French President Emmanuel Macron exhibited finest diplomatic stagecraft, by toasting his warm friendship with Donald Trump and then rebuking him in the same breath for whatever he thought was wrong with the American President’s policies. And the best part of it was that the reprimand was couched in such politeness that it would have hit Trump where it hurt him most and yet the pain must have come as an afterthought.
During a three-day visit of the French President, the two leaders repeatedly shook and grabbed each other’s hands, and exchanged kisses on the check, demonstrating the special warmth in Macron’s relations with Trump, the kind that does not exist between the American President and any other European leader. But that was no bar on Macron taking on the isolationist principles being followed by Trump in America’s relations with the rest of the world. The sting delighted the Democrats who, throughout his speech to the joint meeting of the Congress, cheered the French President as he enumerated the wrongs in Trump’s policies one by one.
Macron, who credited the United States with inventing multilateralism, used his praise to emphasise the need to ‘reinvent’ the concept to correct the deviations that have occurred due to Trump’s policies. He said that the US and France had a “unique taste for freedom” and were therefore obligated to join together to fight extremism, racism, inequality and environmental degradation across the globe, echoing his disappointment with President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. On the Iran nuclear agreement, another issue on which Macron has strong views, he expressed the fear that Trump might do a walkout as he had threatened during the presidential campaign.
PM Modi could perhaps take a few lessons from Macron on how to deal with an impetuous leader like Trump. Just as Micron enjoys a special relationship with Trump, Modi and Trump have repeatedly expressed mutual admiration. But when Modi is in the company of the US President, the personal warmth has often held him back from expressing India’s concerns. With the result that Modi often comes away from such meetings, with people getting the impression that India ended up losing despite the great bonhomie. Trump has almost made it a habit to harp on his ‘America first’ policy imperatives and their implications for India even before Modi lands on the Indian soil.
The takeaway from Macron’s boisterous US visit is that the French President made a finest exposition of how friendship between two leaders must not come in the way of true state craft being pursued. Macron’s three-day US trip is, therefore, a milestone.