Just six months in office, President Trump has made no less than three trips to Europe, a place he calls a “blessing to the world” – that is, if it remains “strong.” During his travels he found a kindred spirit in another new and mold-breaking president, France’s Emmanuel Macron, who warned this month that Europe has “lost its way” and needs new leaders to revive it.
No wonder then that the two presidents met in Paris this week to celebrate two key anniversaries in the history of Western civilization: Bastille Day, which marks the French Revolution, and the centennial of the entry of the United States into World War I – and the start of its long defense of transatlantic values. In their joint press conference July 13, they spoke of a shared vision on security threats, trade, and economic reform.
In a little-noticed speech in Poland on July 6, Mr. Trump seemed to defy the nationalist rhetoric of his 2016 campaign and his tweets by offering a full-throated affirmation of the Western tradition. He called on the West to assert “the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God.” The Western alliance must also adapt to confront “powers” – implying Russia and the so-called Islamic State – that seek to test the confidence of Western democracies and “to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”
In particular, Trump finally affirmed his support of NATO’s Article 5, which requires mutual defense of nations in that alliance, and demanded that Russia stop its destabilizing actions in Ukraine.
For his part, Mr. Macron affirmed in a recent speech that he does not accept all the doubts within Europe about its future. “I believe firmly in Europe,” he said, but it has been “weakened by the spread of bureaucracy.”
Both men, who are relatively new to politics, have found that their respective offices as president demand they look beyond narrow nationalist interests. Defending Western civilization, at least for now in either speeches or meetings, is a good start. The bonds of history between the US and Europe, especially France, run deep. Many new leaders in the West have had to learn not to ignore them.