Naked Politics Blogger
Last Sunday we commemorated 100 years since the armistice of the first world war. A time to contemplate global affairs and the prospects for world peace. After two world wars in the last Century, can we completely rule out another?
Earlier this month, it was reported that Emmanuel Macron was pushing for the creation of a European Army. While I initially found this idea terrifying, I am beginning to see where the French President is coming from. Macron claims that Russia is “at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat” and stresses that his vision of EU countries standing together in solidarity is the best way to defend against that.
Not only this but, President’s Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty – a treaty made at the end of the cold war between Russia and the United States – may also have played on Macron’s mind.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel recently backed Macron’s ideas, saying “The times when we could rely on others is past” (sic).
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that this is not necessarily a new idea. A European Army was suggested in 1999, by President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who at the time were calling for 60,000 European troops to be enlisted. They wanted a common defence strategy and army to give the EU the capacity to act in cases in which the whole of NATO did not.
This idea is not popular with everyone. Former UKIP Leader and MEP, Nigel Farage, said that the EU was trying to become an Empire, adding that “Brexit becomes a necessity after this”.
This attitude raises questions around the potential dangers and uncertainties regarding Brexit. Will there be a hard or soft Brexit, will we even leave at all? And how will this affect our relationship with Brussels and the EU27 Nations?
If we do leave, could other EU countries following our lead, causing the European Union to fall apart entirely? It’s worth remembering that no world wars have taken place since the EU was formed.
Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel’s symbolic visit to Compiegne this weekend, for the commemoration of the armistice, surely suggests that we are moving forward and that the prospect of peace and solidarity between the two countries is entirely plausible. This is the first time that leaders of the two countries, France and Germany, have appeared together in the emblematic location since the Second World War. During the ceremony, they held hands and unveiled a plaque together. However, while two of the most influential EU nations vowed unity, the US President did not turn up to any of the official ceremonies that day.
Despite this, the next day, Macron hosted a lunch at the Elysees Palace for World Leaders – including Trump, Putin and Merkel. Macron described the talks that happened over this lunch as “very constructive”.
In an RT France Interview, Russian president, Vladimir Putin was also asked about the progress made during the event. He said that he was open to talks with Trump but that after all, it was not the Russians that had pulled out of the nuclear treaty but the Americans. On the subject of the European army, he responded saying it was perfectly reasonable for the EU to want a common security and defence initiative. He also mentioned that Russia were not a threat to the EU, and that the nuclear and military testing that Russia has recently performed, has been done so well into Russian borders.
The idea of a European Army was not, however, very popular with the US president, who said that the suggestion that France needed to defend itself from the United States was insulting. And in an array of tweets on Tuesday, he made personal attacks on the French President, making childish remarks about his ranks in the polls, his wine industry and referenced America saving the French from having to “learn German” during the Second World War.
Importantly though, this was based on previously misreported information about an interview that Macron gave last week, in which he said that Europe needed its own army to defend itself from cyber-attacks (not actual military threats) originating in Russia, China and even the United States.
Initially, though, Macron did make an indirect dig at the US president during the armistice ceremony at L’arc de Triomphe, saying that “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism”.
Trump then reacted to this in another of his tweets on Tuesday saying: “There is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so! MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”.
Relations between Macron and Trump remain frosty, but Macron responded to Trump’s tweets in a TF1 television interview saying “I do not do policy or diplomacy by tweets… At each important moment in our history we have been allies, and between allies there is respect ”.
Despite these issues, the EU does appear to be moving in the right direction, and Russia seems to be on its side. As for Trump, he will continue tweeting, but is not a threat.