Emmanuel Macron: Thoughts On NATO

Flag of North Atlantic Treaty Organization

There are occasions when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, appears to overstep himself and say or do certain things that give cause for concern. His attachment to big business, the violent manner in which he attempted to quell the Gilet Jaune protests, are just two examples.

He’s not a man to hold back in his beliefs on how the country should be governed, and such forthrightness can create frictions, not just within France, but in the E.U. as a whole. Once in a while, though, he is brave enough to speak out and say what others are perhaps too reticent, or scared, to admit.

This week, in an interview with the Economist, he didn’t mince words when asked about the future of NATO:

EMMANUEL MACRON, the French president, has warned European countries that they can no longer rely on America to defend NATO allies. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Mr Macron declares in a blunt interview with The Economist. Europe stands on “the edge of a precipice”, he says, and needs to start thinking of itself strategically as a geopolitical power; otherwise we will “no longer be in control of our destiny.”

He’s absolutely right in what he says. Donald Trump should leave no-one in Europe in any doubt that he will operate unilaterally, without  consulting NATO, and have no compunction about ordering US military actions even when detrimental to the interests of other NATO allies.

Of course, it’s always possible that the 2020 presidential elections in America will see the end of the Trump dynasty and a return to more normal relations, but the election of a populist president in the United States has had repercussions around the world, emboldening other ‘populist’ leaders to follow Trump’s lead. The world is in an unstable state, both environmentally and politically, and Europe’s long-time reliance on America to defend its borders has been seriously shaken in the last three years.

He was asked whether he believed in the effectiveness of Article Five, the idea that if one NATO member is attacked all would come to its aid, which many analysts think underpins the alliance’s deterrent effect. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but what will Article Five mean tomorrow?”

NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.

The cold-blooded, detached, manner in which Trump sold the Kurds down the river to Turkey’s Erdogan is typical of the man. He would probably have sold his grandmother if there’d been a profit in it. The very fact that a nation like the United States could elect a narcissistic sociopath to the office of ‘Leader of the Free World’ speaks volumes about the political earthquakes rocking the world today.

Europe, with or without the United Kingdom, needs to look to its own security. Trump is the living proof that America can never again be totally trusted. The very fabric of that nation is being rent apart by Christian Fundamentalists, White Supremacists, racism, gun-toting private armies, and a return to tribalism that will likely result in confrontations leading to  serious civil unrest.

Europe needs to increase its military forces. Hopefully, NATO will survive the Trump Administration, but even if it does Europe needs to play a greater role in defending the peace of the world against those populist leaders hellbent on extending their power into other regions.

There can be little doubt that Russia’s Vladimir Putin would dearly love to get his hands on those eastern European states that used to be a part of the Soviet Union. China  and Russia are presently cooperating  militarily. Any move by Putin to retake control of eastern Europe would normally instigate blocking moves by NATO, led by the Americans, but while Trump remains in power the question has to be asked: would he move against Putin, or, as has happened in Ukraine, stand back and allow it to happen?

If there’s one thing U.S. President Donald Trump has taught us all…

…it’s that NATO countries can no longer rely on an unstable America to do it for them.

Goodbye UK’s Super Rich? We Can Hope!

Richest 1% Own Half The World’s Wealth

According to the Guardian recently, the super-rich are preparing to leave Britain ‘within minutes’ if Labour wins the forthcoming election. While no great fan of Jeremy Corbyn I think, if I had a vote, this news could swing it his way because, frankly, even though I no longer live in the UK I’d be very happy to see the back of these wealthy parasites who live near tax-free off the backs of ordinary Brits.

In reality though, it makes not the slightest difference to me, a British born and bred citizen, because after Brexit I will no longer have the right to vote in any election, anywhere. Not in Britain, nor France, nor America where I lived for nigh-on fifteen years. Yes, the reality is I’m stateless, thanks to something called the “Representation of the People Act 1985,” which went a long way towards disenfranchising British citizens not resident in the United Kingdom.

I have a near worthless document called a ‘UK Passport’ which has ‘European Union’ in gold letters on the front. If the lunatic fringe, both inside and outside the British Parliament, ever manage to drag the UK out of Europe, those words will be meaningless, though as my passport doesn’t expire until 2027 it will no doubt carry that lie around for another seven years.

