Finally someone in Europe is standing up to the neocons

By: Rachel Marsden

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — French President Emmanuel Macron got chatty with reporters aboard his plane en route back from China recently, and what he said had some observers wondering if the pilot had perhaps made a cabin pressurization error that deprived the French leader of oxygen.

“The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” Macron told reporters. In other words, if China is next in line for some freedom and democracy with U.S. weapons and assistance flooding into Taiwan in the same way that it has into Ukraine to counter Russia — then count France out.

The reaction from the U.S. neoconservative pro-interventionist camp was swift. “If, in fact, Macron speaks for all of Europe, and their position now is they’re not going to pick sides between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, maybe we shouldn’t be taking sides either. Maybe we should basically say we’re going to focus on Taiwan and the threats that China poses, and you guys handle Ukraine and Europe,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Does anyone care how the Ukrainian people feel about Rubio’s suggestion that they be treated like pawns to keep France on board with a conflict that’s of absolutely no benefit to Europe and has, on the contrary, wreaked havoc on its industry and cost of living with no end in sight? Macron needs to call Rubio’s bluff. Sure, mon ami, drop Ukraine in Europe’s lap. Watch how fast peace breaks out.

The response to Rubio’s query of whether Europe as a whole agrees with Macron came swiftly. “There has been a leap forward on strategic autonomy compared with several years ago. … Some European leaders wouldn’t say things the same way that Emmanuel Macron did … I think quite a few really think like Emmanuel Macron,” European Council President and former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said.

So far, the only actual “leap forward on strategic autonomy” in Europe has come in the form of idle blabber rather than action. Everyone’s arguing over the bloc’s role in a potential future conflict with China over Taiwan while ignoring the existential one in Ukraine.

Macron has the opportunity to return to the French status quo of East/West neutrality that persisted for decades under former President Charles De Gaulle until former French President Nicolas Sarkozy reinstated Paris back into NATO’s strategic command in the wake of his 2007 election. Strategic autonomy kept France out of Iraq under former President Jacques Chirac, and would have arguably prevented the current quagmire in Ukraine.

It would just take one leader of a major European nation to adjust course on Ukraine for the rest of Europe to follow. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently flew to Washington and denounced Macron’s defense of autonomy, which is hardly surprising considering the generous defense funding that Warsaw receives from Washington. But ultimately, Poland is more dependent on top EU donor France’s generous contributions, as the top recipient of bloc funding, by far.

And while Germany relies on America’s nuclear umbrella and close defense cooperation with U.S. bases all over Germany, Berlin will follow France for reasons of economic competitiveness.

All war and conflict ultimately is about economics, with winners and losers — no matter how some might try to dress it up in lofty ideals. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, recently cited American intelligence sources accusing Kyiv officials of embezzling American assistance funds. And American Big Oil is enjoying skyrocketing profits from global price increases and European energy needs that have shifted away from Russia in favor of outsized reliance on pricy U.S. gas. So while some are profiting from the fighting, an exit ramp is starting to look increasingly attractive to others.

Economics also explain why Macron isn’t interested in riding shotgun with Washington into a conflict with China. During Macron’s China trip, French-headquartered Airbus secured a new sale of 160 new commercial aircraft to Beijing and a doubling of the aerospace multinational’s Chinese production, marking a victory over Pentagon contractor, Boeing.

But what does France get out of siding with the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific — other than the shaft? Paris was not only excluded from the U.S.-led “AUKUS” security pact of Anglo allies against China in the Indo-Pacific, despite France’s overseas territories in the region, but was also simultaneously booted from a $66 billion submarine deal with Australia to Washington’s ultimate benefit with its own deal. So why shouldn’t Macron tell them now to shove it?

It’s long past time for a European leader to stand up for the interests of Europeans. Macron has just taken a step in the right direction, but only time will tell if he has the courage to stay the course.