Commentary / World

Macron, the Atlantic alliance and opposite day

by Stephan Richter

The Globalist

In case you have been wondering why French President Emmanuel Macron recently declared NATO brain dead, there’s a very good reason and simple explanation for that.

As one saw at the beginnings of the NATO summit in London on Tuesday, it is none other than U.S. President Donald Trump who is now out there defending NATO and criticizing the French president for having declared the alliance brain dead.

You have to give it to French diplomats. They are very crafty in their approach to their business.

It is also important to remember that the French were the earliest international supporters of the cause of American independence. This notably included the rendering of invaluable military aid to the 13 former British colonies.

French statecraft in dealing with the United States thus goes back to the foundational days of the American Republic.

The French can therefore legitimately be considered very old hands when it comes to dealing with the — under Trump, once again fledgling — U.S.

For inspiration, French diplomats — first and foremost Macron — look to unusual sources of insight.

In dealing with Trump, they rightfully assessed that it was pivotal to frame critical issues in line with the mental make-up of 8- to 10-year-old boys.

The specific phenomenon is very well known, particularly to the parents of boys the world over, as opposite day.

At a certain point in their upbringing, children test the patience of their parents by relentlessly claiming, or saying, the very opposite of whatever the parents have just suggested.

And so it is with Trump.

The operational logic is using this strategy in reverse is straightforward enough. If one suggests something eminently reasonable to Trump, as normal diplomatic custom would have it, certainly among allies, he is going to counter by saying something stupid or unreasonable and reject the proposition out of hand.

If, however, one smartly switches the bait and says something truly outrageous, that is the way to bring Trump to reason.

Witness the NATO dispute right now. It is all of a sudden Trump who appeals to solidarity among the allies, calling Macron’s earlier comments “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” during the NATO meetings in London.

Of course, these words come from the mouth of the same man who, in his early days in the Oval Office, called NATO “obsolete.”

While Trump is known to have a very short-term memory, it is downright cute to see how French diplomacy has pulled his chain. In his admonishing comments in London, Trump gave off the air of a boy playing teacher.

In reality, he turned himself into a French marionette, without even noticing.

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist,a daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture, which he founded and launched in January 2000. www.theglobalist.com