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By Helene Fouquet and Gregory Viscusi (Bloomberg) — France’s Emmanuel Macron is heading to sea on his biggest warship a day after he suffered a tirade of abuse from Donald Trump. The trip, planned for weeks, will show France’s alliance with the U.S. goes beyond any temporary disagreement between the presidents.
France’s sole aircraft carrier, the Charles-de-Gaulle, the world’s most powerful vessel outside the U.S. navy, puts to sea Wednesday and will sail to the Indian Ocean early next year. It is starting a joint mission with the U.S. and an American frigate will escort it on the voyage, according the Elysee presidential palace.
Macron, 40, will showcase the refitted ship to his countrymen and show off France’s technological and military advances. He’ll give a live interview on board and bunk with the crew. As commander-in-chief, Macron is aiming to show France — the only nation besides the U.S. with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — is a force in world affairs.
“There’s a real desire to show that France is a global power, a military power that can talk with the U.S. that Trump can respect and that has a say in global diplomacy,” said Pierre Grosser, a history professor at Sciences Po institute in Paris.
Trump took a swipe at France on Tuesday, implying on Twitter that the country needed the U.S. to rescue it from the Germans in both world wars.
That followed a taunt on Sunday from Macron, who said nationalism was a betrayal of patriotism — a jab at Trump’s insistence that he’s “a nationalist.” Macron also floated the idea of a “European army” that would allow the Old Continent to become more independent from the U.S. His idea was backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Still, the French and U.S. armies, which have been allies for over two centuries, remain better at working together than their leaders suggested this week.
“I don’t see any danger to French-U.S. military relations from these tweets,” said Martin Quencez, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund. “The excellent military cooperation between the two countries doesn’t depend on tweets.”
The partnership ranges from anti-terrorism missions in Africa and Syria to joint surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz, as well as training and intelligence gathering. The Charles-de-Gaulle, after its 18-month refit, is built to connect with the systems on U.S. navy vessels.
The French aircraft carrier will be part of what Macron has called an “Indo-Pacific Axis” — a strategy to expand France’s participation with a group of nations that includes Japan, Australia, India and the U.S.
The countries, which are linked by military partnerships, are working to contain China’s maritime claims, keep shipping lines open and secure for trade in a region from Somalia to the Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis praised the two militaries’ “unalterable friendship” in an October visit to Paris and talked about the French “respect and natural affection with your comrades in the U.S. military.”
© 2018 Bloomberg L.P
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