History of the Present (fortnight to 15 April 2023)
Bernard-Henri Macron rides again
The French intellectual Emmanuel Macron would be a wonderful addition to any think tank, salon or university seminar. For a European leader, however, his tendency to thinkout loud interestingly, profusely and provocatively is a great disadvantage. It's important to read the French original of his remarks as carefully reported by the excellent Nicolas Barré in Les Echos.
Macron says there that 'as Europeans, our preoccupation is our unity'. The effect of his remarks, however, has been to undermine that unity. In articulating what I call a Euro-Gaullist position, explicitly aiming for Europe to be a 'third pole' between the US and China, he alienates the majority of current EU member states (not to mention the UK) who – especially in the context of the war in Ukraine – believe the strategic partnership with the United States is more important than ever. Exactly the same thing happened with the 'Europe as Not-America' manifesto of Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas at the time of the Iraq War.
By contrast, the polling our 'Europe in a Changing World' project did with ECFR earlier this year showed a remarkable convergence of public opinion in different European countries around support for Ukraine. This is partly because of understanding and sympathy for Ukraine's just cause and brave struggle. It is also precisely because this is a policy Europe is pursuing in close accord and partnership with our transatlantic allies.
Together, these illustrate once again that you can indeed unite European public opinion – but only around a Euro-Atlanticist position, not around a Euro-Gaullist one. Macron has thus brilliantly demonstrated the truth of the thesis diametrically opposite to his own.
Waiting for U-Day
The most important development in the last fortnight is one that has been barely reported, for good reason, although some hints of it have unfortunately been found in the leaks of US intelligence documents. This is the preparation for the Ukrainian spring offensive. For the future, not just of Ukraine but of Europe and Russia, it will be absolutely critical whether this offensive succeeds - ideally in breaking through to the Sea of Azov and threatening Crimea - or whether, as many military analysts think at least equally probable, it gets bogged down somewhere on the way to Melitopol if going south (or - less likely - going east towards Donetsk).
Watch this space.
The state of our union…
My last commentary in Italian thanks to La Repubblica and in French, German, Spanish thanks to Voxeurop.
And coming up....
I have a substantial essay in the next issue of Foreign Affairs, on Europe as Postimperial Empire. It should be online in a few days time, and I’ll share this with you in the next ‘History of the Present’ Substack newsletter.
We also have an amazing Dahrendorf colloquium coming up at Oxford on 28/29 April, on the subject of 'Europe and Freedom', with speakers including Lea Ypi, Anne Applebaum, Timothy Snyder, Ivan Krastev, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Francis Fukuyama, Prataph Bhanu Mehta, Andreas Wirsching and many more. I will be delivering the Dahrendorf Lecture on the subject of ‘Europe Whole and Free’ at 1700 BST on Friday 28 April.
I’m afraid the colloquium is invitation-only and there are no more seats available, for love or money, but all the main sessions will be livestreamed and subsequently available as video recordings online. Please follow this website and/or @fromTGA and @europeanmoments on Twitter to get the information and links for the livestream and subsequent videos.
Still not bought the book…?
NB. The Source Notes to Homelands are now online, for scholars and Feinschmecker.
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Macron accused Nato, which has worked conscientiously to adapt to evolving realities, of being brain dead. But having listened for more than forty years to French calls for an autonomous Europe (naturally under French leadership) what strikes me is the utter French lack of originality. Don’t claim to be thinking boldly and innovatively when you’re not.