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For three years, U.S. President Donald Trump has taken great glee in disrupting the NATO alliance. Now, French President Emmanuel Macron, who once virtually arm-wrestled Trump in public, is taking the same tack. He aims to assert French leadership in Europe at a moment when the larger democratic world often seem rudderless. And he is drawing attention to a real problem: NATO’s strategic geography creates clashing views of what represents its principal threat. Inadvertently, however, Macron is underscoring how unattractive a French-led Europe would be for much of the continent, and showing that America’s allies won’t be able to fill the strategic vacuum created by a disengaged or disruptive U.S.

It was not so long ago that Macron was being hailed as the vital new defender of the democratic world. His electoral triumph in 2017 averted the danger of an illiberal, right-wing government in France. Macron seemed committed to opposing malevolent Russian behavior, especially meddling with elections in the U.S. and Europe, and pushing for a sharper line against China.

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