Can France Be America's New Bridge to Europe?

French Pragmatism Meets America First

U.S. President Donald Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron in New York, September 18, 2017. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

A major storm is looming over the Atlantic, and it might make landfall in the next few months. With European allies' exemption from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs expiring May 1 and U.S. President Donald Trump's deadline for Europeans to "fix" the Iran nuclear deal arriving shortly thereafter, the United States looks poised to clash with Europe over policies that go against the continent's fundamental interests. Despite the recent U.S., British, and French joint military strikes on Syria's chemical weapons' facilities, on April 14, Europeans are worried about the United States' long-term commitments to stabilizing and rebuilding the Middle East. Allies are left speculating about what the recent personnel reshuffle in the Trump administration will bring forth, bracing for an unchained "America first" foreign policy.

It is in this context that President Emmanuel Macron will make his first state visit to the United States, April 23-25. Not only has the young French leader, a hero of pro-European liberals, embraced the populist-nationalist Trump but his visit comes at a time of fading British and German influence. Macron is certainly playing his cards pragmatically to advance France's own interests, but can he secure a larger role for his country, as the new lynchpin in the U.S.-European relationship? Or will France and the United States find themselves unable to reconcile their short-term interests, therefore reigniting the two countries' old mistrusts?


Since Trump's election, the United States' relationship with two of its traditionally closest European allies, Germany and the United Kingdom, has deteriorated. Both countries have found themselves powerless to doing anything about it, failing to find the right tone to efficiently reach out to Trump, paralyzed as they are by the lack of access (Germany), or the lack of self-confidence (the United Kingdom). As the British nervously envision a post-Brexit future, Prime Minister Theresa May has been gesturing toward Trump in the hope of using the special relationship to secure a profitable trade deal, but the

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