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France Calls On EU To Not Rely On U.S. Defense, Reach Out To Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron (file photo)
French President Emmanuel Macron (file photo)

French President Emmanuel Macron is calling on the European Union to boost military cooperation and stop relying on the United States for defense while reaching out to Russia to develop a "strategic partnership."

In an address to French ambassadors on August 27, Macron appeared to leave behind his efforts in the last year to develop joint policies with U.S. President Donald Trump and instead criticized Trump for being an "unreliable" partner and "turning his back" on the "multilaterism" built by Western powers since World War II with such actions as pulling out of the global climate change agreement and Iran's nuclear deal.

The 40-year-old French president said he would put forward new proposals in the coming months for the EU to boost defense cooperation, as well as talks with Russia on their security relationship.

"Europe can no longer rely on the United States for its security. It is up to us to guarantee European security, and therefore European sovereignty," Macron told an audience of some 250 diplomats, lawmakers, and international relations experts.

Although the did not call for any break with NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance that has been the foundation of Western European security since World War II, Macron called for Europe to build a "strategic partnership" with Russia, despite differences with the Kremlin over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

He qualified his call for talks with Russia, however, by saying Moscow must first make progress on putting an end to the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Macron said he envisions a "revision of the European architecture of defense and security" as a result of "renewed dialogue on cybersecurity, chemical weapons, conventional weaponry, territorial conflicts, space security, the protection of the polar zones -- in particular with Russia."

New Geopolitical Realities

Macron's remarks follow a similar call for increased EU defense cooperation last week by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has said Europe should "take an equal share of the responsibility" and "form a counterweight" to Washington in the world as Europe-U.S. relations cool.

"Obviously, it irritates us when President Trump describes Europe as an enemy of the U.S.A in the same breath as Russia and China, or calls NATO into question almost as a throwaway remark," Maas told a gathering of Romanian diplomats in Bucharest on August 27.

"It seems absurd that we in the European Union have to worry about reacting to U.S. tariffs that are justified on 'national security grounds'," Maas said, but he said this "absurdity" may simply reflect new geopolitical realities.

"'America First' was a wake-up call. Our answer to that must be: 'Europe United!,'" Maas said.

France and Germany have both backed the idea of a small joint European response force over the last year, and have announced plans to develop a fighter jet together.

While Macron's call for more European defense cooperation may resonate with Germany it is not clear whether newer members of the bloc in Eastern Europe will go along.

With the exceptions of France and Britain, all other European members of NATO have lived under the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States since World War II.

That NATO alliance with the U.S. has been especially important to newer members like Poland and the Baltic states, which have called for an increased NATO presence in their countries since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Since taking office, Trump has vacillated between criticizing NATO and pledging his commitment to the alliance at the same time he has been putting pressure on European allies to increase their defense spending to at least 2 percent of their economic output..

Many of the eastern bloc members already meet that goal. Trump has singled Germany out for criticism for not meeting the goal, though Berlin has announced plans to increase its military spending to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2025.

A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the EU has already taken "decisive steps" to build up European security and defense in recent years, including the development of a joint defense fund and a new planning cell for EU military missions around the world.

In November, EU countries officially launched a new era in defense cooperation with a program of joint military investment and project development. Twenty-three of the EU's 28 member nations signed up to the process, known as permanent structured cooperation, or PESCO.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP
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