Emmanuel Macron

Macron calls for European army to defend against China, Russia... and the US

  • French president says Europe is the main victim of Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of an arms deal with Moscow, so the continent needs to defend itself
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 8:30pm

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Tuesday for a “real European army” to better defend itself against Russia and even the United States.

Macron said Europe needed to reduce its dependence on American might, not least after US President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of a cold war-era nuclear treaty.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Macron told Europe 1 in his first radio interview since becoming president in May 2017. “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euromissile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”

The Euromissile crisis – a mini-arms race within the cold war that saw the US roll missiles into Europe – was a major factor spurring the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Macron said in the interview recorded on Monday night.

Faced with “a Russia which is at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat”, he argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States.”

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Macron has spearheaded the creation of a nine-country European force that would be capable of rapidly mounting a joint military operation, an evacuation from a war zone, or providing aid after a natural disaster.

The nine countries’ defence ministers will meet in Paris for the first time on Wednesday, to start thrashing out details about how the force will operate.

The wider EU is also set to vastly expand its defence budget from 2021, allocating some 13 billion (US$15 billion) over seven years to research and develop new equipment – up from less than 600 million in the current budget.

Bruno Alomar, a professor at the French War School which trains top military officers, said however that Macron’s vision of tight-knit European defence force was a long way off.

“The idea of creating a common strategic culture is not a bad one,” he said. “But there’s a massive gap between the European defence that Emmanuel Macron dreams about and the reality of very powerful disagreements between European partners … Peace in Europe is precarious.”

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As he prepares to host dozens of world leaders Sunday to mark 100 years since the first world war armistice, including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the French leader has been railing against rising nationalism in Europe and beyond.

Macron repeated his warning of similarities between the state of the world today and the financial crisis and “nationalism playing on people’s fears” of the 1930s.

Before European Parliament elections next May – billed by many observers as a battle between Macron-style pro-Europeans and rightwing populists – Macron said politicians must respond to voters’ fear and anger.

Europe “has probably become too ultra-liberal”, he said, “which doesn’t allow the middle classes to live well”.

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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen – one of the targets of Macron’s anti-nationalist tirades – meanwhile accused him of seeking to turn Europe into an empire.

“And it was empires that were at the origin of the first world war, not nations,” she told Radio Classique.