Three events in recent days dramatize the challenges facing the free world resulting from President Trump's lack of global leadership, the international stature of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the dynamism of the newly-elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron.
The first event was the Group of Seven summit meeting, during which Trump castigated European leaders for not increasing defense spending and refused to reiterate the historic commitment of the United States under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pledging to defend any NATO nation from an invasion by Russia or any other hostile power.
The second event was the stunning speech from Merkel over the weekend where she stated that Germany and Europe must consider going it alone because they cannot depend on the United States under Trump to defend their security.
The third event was the decision of Macron to pledge that France will take a stronger position toward Russia than Trump has taken, following the handshake heard around the world when Macron gripped Trump's hand extremely tight and would not let go for a prolonged period as a signal to Trump of France's resolve.
Trump's antagonism toward European leaders during the G-7 summit was an unprecedented moment in the recent history of European-American relations that both alienated and alarmed many of America's strongest allies.
Monday, President Macron had his long-awaited summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in which he took a strong position against Russian aggression and sought to reset relations with Russia based on mutual respect and protection of mutual security.
It was positively astounding for Macron to stand next to Putin and publicly — and correctly — accuse Russian television of being a propaganda vehicle for what virtually all experts believe is Russia's attack on liberal democracy. It is rare for a newly-elected president of a European nation to take such a strong, leading role promoting and defending Western security in a summit meeting with the leader of an unfriendly nation, such as Russia.
Similarly, it was extraordinary for the Chancellor of Germany to conduct herself as the virtual leader of the free world in the absence of leadership from the American president and to publicly suggest Europe might have to "go it alone" because American leadership under Trump cannot be counted on to defend their security.
In effect, Germany and France are moving in the direction that would earn Merkel and Macron the role of leaders of the free world
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