “moralise” French politics, imposing maximum terms and ‘barring MPs from hiring family members or working as consultants.’
Did someone say “drain the swamp?”
Second, Macron sees himself as a realist, and has embraced the “Gaullo-Mitterandien” realpolitik tradition of ‘realist French foreign policy.’
And despite his strong criticism of Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, let’s not forget that early on in his presidency Macron invited Putin to France to discuss cooperation in Syria.
‘For years, this French attitude of independence has raised eyebrows in Washington; these days, it fits perfectly with Trump’s agenda.’
Third, Macron’s “Europe first” attitude ‘seems to dovetail with Trump’s wariness of free-riding allies.’
The French president wants to increase eurozone budgetary coordination, as well as create a finance minister for the bloc.
This will mean ‘convincing Germany to give up on trade surpluses that have reinforced imbalances within the EU,’ and the two nations have already begun discussions for the creation of a European defence fund.
Rather than ‘embracing movements like Brexit that weaken Europe and leave it more dependent, the America First president should welcome European leaders who want to strengthen the continent and shoulder more responsibility for defending their own interests and security,’ says Haddad.
Finally, both Macron and Trump support military action and assertive foreign policy.
He has ‘repeatedly said his top foreign-policy priority would be fighting Islamism,’ and supported the Trump administration’s airstrike of the Syrian Army’s Shayrat airbase.
‘Paris – always more comfortable with hard power than Berlin – could be a more neutral partner for the Trump administration.’
Macron has vowed to increase France’s defence spending to 2 percent of GDP.
Widespread dislike of the new US president saw many people hopefully cast Macron as an ‘anti-Trump champion.’
But the French Constitution grants the president much more freedom in foreign policy than, say, Germany, and the ‘widespread loathing for the US president, real though it may be, is unlikely to have a major impact on Macron’s decision-making.’
Their initial handshake was frosty, ‘and it remains unlikely that Macron and Trump will be taking in any Molière performances together anytime soon, but sometimes a rough handshake can be the start of a fruitful relationship.’