President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Poland this week to assure his hosts that France will not let the Russians do anything bad to them. At the Jagiellonian University of Krakow, alma mater and home town of his host, President Andrzej Duda, he insisted Russia is part of Europe and should not fear the proposed European Union army.
So who should fear it? Little Hungary, whose prime minister, Viktor Orbán, Mr. Macron considers a near-fascist? The United States? As he conceives it, Macron envisages for his pet army a Gaullian “tous-azimuts” or “all-points” strategic doctrine. Charles de Gaulle, however, grew up in a France-first family, royalist and nationalist, and in military thinking — he was a general and a writer — he was following his own logic and inherited beliefs.
De Gaulle, it will be remembered, served in Poland in the years immediately following World War I, helping to repulse a communist invasion by the young Soviet Union’s Red Army. This did not prevent him from being an early proponent of détente, basing his position on the idea that Russia and its geostrategic interests were more determinative of Soviet policy than its declared revolutionary mission.
Macron’s Europeanization of Gaullism smells like old wine in old bottles, but how will it taste? De Gaulle insisted on having the means to his ends, which is why he wanted a “force de frappe” (nuclear deterrent) and accepted the necessity of retiring the Empire to concentrate on a defensible perimeter (the “pre carré”).
How has this evolved? Just weeks ago, high French officials expressed the hope we would not go through with plans to downsize our AFRICOM commitments, seeing as how our gallant allies are stuck in the Saharan sand trying to contain jihadist savages who raid and plunder and massacre the peaceful villagers who inhabit those primitive regions, many of which were under nominal control during the colonial era and expect open-ended French protection.
So what they — the French — seem to be saying is, continue to help us in Africa — where we still are, and over-stretched! — and don’t mind us if we point Euromissiles at you as well as the Russians, toward whom we harbor no hard feelings toward them notwithstanding we are telling the Poles, who do, to trust us.
Love that Gallic logic!
It might have made more sense for President Macron to go to Wrocław instead of Kraków, though the latter, at the foot of the haunting Carpathians, is much more romantic, and bring along his tennis coach, whose name is Kuchna, so. They could have paid a visit to Hubert Hurkacz, Poland’s top young tennis prospect, who lives there. But evidently he wanted to make nice with President Duda. Manny and Andy, sounds cute.
But Mr. Duda is having none of this. The Poles were courteous and could at least take home the hope that the French, having died for Gdańsk a million years ago, might at least be letting the Russians worry that they prepared to do it once again. But if the French president, who gives the impression he likes strong men, offers help, what can he get in return?
Mr. Macron put forth the possibility that now that England again speaks for England, France must, as ever, speak for Europe, but with the added voices of Germany and Poland. How the Poles and the Germans can sing in harmony, let alone be univocal, is another mystery of Gallic logical thinking, which under recent regimes sounds increasingly like magical thinking.
Andrzej Duda, as past leader of the Law and Justice party (Catholic and conservative), does not think magically. He must find it shocking that a Catholic Frenchman, who moreover has compared himself to de Gaulle, Jupiter, and Louis the No. 14, among others, told a Catholic leader of France’s pro-life movement that her “problem” is that she “think[s] one must be a male to be a father.” The president supports sperm-donor legislation that incentivizes non-male households and contributes, the same pro-life leader explains, to the commercialization of procreation.
Like most Europeans, President Duda is a foreign-policy realist, cynical and hard-nosed when it comes to protecting borders and national survival. So he is unlikely to let French family policy, no matter how off the wall, get in the way of strategic considerations. At the same time, cultured and learned, he must know that some time ago French kings cut a deal with Suleiman the Beautiful (the Magnificent in most histories) — the dreaded Ottoman! — against the Italian city states (Catholics!).
Moreover, President Duda must surely realize that in matters of immigration, a big issue throughout Europe and part of the reason President Macron beats up on little Hungary (as well as Italy), the French elites — government, intellectuocracy, media — are counter-assimilationist. Which is to say, rather than demand — force — their immigrants, who are mainly from Islamic lands, to assimilate, they are asking the French to let the Islamics have their own spaces, where sharia is more respected than the laws of the Republic.
The Poles may figure they can get a better deal from a government led by the National Rally (the Marine Le Pen-led movement), if such occurs due, precisely, to widespread revulsion with the elites’ arrogant, nihilistic, and ultimately suicidal policies and notions, so with French elections coming up in ’22, they figure they may as well play along and see. Then if Pete Buttigieg (whose Catholicism is closer to Macron’s than to Duda’s) does not make it to the White House, the two of them, Manny and Pete, with their spouses of course, could go somewhere, and it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.