The statement referred vaguely to common European defense projects, but those did not appear to be new; the wording seemed to be drawn largely from previous NATO statements.
However, it did say that a “more capable European defense” should be “complementary” to NATO, an interesting choice of words in that the French believe it is essential that a united Europe build up its own defenses. The United States has tended to encourage increased European spending on defense within NATO.
The United States and France have often tangled over the years, most recently in 2003 over the start of the Iraq War — which France opposed — and President Barack Obama’s last-minute decision not to bomb Syria in 2013, when French fighters jets were “hours” from military strikes, as President François Hollande of France put it.
The fights, reflecting France’s prickly determination not to be seen as subservient to a far greater power, have cooled in time. But never before had France withdrawn its ambassador, and never before has the raison d’être of NATO appeared more shaky, as the United States focuses on Asia and European countries wonder about the degree of American commitment to their defense.
If French-American relations appeared to inch from rock bottom, there was no sign of any improvement in France’s damaged relations with Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who is visiting the United States, suggested Mr. Macron should “prenez un grip” — bad French for “get a grip.” In defending the agreement that had enraged the French president, Mr. Johnson said, “donnez-moi un break” — “give me a break.”
Mr. Macron appeared unlikely to find this funny.
The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has not endeared himself to the British government by saying that the country’s “permanent opportunism” was well known to France and that the British were “the fifth wheel of the carriage” in the submarine deal. Relations between the two countries have not recovered from Brexit.
U.S. officials were belatedly searching for special projects they could announce to reaffirm the relationship with France, including new initiatives in the Indo-Pacific. But some senior officials said they were concerned that anything they put together might look like a transparent, face-saving effort, especially when compared with the scope of the Australian, U.S. and British partnership.
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