On this day, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of his death, it is useful to remember General De Gaulle’s conception of relations with the United States. It could be useful in the years to come, facing the new American president. With Joe Biden, the transatlantic exchanges will be able to regain a certain intensity while, since 2016, the allies of Washington have not been able to do much other than to try to avoid the worst in the face of the unpredictable abruptness of Donald Trump.
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With regard to the United States, General De Gaulle combined loyalty and frankness. During the Soviet missile crisis in Cuba in 1962, one of the worst moments of the Cold War, his support was immediate and unwavering. In contrast, his 1966 Phnom Penh speech straightforwardly asserts that the US-led conflict in Vietnam is hopeless. The same year, the French president formalized our exit from the integrated organization of the Atlantic Alliance, considering that the American preponderance there was “overwhelming”.
Loyalty remains necessary today: NATO needs to be rethought but it remains a centerpiece in the geopolitical balance. The franchise too. Under Joe Biden, American imperialism will show greater friendliness but it will remain an imperialism in the face of which the allies will have to know how to defend their interests. In this exercise, there is a new difficulty. In Gaullian times, France could still speak on its own. Today, this is necessarily played out at the level of the entire European Union. The Trump factor has had the effect of closing ranks between Europeans. With a seemingly more accommodating US president, the beggar-thy-neighbor temptation may gain strength.