PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron has been labeled "the Trump whisperer" by some members of the media for his relationship with the American commander in chief. When Macron met last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, hopefully Trump was paying close attention, because he would have discovered that what Macron said runs counter to what the Washington establishment is pressuring Trump to do.
When Trump decided to pull America out of the Iran nuclear deal while France, Germany and Britain chose to remain, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was quick to issue veiled threats. "I think the Europeans will see that it's in their interest ultimately to come along with us," Bolton told CNN.
Standing beside Putin last week, Macron said that he hopes "(French) companies can also find pragmatic solutions with other countries and other companies ... to protect their interests when they are highly exposed to the United States, to the American market, but that we can guarantee to Iran the viability of the projects that have been launched."
That doesn't make it sound as if France's plan is to shrug and say, "Well, I guess we have to go along with what John Bolton says."
Trump's decision to leave sanctions against Iran in place might even spark some new and creative partnerships between European signatories to the Iran deal and other countries that may already have expertise in deftly navigating American sanctions -- including Russia.
Another issue that's frequently being raised in the West is the notion that Russia is responsible for cyberattacks capable of determining electoral outcomes in foreign countries. Some of us have laughed at the notion that a handful of trolls (Russian or otherwise) could have made a dent in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when not even Hillary Clinton's vast campaign resources could secure her victory. Still, the notion of "Russian interference" persists.
Macron's speech to the U.S. Congress in April was loaded with dog whistles about "Western values" being at risk, the challenges presented by a "yet unknown new world order," and "the destabilization of our international community by new powers and criminal states."
"Other powers, with a stronger strategy and ambition, will then fill the void we would leave empty," Macron said. "Other powers will not hesitate one second to advocate their own model to shape the 21st century world order."
Macron is a master of the rhetorical ellipsis, drawing attention to the elephant in the room while declining to mention it overtly. It's hard to imagine what other world power Macron might have been referring to in his address to members of Congress whose brains were preloaded with anti-Russian notions.
But in Saint Petersburg mere weeks later, Macron said that he and Putin would like to implement a cyberspace information exchange between France and Russia, and coordinate efforts to combat cyberattacks. Imagine the hole that Macron would have blasted in the anti-Russia narrative if he had said in his speech to Congress that France was going to partner with Russia to counter cyberattacks.
On the issue of Middle Eastern conflict, Macron told Congress that lasting peace means "respect(ing) the sovereignty of the nations." What he didn't explicitly say is that he disagrees with the consensus in Washington that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down. He said so in Russia, though.
"French policy is not to proceed from the outside to any change of regime whatsoever or to any transition," Macron said. "Our policy is to build an inclusive political solution that will develop the constitutional framework, which will allow all Syrian people, including Syrians who had to flee, to vote and to choose their rulers."
Even with free elections in Syria, Assad could very well remain in power, in which case the past seven years of conflict (including the joint Saudi-U.S. effort to sponsor "rebels" to oust Assad) would have been a complete waste of time, money and lives. All that drama just to come back around to the notion that the Syrians should be left alone to determine their own fate.
"I am very lucid about the misunderstandings that may have existed and settled between us," Putin told Macron last week. "Some of these misunderstandings ... (are) not attributable to us, but they are there, and we must know how to recover."
Ellipsis master Macron didn't specify to whom or what he attributes any "misunderstandings" between Russia and France. I guess he's leaving that to our imagination.
Members of the U.S. Congress appeared to be smitten with Macron in April, giving him a standing ovation after his speech. They might have been heartbroken last week when they caught him casting amorous glances toward Russia.