Macron’s Hard Power Ambitions Run Into Reality

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Emmanuel Macron, it’s fair to say, is not a military guy.

The French president was a schoolboy actor, remains an unapologetic intellectual and dreams of one day giving up politics to become a writer.

But he’s also made clear his ambitions to become Europe’s pre-eminent leader, at a time of intense challenges for the European Union and as Germany’s Angela Merkel heads into the tail end of her political career.

Macron’s diagnosis is Europe needs to more strongly defend its interests: He’s said its reliance on NATO for security is mindless given the increasing ambivalence of the U.S. to the alliance. And he’ll regularly climb aboard French battleships to call on the EU to better coordinate its defenses.

But his public lecturing of other European states is putting some leaders off (Merkel today gave a spirited defense of NATO, saying Europe is too weak on its own). Macron’s push for a pan-Europe army is struggling for traction.

Meanwhile, France has problems of its own. Its biggest overseas mission is on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert, where 4,500 troops are trying to contain Islamist militants.

The loss of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter crash is a blow to an operation already struggling. Malians blame their former colonial masters for failing to stem the violence, and in the capital protesters are burning the French flag.

Global Headlines

New boss | Ursula von der Leyen vowed to lead a newly self-confident EU that will defend its interests on the world stage as she prepared to take charge of the bloc’s executive arm. The former German defense minister will be confirmed as head of the EU commission by lawmakers today and has made tackling climate change her top priority.Corbyn’s problem | U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn cannot seem to shake off charges he has failed to root out anti-Semitism in his party’s ranks. It’s been a long-festering issue for the socialist who came of political age in the early 1970s and has strong views on Israel. But with the U.K. election just over two weeks away, he has backed himself in a corner. Asked to apologize to Jewish people, he has repeatedly refused.

Different stories | U.S. President Donald Trump denied directing his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine to seek dirt on Democratic political rival Joe Biden. “But he is a warrior, he is a warrior,” Trump added in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Giuliani has said he undertook an investigation “concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption” on Trump’s behalf.

A White House budget official testified he warned his superiors that freezing military aid to Ukraine could be illegal, and said he waited months for an explanation for the delay.

Rocket man returns | Kim Jong Un has not tested an intercontinental ballistic missile for two years as he pursues a diplomatic track with Trump. But as Jon Herskovitz explains, that hasn’t stopped North Korea’s leader from bolstering his arsenal, adding new quick-strike nuclear-capable ballistic weapons designed to avoid U.S. interception.

Shifting gears | Chile’s central bank will announce its next monetary policy decision two days earlier than scheduled — on Dec. 4 — and release its quarterly policy report the next day in order to to provide “timely information” about the economy after weeks of social unrest. President Sebastian Pinera has said his government also will soon send Congress a plan to boost growth.

What to Watch

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s rise in the polls is reversing amid attacks from Democratic rivals over her Medicare-for-All plan. The U.S. intends to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups in the near future, though Trump declined to say if he’s considering military action like drone strikes against the groups. Trump said yesterday that talks with China on the first phase of a trade deal were near completion after negotiators spoke by phone. Namibia’s general elections today are set to hand President Hage Geingob a second term and extend the almost 30-year rule of his SWAPO party, even as the economy flags.

Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at

And finally … President Vladimir Putin today opened a new tollway linking Moscow and St. Petersburg that symbolizes the infrastructure challenges facing Russia. The 415-mile (669-km) route took eight years to build, cost nearly $8 billion, and was supposed to have been ready for last year’s soccer World Cup. Putin’s five-year $400 billion program began last year, but investment has been slow. “We’ve been waiting for this road for a long time,” quips one truck driver. “It’s a shame they didn’t manage it by 2018.”


–With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Jon Herskovitz and Flavia Krause-Jackson.

To contact the author of this story: Ben Sills in Madrid at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at, Karl Maier

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