Frosty relations between the United States and its European allies should not be blamed on U.S. President Donald Trump — that’s according to a diplomat who represents one of the countries with whom Trump has been feuding.
“The impression is that if we have a crisis in the transatlantic relationship, it’s because of one person —the president,” French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud said Tuesday in Washington. “It’s something that I don’t believe to be true.”
Instead, the French envoy believes the fraying ties are the result of an underlying fragility in the U.S.-European alliance and the lack of a true, existential enemy.
“We don’t have a common threat anymore to face — Russia is not USSR [the former Soviet Union],” Araud told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We need to define a common agenda.”
Tensions at G-7
The French ambassador’s comments come in the wake of last week’s G-7 Leaders Summit in Canada, during which Trump sparred with U.S. allies over trade and ultimately refused to endorse the summit’s communique.
“Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on Trade anymore,” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweets and his behavior drew a sharp response from French President Emmanuel Macron, who called Trump’s refusal to sign the G-7 communique a display of “incoherence and inconsistency.”
“International cooperation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks,” Macron added.
Macron also criticized Trump ahead of the G-7 summit, telling a news conference, “Maybe it doesn’t bother the American president to be isolated, but it doesn’t bother us to be six if need be.”
Still, Araud sought Tuesday to make the differences between the U.S. and European allies like France less about a clash of personalities and more about concerns shared by people on both sides of the Atlantic, despite Trump’s “unusual way of conducting foreign policy.”
“President Trump is raising a real issue with trade,” Araud said, as an example.
“We have simply believed that free trade in and of itself was globally good. We forgot that globally means you have pluses and minuses,” he said. “Our citizens are sending the message that enough is enough.”
Despite such underlying issues, Araud said the U.S. and its European allies do have a shared interest in revitalizing their relationship, but that it will require focusing on shared goals moving forward.
“We have a real question, which is why [do we need] a strong, really, transatlantic relationship, and how? And to do what?” he said.
“It will be a mistake to enter into a sort of tweet against tweet,” he warned. “What matters at the end of the day is the substance.”
Despite some substantive policy differences, the French diplomat said France is supporting Trump’s efforts to denuclearize and bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.
“On North Korea, we have all supported our American allies,” Araud said. “We are supporting the America demarche.”
But he refused to speculate on whether the recent summit in Singapore would lead to lasting success.
“Let’s wait and see,” he said. “Previous policies have not been very effective.”