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France’s Emmanuel Macron Set to Clash With Rivals on World Stage

Posted by hkarner - 9. Mai 2017

Date: 08-05-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

French president-elect’s positions are at odds with U.S. leader Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, a consummate internationalist, heads into office primed for clashes with two nationalist rivals on the world stage: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

From climate change to the war in Syria, international trade and the conflict in Ukraine, Mr. Macron has staked out positions at times at odds with the two leaders and clashed at a distance with both on the campaign trail. Though he didn’t offer a formal endorsement during the French campaign, Mr. Trump had cheered on Mr. Macron’s vanquished rival, far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, calling her “strongest on borders” and “the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”

“[Mr. Trump] should have a little more humility,” Mr. Macron said in January, defending the European Union from the U.S. president’s criticisms. “Mr. Trump, never forget what you owe us, liberty, your existence. Mr. Trump look at your history, it’s that of Lafayette, it’s ours!”

Now, Mr. Macron has a mandate to pursue a foreign-policy program that largely maintains the status quo under current French President François Hollande.

Despite that continuity, France’s relationship with Russia in particular is at risk of deteriorating under Mr. Macron.

During the campaign, his party accused the Russian government of using state-funded media to spread smears about his character.

Tensions could escalate further if French authorities conclude that a massive hack of Mr. Macron’s party in the waning days of the campaign was carried out by Russian agents.The Kremlin has denied intervening in the French campaign.

“We will not submit to Russia or Mr. Putin’s values, which are not the same as ours,” Mr. Macron said during a debate last week with Ms. Le Pen.

Mr. Macron has pledged to keep EU sanctions on Russia for interfering in Ukraine until a peace process negotiated in Minsk last year is fulfilled. On the Syrian war, he has showed little desire to keep Putin ally Bashar al-Assad in power, saying “the Syrian people have one enemy, that’s Bashar al-Assad.”

Despite criticizing Mr. Trump, Mr. Macron has pledged to work with the U.S. president. And while they are likely to clash on policy, Mr. Macron has done something that Mr. Trump respects: win big.

“Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next President of France,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “I look very much forward to working with him!”

Climate change is likely to be one of the sharpest disagreements between Mr. Macron and Mr. Trump. In February, Mr. Macron released a video inviting American climate scientists to move to France because of the Trump administration’s stance on global warming.

“I do know how your new president now has decided to jeopardize your budget, your initiatives, as he is extremely skeptical about climate change,” Mr. Macron said. “I have no doubt about climate change and how committed we have to be regarding this issue.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said the administration is currently reviewing the U.S.’s position on the Paris climate treaty.

Mr. Macron will face many of the same challenges German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted in building relations with the U.S. president, who last year cheered the U.K.’s exit from the EU and predicted the EU would break up with other countries following suit.

While they disagree starkly on trade, globalization, climate change and immigration, Mr. Macron and Mr. Trump have both expressed a desire to step up NATO’s counterterrorism efforts and intensify the fight against Islamist extremism—a critical challenge for the new French leader, whose country faces one of the most acute threats of homegrown terrorism in Europe.

“I think the two will have a strong opportunity to focus on counterterrorism,” said Heather A. Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The French are certainly very proactive in fighting terrorist activity in the Sahel in North Africa. Clearly, though, President Trump and Mr. Macron have deep differences on an open economy and open borders.”


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