The so-called Yellow Vest protests in France have entered their fourth week as heavily militarised police continue to clash with protesters in Paris as well as other cities throughout the country. While the initial protests were conducted as popular demonstrations against an unpopular rise in the fuel tax proposed by President Emmanuel Macron, in spite of the government dropping any plans to raise the fuel tax for the foreseeable future, the demonstrations continue.
While it is entirely undiplomatic for a head of state to support anti-government protests (including peaceful protests), riots, uprisings or revolutions in any foreign state, by now the world has become accustomed to US Presidents and other American politicians and diplomats calling for and praising open revolts against governments throughout the world. Indeed, the US and its allies including France have often funded, armed and even orchestrated such uprisings in foreign lands in clear violations not only of diplomatic protocol but of well established international law.
While Donald Trump has not admitted that the United States is behind the Yellow Vest movement in France (Paris has not thus far accused any foreign power of being behind the Yellow Vests), the US President has in fact taken to Twitter to unambiguously praise the Yellow Vests while claiming that some of them are chanting his name with approval. There is as of yet no video footage that can substantiate this claim.
According to Trump:
“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting ‘We Want Trump!’ Love France”.
The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting “We Want Trump!” Love France.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
Imagine if a more traditional US President such as Barack Obama had stated:
“The Russia-Ukrainian Treaty of Friendship isn’t working out so well for Kiev. Protests and riots are occurring all over Ukraine. People do not want to be in an economic relationship with Russia or see money transferred abroad to corrupt regimes. The protesters are chanting ‘We Want Obama’ ! We love and support Ukraine”.
Suddenly when the statement is ever so slightly altered so that it reads more like an Obama soundbite while the content is changed to demonstrate US support for pro-western riots in Kiev directed against Russia, rather than anti-government riots in the US allied nation of France – suddenly the Tweet seems as though it is nothing out of the ordinary by contemporary western standards. And therein lies the rub.
First of all, it is as inappropriate for Trump to support anti-government protests in France as it was for Obama to support anti-government activities in Ukraine, Libya and Syria. Secondly, while US Presidents have long used the power of the US military, intelligence services and State Department to aid anti-government movements abroad, under Donald Trump, such sentiments are directed at US allies almost as much as they are directed to states the US has long named as adversaries such as Venezuela and Iran.
Indeed, whether with tariffs, sanctions, the threat of sanctions or now supporting street riots that some have called an uprising – Trump dishes out the ‘standard American treatment’ of foreign states not just to “the enemy” but to long standing allies. As France is one of the longest running and most consistent allies of the United States, Trump’s support for the Yellow Vests helps to illustrate this bizarre phenomenon all the more.
To hammer home his message even further, Trump later Tweeted the following regarding his opposition to European governments including and especially de-facto European Union leader Germany, that the US President believes are paying too little into NATO.
The idea of a European Military didn’t work out too well in W.W. I or 2. But the U.S. was there for you, and always will be. All we ask is that you pay your fair share of NATO. Germany is paying 1% while the U.S. pays 4.3% of a much larger GDP – to protect Europe. Fairness!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
In a just world, a legitimate international community would condemn Trump’s remarks about France as much as they should have condemned Obama’s remarks about Ukraine, Libya and Syria or for that matter as much as they should have condemned Trump’s remarks about Iran, Venezuela and formerly North Korea.
As it turns out, condemnation of such American governmental meddling in the sovereign affairs of a foreign state is typically conducted on a strictly biased and partisan basis. Therefore, those who supported Russo-Ukrainian friendship condemned Obama’s remarks about Kiev in 2014, but those who dislike the idea of Russo-Ukrainian friendship cheered Obama’s lawlessness on. Likewise, those who support Bashar al-Assad condemned Obama’s remarks about Syria and those who dislike Bashar al-Assad praised Obama’s lawless affairs in Syria.
Today, those who dislike Emmanuel Macron tend to be supporting the Yellow Vests while those who like him condemn the street based movement. In spite of a past so-called “bromance”, it would appear that now Trump is self-evidently in the non-Macron camp. The difference is that while not all US leaders and French leaders have liked each other (George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac, for example), never has a US leader so openly supported an anti-government movement in a state to whom the US remains strongly allied.
If one was worried about what Obama said regarding Ukraine, Libya and Syria, such an individual ought to be worried about what Trump is saying about France…unless of course one is happy to be a hypocrite. The fact of the matter is that one did not have to support Russo-Ukrainian friendship in 2014, the Libyan government in 2011, nor the Syrian government later in 2011 to highlight and condemn America’s unlawful interventions in those countries. Likewise, one needn’t support Emmanuel Macron to highlight the undiplomatic and downright dangerous behaviour of Donald Trump and to therefore condemn him for the same reasons one should have been condemning Obama when he was in power.