The French and American relationship will survive clashing policy priorities during President Donald Trump’s term, argued former U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley during a lecture Thursday.
A part of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s Oscar Iden Annual Lecture on American Foreign Policy, Hartley’s lecture described her diplomatic career and experience during her tour in France from 2014 to 2017.
Prior to joining the foreign service as a political appointee, Hartley worked as an associate assistant in the Office of Public Liaison in President Jimmy Carter’s administration and served as CEO of G7 Group and the Observatory Group, two leading economic consulting firms.
Hartley said Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron’s unprecedented elections have tested the historic relationship between both nations.
“We have seen current differences manifested in the Trump administration’s policy choices, and I don’t agree with the administration’s positions on trade, immigration or refugees. France doesn’t agree, nor does most of Europe,” Hartley said.
However, the core of Franco-American relations will not be disturbed, according to Hartley.
“I do believe the fundamentals of our alliance remain strong. That doesn’t mean, though, that President Macron won’t state his opposition to U.S. positions on Iran, North Korea, climate, among others,” she said.
Joel Hellman, dean of the School of Foreign Service, echoed Hartley’s remarks in his introduction, highlighting the history and principles the United States and France share.
“France is why we, as a country, are here. The philosophic roots of our revolutionary republic lie in France. A common set of values, principles, aspirations and ambitions are what bring our countries together,” Hellman said.
Hartley said she expects Macron to seek a bigger role in European politics beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose influence took a hit following last week’s parliamentary election.
Merkel won a fourth term as head of Germany’s parliament Sept. 24, but her party coalition performed worse than expected, leading to the most fragmented legislature elected in Germany since World War II, according to The Economist.
“Macron wants to be the leader of Europe with Merkel, with whom he has a very good relationship,” she said.
The election saw the dissolution of the Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union and Social Democrats’ “grand coalition” and the arrival of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which is now the third-largest parliamentary faction, entering the body with 94 seats.
Hartley also expressed concern over the Trump administration’s budget cuts to the Department of State and slow attempts to appoint officials, which she said is vital to American interests abroad.
“I am also deeply concerned at the administration’s willful neglect of the State Department, leaving huge numbers of senior positions unfilled, with plummeting morale and an exodus of very, very talented civil servants,” she said. “And that is undermining our nation’s ability to lead in Europe and around the world.”
Acts of terror marked Hartley’s term, including both the Nov. 13, 2015 attack in Paris by the Islamic State group and the Charlie Hebdo shooting Jan. 7, 2015. Combined, these attacks left over 140 people dead.
Hartley said these acts of terror tested not just French nationals but everyone around the world.
“I served as ambassador for 28 months and those 28 months coincided with a terrible surge of attacks in France and around the world that shook our nations and tested our diverse, multicultural societies,” she said.
Hartley said that the November attack reminded her of the shock Americans felt after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
“Whereas Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket were targeted attacks, November 13 was more like 9/11 — an attack against all of us, and really against our way of life. It struck very close to home,” she said.
Hartley said the unity exhibited by the French public following the attacks is how all people should confront all acts of terrorism.
“The question we face is not only how do we stay safe, but in the face of this terror, how do we stay strong, free and united as a diverse, multicultural society?” she said. “I believe that the unity and resolve that we witnessed during my time as ambassador can be somewhat of a guide.”