(CN) — With an attack on “nasty” France, President Donald Trump brought his “America First” foreign policy to a two-day NATO meeting on Tuesday. Europe is brewing up an antidote: A “Europe First” worldview known as “Euro-Gaullism.”
Gaullism refers to Charles de Gaulle, the French general who led the Resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II and then became France's long-serving and beloved president. But it was de Gaulle's staunch belief in maintaining an independent French foreign policy that's drawing parallels with an emerging consensus among Europeans that the European Union must look after its own interests as the system of multilateralism breaks down: The World Trade Organization is stumbling, the United Nations is ignored, NATO is being called into question, and the United States has become an unpredictable ally.
“You can speak of Euro-Gaullism now,” said Alexander Clarkson, a European studies scholar at King's College London, in a telephone interview with Courthouse News.
The depth of a growing rift between Europe and the United States will be measured this week as Trump and European leaders meet for a NATO summit in London to mark the alliance's 70th anniversary.
In policy terms, Euro-Gaullism involves the EU developing a more independent stance — as de Gaulle sought to do after World War II and during the Cold War. De Gaulle pushed France into becoming the fourth nuclear-armed nation, withdrew France from NATO military operations, initiated an arms embargo against Israel and challenged U.S. hegemony.
Today’s Euro-Gaullism grows out of a necessity for Europe to find its place on a world stage engrossed in a titanic conflict between China and the United States, where both sides see Europe as a large, wealthy marketplace that can be exploited and leveraged to their advantage.
Debates over whether Europe can develop its own foreign policy and become a respected player at the table of the world's power brokers are constant, and there is far from any consensus. There are those who believe Europe can, and should, become better at “power politics,” and others who see such attempts simply failing.
Nonetheless, there is a drive among policymakers and leaders to talk about how Europe needs to become sovereign: to be able to determine its own fate and become less reliant on the United States for military and economic protection, while capable of fending off advances by China and Russia seeking to gain footholds in Europe.
Only naturally, French are among the biggest proponents of the idea that Europe needs to become Gaullist — and it is French President Emmanuel Macron who is spearheading such ambitions.
In an extraordinary interview with the Economist magazine published in early November, Macron warned that Europe was standing “on the edge of a precipice” and that NATO was experiencing “brain death.”
“If we don’t wake up [...] there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we [the European Union] will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply,” Macron told the Economist.
His comments came in reaction to the Trump administration's withdrawal of troops in Syria and Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held areas in Syria.
Trump on Tuesday called Macron’s “brain dead” comment “very insulting.” He called it a "very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries."
"Nobody needs NATO more than France," he said. "It's a very dangerous statement for them to make.