Arriving in Washington on Monday evening, Emmanuel Macron will continue what can be called a tradition in international relations. Like all the presidents of the Fifth Republic before him, with the notable exception of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French head of state will be received on a “state visit” to the United States. Even better, this is the second for him, after 2018, an honor that Xi Jinping only received in the last fifteen years. In eight years, France is preparing to accumulate three of the six state visits organized by the White House.
“This is not a simple meeting, but the summit of the diplomatic ritual of the American republic”, explained the historian Nicole Bacharan in 20 minutes. If the agenda remains unclear (see the box), a welcome with the sound of the cannon at the White House is planned, as well as a “big dinner, with many guests chosen especially for their interest in France”, determined the US specialist. “This is a way for Joe Biden to honor France,” he added.
From Louisiana to Lebanon, a bromance and common interests
If Emmanuel Macron is entitled to these honors, it is first of all because France is a very close ally across the Atlantic. The privileged relationship began as early as the War of Independence, with the personal commitment of the Marquis de Lafayette, then with the sale of Louisiana by Napoleon in 1803. These links were then “strengthened with the two wars of world”, then cooperation within NATO. At the end of this agreement, “there was a moment of unity after September 11, Jacques Chirac immediately went to Washington,” said the historian. And although this bromance almost crashed in the Iraq war, “we picked up the pieces”.
But how did France become a special partner in the eyes of Americans? Despite such a close and historic relationship, “the choice of Brexit and a unilateral policy is not very visible to the Democrats”, deciphers for 20 minutes Karim Emile Bitar, director of research at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris) and specialist in US foreign policy. “France and the United States have common interests in the Gulf”, he also advanced, citing the Lebanese file in which “the United States relies on France to avoid a more serious crisis”. According to him, there are “ideological affinities, a desire to share roles and a certain complementarity” between the two countries.
Golds of the Republic, Champions of Democracy
The United States “has the same messianic vocation to bring the ideals of democracy” as France, many Nicole Bacharan. In addition to this the form of the American and French democracies itself explains why Emmanuel Macron has the right to the unique honor of a “State visit”. “From a protocol point of view, France has the President of the Republic as Head of State and Head of Government de facto “, said the historian. “To have the full deployment of the Republican protocol in all its glory, you need a head of state in charge, a presidential or semi-presidential regime”, which not all countries have. Therefore, the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison only has the right to an “official visit” in September 2019. Similarly, Olaf Scholz and Rishi Sunak are not heads of state. But beneath the gilding and pageantry, this visit was also “a real working meeting” between the allies.
In the context of the war in Ukraine, “it is important to consolidate this relationship at a time when Russia is looking for allies in Europe”, Karim Emile Bitar pointed out. Since Brexit, France has played a key role within the European Union to maintain a position as compatible as possible with the United States. “Even Obama returned to the campaign against Brexit” after delegating Europe to a secretary of state to focus on Asia, “because the Americans have no other reliable allies outside of China and South Korea , in another context”, supports Nicole Bacharan.
Fix insulting Australia
The Paris-Washington relationship is a certain point that Emmanuel Macron is one of the two leaders that Donald Trump has officially received. The opportunity to plant a tree, a symbol of friendship, in the garden of the White House. It didn’t stop the Republicans from leaving the Paris climate agreement, nor the Iran nuclear deal. With Joe Biden, “there is a marked improvement” and a “change in multilateralism”, points out Karim Emile Bitar, insisting on the role of a “Francophile and Francophone” Anthony Blinken .
The story gets off to an inauspicious start, however, with the Australian submarine crisis. “The French are offended by the betrayal and brutality of the Americans, who negotiated behind their backs at the G20. The state visit should be in the pipeline from that moment, to alleviate the offense,” said Nicole Bacharan, calling Joe Biden who is “an old hand at diplomacy.” “Symbolically, by flying the red carpet, it is a way of completely turning the page” of this incident, added Karim Emile Bitar. And to prolong the bromance between the two champions of democracy.