World

French president calls for ‘true European army’ to protect continent from China, Russia and ‘even the U.S.’

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has called for a “true
European army” to defend the continent against Russia, China
and even the U.S.

Macron, who has pushed for a joint EU military force since his
election last year, issued the call in northern France in the
run-up to the centenary of the end of the First World War.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a
true European army,” Macron said in the interview at Verdun,
the scene of France’s most bloody battle.

His call came as he was due to welcome Donald Trump, the U.S.
president, and other world leaders, including Theresa May and
Russia’s Vladimir Putin, to France to commemorate Armistice
centenary this weekend.

Macron said the continent could no longer rely on protection
from America, citing the recent decision of Trump to withdraw
from a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, and he even suggested its
old ally posed a potential threat.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and
even the United States of America,” Macron told broadcaster
Europe 1 in his first radio interview since taking power.

“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a
major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s
euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim?
Europe and its security,” he said.

Faced with “a Russia which is at our borders and has shown that
it can be a threat”, Macron added: “We need a Europe which
defends itself better alone, without just depending on the
United States.”

Trump had previously said that Europe could not bank on
America’s protection if it failed to meet its annual defence
spending commitment to Nato, prompting Macron to declare last
month: “Europe can no longer rely solely on the U.S. for its
security.”

While he enjoys good working relations with Trump, Macron has
called the U.S. president’s America First isolationism
“worrying.” Last month, he laid into Trump’s policies on Iran,
Arab-Israeli peace, climate change and migration in a speech to
the UN General Assembly in New York.

He said: “Nationalism always leads to defeat. If courage is
lacking in the defence of fundamental principles, international
order becomes fragile and this can lead, as we have already
seen twice, to global war.”

The EU launched a multi-billion-euro defence fund last year to
develop Europe’s military capacities. France has also led the
creation of a military crisis force of nine countries,
including Britain, operating outside the framework of the EU
after Brexit. The European Intervention Initiative (EII) holds
its first meeting today in Paris. But Britain has always argued
against the idea of a European army as a competitor to Nato.

Defence analysts expressed scepticism yesterday over the
concept of a European army. Bruno Alomar, professor at the
School of War in Paris, said the idea of creating a “common
strategic culture” was interesting.

“But there exists a fantastic gap between European defence
dreams of Emmanuel Macron and the reality of very powerful
disagreements between European partners on defence issues,” he
told AFP.

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