This week, as the continent marks a century of the divisions of World War I, French President Emmanuel Macron called again for a “real European army” so as to better defend itself against Russia and even the United States.
Macron, who has pushed for a joint European Union (EU) military force since his arrival in power last year, 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 radio.
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security,” he said.
“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” he said in the interview, recorded Monday night in Verdun, northeast France, as Macron tours the former Western Front during week-long World War I centenary commemorations.
Faced with “a Russia which is at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat”, Macron argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”
The EU launched a joint multi-billion-euro defence fund last year designed to develop Europe’s military capacities and make the continent more strategically independent. France has also spearheaded the creation of a nine-country force designed to be capable of rapidly mounting a joint military operation, an evacuation from a warzone, or providing aid in a natural disaster.
“Peace in Europe is precarious,” Macron told Europe 1.
“We have been hit by intrusion attempts in cyber-space and multiple interventions in our democracies,” he said in an apparent reference to Russia.
He also warned of “authoritarian powers which are re-emerging and rearming within the confines in Europe”.
A bulwark against nationalism
Macron has been warning of rising nationalism as he prepares to host dozens of world leaders, including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Sunday to mark 100 years since the World War I armistice. He repeated his warning Tuesday that he was struck by similarities between the world today and the financial crisis and “nationalism playing on people’s fears” of the 1930s.
“The peace and prosperity which Europe has enjoyed for 70 years are a golden moment in our history,” he said, warning that this was the exception rather than the rule.
“For millennia, it has never lasted so long.”