"The United States of America is our ally and it will continue to be, but being its ally does not mean being a vassal state, we must not depend on them," he said Wednesday. Macron echoed a phrase used by his finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, in May, when US President Donald Trump announced his country's unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a seven-nation deal signed to lower economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for that country ending its nuclear weapons program.
"Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?" Le Maire asked on Europe-1 radio on May 11. "Or do we want to say we have our economic interests, we consider we will continue to do trade with Iran?"
Since late last month, the French president has been pushing for a more independent European path, portraying US policy as being unstable and incongruent with the best policy for Europeans, especially in terms of defense.
"We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America," Macron said on Europe 1 radio last week. "When I see President Trump announcing that he's quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security," he continued, referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned a type of nuclear weapon and from which Trump threatened to withdraw.
"We have to look at the vision of one day creating a real true European army… Europe must take its fate in its own hands," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on November 13, echoing Macron's call for a military structure separate from the US.
The spat with Trump deepened over the weekend during the commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I, with Trump and Macron exchanging heated words over social media.
"Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia," Trump tweeted on Monday. "But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for NATO or not!"
The question of returning sanctions against Iran has become a point of major contention between the US and Europe. Full economic sanctions returned against Iran on November 5 — but only by the United States. France, the UK, European Union, Russia, Germany and China, the deal's other signatories, have all remained in the deal with Iran because they do not believe that Iran has violated the terms of the deal, as Trump claimed.
Because the primary method by which the US enforces the trade sanctions on Iran is through SWIFT, the Belgium-based bank wire transactions service, the other JCPOA signatory nations have voiced interest since May in alternatives to SWIFT, in order to continue their business with Iran independent of US interference. On November 2, the US announced it would sanction SWIFT if it didn't cut off payments to Iranian institutions, which it finally did on Monday, Sputnik reported.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Berlin on August 28 that it was "high time we reassess the transatlantic partnership in a sober, critical and even self-critical way," so as to "strengthen the autonomy and sovereignty of Europe in trade, economic and financial policies," Sputnik reported.
"It will not be easy, but we have already begun to do it. We are working on proposals pertaining to… payment channels and creating a payment system independent of SWIFT to establish a European currency fund," Maas noted.