French President Emmanuel Macron‘s call for a unified European military that would help protect the continent from threats emanating from Russia, China, and the US caused a significant uproar after US President Donald J. Trump, whose own hostility towards the European Union and NATO has been one of his main foreign policy tenets since taking office nearly two years ago, accused Macron of being a disrespectful ally who intentionally insulted the United States and him personally after Macron said earlier in November, “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”
Macron has pushed for closer defence cooperation between European allies since he became France’s president in May 2017 but has been so far met with limited success amid foot-dragging by other NATO members.
Few European leaders have been as openly critical of Trump as Macron has in the last several, particularly after he attempted to curry favour with Trump before the latter opted to unilaterally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, both of which were adopted and signed by Trump’s predecessor and frequent source of angry obsession by the current US chief executive, Barack Obama.
Macron’s plan, however, has received a tepid response from Europe’s economic and military powerhouse, Germany, which has expressed its open scepticism of France’s proposed 10-member state defence initiative.
According to the plan, the initiative would include the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Portugal, Finland, France, and Germany in a pan-European army that would be able to act as a rapid response force both inside and outside of continental Europe.
Macron’s plan is nothing new, however, as it harkens back of Gaullist doctrine in France, which envisages a European “pillar” of NATO that would act independently of the United States.
The concept of “out of area” missions is a major taboo for Germany, which has contributed support troops in the Balkans and Afghanistan after the country’s reunification in 1990. Due to its post-World War provision on offensive military operations, the Bundeswehr, the German military, must receive parliamentary approval for all operations carried out on foreign soil.
The German security establishment has grown sceptical of the French initiative as it is designed to operate outside of the command structure of NATO. Germany’s BND, the chief intelligence agency, worries that its armed forces may be bogged down in military operations abroad that do not have expressed parliamentary approval and do not serve the foreign policy objectives of Germany, particularly in the Francophone nations of West and North Africa, all of which were former colonial possessions of Paris and where France still retains a major presence.