The Tory government recently tried to amend the ‘Representation of the People Act 1985’ to give British expats the right to vote throughout their lives wherever they live. It was talked out by this arrogant prat….

…Tory MP Philip Davies, who appears to take some perverted pleasure in filibustering bills just for the sake of it, even if it means going against his own party.

The Labour Party is heavily opposed to amending the rules, apparently based on the outdated idea that only wealthy people live abroad, must therefore all be Tory voters, and as such would help keep Labour out of power in any election. Jeremy Corbyn and Co really should try to drag themselves out of the Victorian era and into the twenty-first century. Most expats today are ordinary, hard-working, or retired folk reliant on a wage or pension to survive. We don’t have luxury yachts in the Med and drive Lamborghinis!

Those that do are all living in tax haven Britain, and most of them aren’t even citizens of the UK.

Let us hope it’s not for much longer!

Out Of Love With The United Kingdom

Once again apologies for the lack of posting of late. I’ve been back to Britain visiting my 104-year-old father after his bad fall a few weeks back. The good news is he’s doing well, is back in his home, and learning the intricacies of manoeuvering a wheelchair through narrow spaces. He’s not quite ready yet for the grid at Silverstone, but given time…I’d not put anything past him!

My French Peugeot 407 performed very well in covering the one thousand or so miles of the round trip, but if I’m to spend more time in the UK I’m considering the purchase of a German motor car. I’ve noted that the plethora of BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis continually zooming past me at around 100mph in the outside lane of the British motorways, now have a special dispensation from the traffic police to travel at whatever speed they like without fear of speeding fines.

I consider this a nice gesture by the UK police force. After all, if you can afford one of these powerful, luxury, motors it’s only right you should be able to raise a finger to the rest of us poorer mortals legally bound to seventy miles an hour.

While on the subject of UK traffic, it’s an absolute delight to return to the roads of France where, certainly in Brittany, the motorways are relatively free of traffic, roadworks almost non-existent, and driving once more becomes the pleasure I remember it used to be in Britain back in the fifties and sixties.

The British road system has reached virtual gridlock. Long stretches of motorway are restricted by seemingly never-ending roadworks. Motorists are told these highways are being converted to SMART motorways, no doubt to convince drivers that in years to come, when it’s all finally completed, there’ll be ample space for all and Britain will again become a motorist’s utopia.

Frankly it all smacks of another of Boris Johnson’s tall tales, given that all they’re doing is converting the hard shoulder into a fourth carriageway. Presumably, some glib civil servant has decided that as vehicles are more reliable than fifty years ago, and given four lanes, there’ll no longer be any accidents so the hard shoulder won’t now be required for its originally designated purpose. Anyway, the police and emergency services can always abseil down from a helicopter, if required.

It’s time for a new law in the UK forcing supermarkets to provide ear plugs to all their customers. Having frequented both Morrisons and Tescos during my time in the country I was appalled by the noise levels in these emporiums. Given the sheer volume being produced by children screaming and running wildly around the aisles…

…coupled with an even louder cacophony emanating from parental throats, as they try vainly to control their offspring’s outbursts, and all homogenised with some off-key pop singer plus band blaring out of the speakers above their heads, it must have the guy running the hearing aid centre down the other end of the mall rubbing his hands with glee.

In one branch of Tescos I asked the young man at the cash desk how he put up with the incessant racket.  He leaned closer towards me and shouted, “Pardon!” I made a gesture indicating, “Don’t bother,” and trundled my cart rapidly out the store.

Back in France I needed groceries and headed for the local Leclerc superstore. It’s on par with a Tesco or Asda. There, I found peace. The children walked quietly alongside their parents, the smaller ones sat silently in their cart seats observing the activities around them. There was no music blaring; no kids loudly demanding the latest toy or sweet and screaming blue murder when denied. Shopping in France is a pleasant experience, after which one does not require two hours in bed with an ice-pack.

I lived in Britain for over fifty years. I left it seventeen years ago to live in America. While I’m no fan of the United States, the UK is now bottom of the list when it comes to traffic gridlock, spoiled, badly behaved children, and over-testosterone-fuelled, self-centred individuals with way too much money, tear-arsing around in expensive German automobiles.

France has much to teach the British. What a pity they voted Brexit and decided to go it alone. Still, on second thoughts, Europe may well be better off without them.