France’s Gamble

As America Retreats, Macron Steps Up

Pas de deux: Trump and Macron at the Élysée Palace, Paris, July 2017  Pool/Reuters

Despite the upbeat characterization of France as the United States’ oldest ally—from the Marquis de Lafayette’s help in the American Revolution to France’s gift of the Statue of Liberty and up through the shared fight in two world wars—the U.S.-French relationship has always been complicated. During the Cold War, French President Charles de Gaulle sided with the United States when it mattered, as during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. But he also clashed with U.S. leaders as he sought to assert French autonomy within NATO and position his country outside the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. In the 1980s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s free-market policies made many French cringe (they tended to overlook his successful efforts to win the Cold War). But his French counterpart, François Mitterrand, also stood up to the Soviet Union, memorably declaring in 1983, “The pacifists are in the

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