The Macron Factor

Between Brexit and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s looming departure, there is no longer any question that Joe Biden’s top European ally will be French President Emmanuel Macron. But the Biden administration must act fast to seize the opportunity – and that means shoring up Macron’s support at home.


STANFORD – In French President Emmanuel Macron, the United States has the best ally it could hope for in the Élysée Palace. In fact, Macron may now be the only US allied leader with a genuine liberal-internationalist worldview to match that of US President Joe Biden

Biden’s options for a truly reliable partner in Europe are, sadly, few nowadays. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may fancy himself as the second coming of Winston Churchill, but as long as he is in power, his Trumpian-scale mendacity and madcap approach to policymaking will make it essentially impossible for the Biden administration to find much value in the old “special relationship.”

Germany, meanwhile, had over recent years increasingly come to look like America’s key ally in Europe, owing to its economic heft, and cool, deliberate leadership under Chancellor Angela Merkel. But Merkel’s 15-year chancellorship will end later this year, and that will undoubtedly change the strategic calculus.

Given this, Philip Stephens of the Financial Times is not wrong to suggest that, “if Biden wants a reliable European partner, he would do better to look to America’s oldest ally”: France. While Merkel “will admit no equal when it comes to bold declarations about upholding democracy, playing by the multilateral rules, and respecting human rights,” nor will she (or presumably her successor) allow these concerns “to threaten Germany’s economic interests – not least its business dealings with China and Russia.”

With a commitment to France’s economic revival to match that of Merkel’s in Germany, Macron also offers something that she does not: namely, a clear, realistic assessment of the world and of the challenges facing the West. Unlike any other Western leader today, Macron not only grasps the global power shifts underway, but has initiated a far-sighted military reform agenda to confront this new age of uncertainty. He understands that France needs not only greater military readiness but also an updated military doctrine, and has now put the country on track to meet its NATO pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense.

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