We need to learn where the borderline of strategic autonomy of Europe is (if there is any).
The President of France, Emanuel Macron, was sent off to Beijing with high hopes that he would successfully convert the President of China, Xi Jinping. Quite unexpectedly, Macron got back from China as if the complete opposite occurred. Macron’s journey to Beijing was surely not anywhere near the journey to Damascus of biblical proportions, which did convert Paul the Apostle but it clearly showed how woefully Europe is whimpering in between their own needs and the U.S. pressure.
In the Presidential airplane, which he was flying in from Beijing back to Paris where he was angrily greeted by the very same protesters which had previously sent him off to Beijing in such a way that they set fire on his favorite Parisian restaurant. He later talked to the reporters as if he had truly experienced a sudden enlightenment so that the leading German journal Spiegel, which had never regarded the German interests of lesser importance than the interests of their transatlantic partnership with the U.S. in which the plans and interests of all the others go awry, had to wonder whether Macron has now completely lost his mind.
Macron’s only sin seems to have been found in the interview with the Politico reporter and two of his French colleagues in the presidential airplane in which he merely noticed something that should have been obvious. Namely, Macron pointed out that Europe must resist the pressure to turn into a mere U.S. acolyte. He added that Europe is under severe risk of further getting involved in the crisis, which is not its own. Europe must lessen its dependence on the USA and avoid being further entangled into the confrontation between China and USA about Taiwan – Macron said after as many as six hours long talks with Xi, in which he spent only the first one hour and a half under the scowling look normally referred to as supervision from the President of European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, whereas Macron and Xi spent the rest of the time only accompanied by their official interpreters.
Politico goes on to report that during the interview while aboard the plane with Macron dressed in his favourite sweatshirt, he placed an emphasis on his preferred theory on strategic autonomy for Europe. Perhaps under the French leadership in order to become ‘the third great power’. The question posed before the Europeans is whether it is in European interest to rev up the crisis around Taiwan. ‘No’ – Macron both asked and provided the answer to the question. It would be the worst-case scenario for us, the Europeans, to think that we should become mere followers of the U.S. in these matters and to align our political decisions with the U.S. agenda with the adverse reactions from China. The Europeans cannot resolve the crisis in Ukraine. How on Earth can we dare say anything related to Taiwan with any crumbs of credibility? We should not approach serious international matters with an intimidating approach such as ‘Beware, if you do anything wrong, we shall come after you right there ‘. This is not the sensible way forward, unless you really want to raise tensions.
There were certainly other rather heretic remarks in that plane interview. Macron, Politico reports elaborated that Europe increased their dependence on the U.S. in the field of arms and energy supply. He also mentioned that Europe should lessen its dependence on extraterritoriality of the U.S. dollar which is the chief political goal between Moscow and Beijing; he will elaborate on this in an accusatory tone to Politico (which happens to be a U.S.-German news agency). ‘If the tensions between the two great powers get to be fuelled further, we shall not have sufficient time nor resources to finance our strategic autonomy. We shall further be reduced to the position of vassals in this way’ – Macron warned. While Politico in a rather odd manner regarded it as appropriate at the end of the article that all the President’s words were reported verbatim but that during the process of authorization, the interview had to be edited for the bits in which Macron even more openly talked about Taiwan and strategic autonomy of Europe with no attempt at concealment.
Though even this what was published was sufficient to cause an avalanche of synchronized discontent of Macron’s apparently rampantly subversive remarks even though he surely did not utter any lies, when he said that Europe does not need to get involved in yet another U.S. war. In all that frustration with Macron’s effort to position European interests in Europe much higher than the U.S. interests was balanced off by the Germans. On the German side, Metin Hakverdi, a centre-left ruling party SPD lawmaker, was the first to speak out with exasperation about the situation. “Macron is doing it again. Talking his head off in Beijing with zero authorisation from the EU. He will then surely organise security guarantees for Ukraine all by himself,” the senior lawmaker said. He later told Tagesspiegel that “it is a grave mistake for the West to allow itself to be divided in its dealings with Beijing of all places.” His colleague, Norbert Röttgen, from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) opposition party in Germany said that such an approach is two party type approach, lambasting Macron for managing to turn his trip to China into his PR success with Xi Jinping and also into a foreign policy disaster for Europe with a stark warning that the policy fostered by the French President would lead Europe into a geopolitical cul-de-sac (ooopps pardon my French; I meant a dead end). It is even ironic, he added, that Macron even does much less for Ukraine than the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz with his statements about China turning U.S. away from us.
On the other side of the Atlantic there came a predictably similar reaction. Macron stumbled over Taiwan and Ukraine. He weakened the position of restraining the Chinese aggression and he weakened the U.S. aid for Europe – Wall Street Journal warns in their characteristic manner in their editorial section with an indecently colloquial remark: ‘Thank you very much, pal ‘. They added that ‘ if President Biden were awake, he should call Macron and ask him if he is doing his best to elect Donald Trump again? All this was preceded by an arrogant approach by Senator Marco Rubio, the highest positioned Republican with the Select Committee on Intelligence in his position of Vice Chairman. He commented that they have to establish whether Macron is talking in his own name or in the name of Europe. We need an answer to this question quickly because China is very excited about what Macron said, in them being both appreciative and supportive of everything Macron said with enthusiasm. And then he also mentioned Germans reacted as if they were issued a command with the already typical expression of obedience.
Mercifully, the answers may well follow shortly as to what Macron tried to do on his return from Beijing and why an avalanche of resentful reactions followed on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to learn where the borderline of strategic autonomy of Europe is (if there is any).