Macron-Trump Bromance Hides Serious Transatlantic Divergence

  • Petr Boháček
  • 25.4.2018 13:43

Drop the hugging, kissing and hand-holding between French President Emmanuel Macron and his US counterpart Donald Trump. There are tough issues behind this bromance.

The confrontation between Macron and Trump over the Iran deal is a confrontation between the two sides of the new political spectrum between globalism and localism, protectionism and free-trade, conservative and pragmatic yet liberal values.

 

The EU largely stands behind Macron as its last hope in dealing with Trump.

 

It is much easier for France to deal with the new US administration since it has based its Transatlantic policy on independence and autonomy for a while. While not shying away from pointing out the big differences on many things, Macron's confidence and demonstrated self-reliance works well with Trump. The American President can feel like he is dealing with issues on the bilateral basis, allowing him to gain more concessions from the position of the world superpower. But don't be mistaken, the EU largely stands behind Macron as its last hope in dealing with Trump. Moralising Angela Merkel is not going to convince Trump on many things. 

The Transatlantic divergence is not only about the looming trade war. The issue is the Iran deal. What is on the line is the Western-led order. Negotiating the Iranian nuclear deal in the multilateral format including China and Russia but orchestrated mainly by the West was already a tough, complex three-year process that marked one of the greatest diplomatic successes. Economic sanctions were revoked in exchange for the halt of Iran's nuclear program. It is logically far from perfect. More actors, more interests and more concessions. The idea that other issues could be included in it, whether it is ballistic defence, entire Middle Eastern politics or the sunset clause would make it impossible to negotiate. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stressed that it is the United States that is in non-compliance with the deal and if Washington withdraws it would make very little sense for Iranians to agree to a newer and significantly harsher and more complex deal.  It would also send a very bad signal to North Korea if it is to ever consider a similar deal with the US.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) welcomes his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) in Tehran, Iran, 05 March 2018. Reports state Le Drian is visiting Tehran for talks that are expected to tackle international concerns over Iran's ballistic missile program as well as efforts to maintain the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal. Copyright Profimedia.CZ

A critical question remains whether the West continues to possess the leverage that will allow it to pressure Iran to such extremes. Sure, Iran’s behaviour in the Middle East and especially its power nexus with Russia is the main reason why the war in Syria continues. But portraying the country as the source of global instability in the likes of George W. Bush’s axis of evil is out of the question. Iran does not even have the economic and military power or political stability to become a regional hegemon in face of US-protected and armed Israel as well as the Gulf countries, including the radical, human rights-violating authoritarian bur oil-rich regime in Saudi Arabia. US invasions that surrounded Iran with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan logically reminisced Washington’s interventions or the US-backed authoritarian regime, whose toppling constitutes the main source of legitimacy and fading public support of the current theocratic government. Considering this, weak air force makes the Iranian ballistic program even more important.

 

At a certain point, there will be a stalemate in which Europe, centred around diplomacy and multilateralism, will see it reasonable to make some concessions.

 

It does make sense for France and Europe to rush to address concerns of the United States regarding Teheran. But the disagreement on the deal is one of the most dramatic disjunctures across the Atlantic that comes at highly turbulent times of geopolitical recession, highlighted by Cold War tensions with Russia, growing Chinese power, roll-back on world trade and a new array of global challenges that require global responses. Europe and Macron can be successful in promising Trump to go hard after Iran and pushing it on other fronts, but the question is whether Iran can rely on China and Russia to push back and hold its ground. At a certain point, there will be a stalemate in which Europe, centred around diplomacy and multilateralism, will see it reasonable to make some concessions. But the America First, unilateral realpolitik of the current US administration will not. This is where the diverging foreign policy outlooks across the Atlantic can face the real problem. With new appointees, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, real hawks on Iran, the remaining moderate parts of the US foreign policy dynamics, Nikky Haley and James Mattis, will be outnumbered.


Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) and National Security Advisor John Bolton watch as US President Donald Trump speaks during a working lunch with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on April 18, 2018. Copyright Profimedia.CZ

 

The Transatlantic relations can crack no matter how long can Macron and Trump stare passionately into each other’s eyes.


For Europe, it is ever-more important to protect and promote multilateralism. For the EU, a soft power circled around economic and diplomatic tools in the absence of military strength, any alternative would be suicidal. As Sigmar Gabriel points: “Europe as a vegetarian has it tough in the world of carnivores”. Similarly, the US world power relied on the fact that their core national interests aligned with those of allies in Europe and Asia. This does not apply to the current administration that is departing from the value-oriented foreign policy to realpolitik. Transatlantic relations can crack no matter how long can Macron and Trump stare passionately into each other’s eyes. If Transatlantic relations break, the Western-led global order is over.

About author: Petr Boháček

Partners

Tento web používá k analýze návštěvnosti soubory cookie. Používáním tohoto webu s tím souhlasíte. Další informace