Franco-American diplomacy: the embarrassing visit of Mike Pompeo to Paris

“Provided that Mike Pompeo does not take a ticket to 135 euros while walking in Paris!” The little joke that was circulating in recent days at the Quai d’Orsay says a lot about the state of mind – both amused and taken aback – which reigns within French diplomacy. The very Trumpist US Secretary of State landed in France on Friday for a private weekend with his wife Susan in the capital… confined. What could he have done there, other than stay in the comfortable apartments made available to him at the American Embassy? Mystery.

Now let’s get to work. This Monday in the middle of the day, Pompeo – who will then leave for a major tour (Turkey, Georgia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar …) – must meet at the Elysee with Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Yves Le Drian, his Minister of Foreign Affairs… well, especially with the latter, specifies an adviser. The interview with the president should be faster, a very civilized way of receiving the American visitor with dignity without adding unnecessary.

Because France is embarrassed to the entournements. It is not easy to welcome – at his request, insists the executive – this very zealous faithful of Donald Trump, the first to relay the billionaire in his stubbornness to refuse to recognize his defeat. “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” he quipped Tuesday, before criticizing foreign leaders who had already contacted Joe Biden. This is exactly what Macron did, one of the first leaders to congratulate and then call on the Democrat. “It threw a cold,” blows a ministerial adviser.

“Mike Pompeo’s visit was made in total transparency with the president-elect’s team! “, We want to clarify at the Elysee. While ensuring that the French had warned his future American counterpart on the occasion of their phone call. Clearly, this interview at the Elysee Palace is above all not a signal sent to the current guest of the White House, with whom Macron will have tried – without much success – to play the personal relationship.

“An unpleasant moment”

If the Quai cautiously evokes an “unusual” visit, others take less gloves in the face of what looks like a diplomatic puzzle: to compose “at the same time” with two administrations. “It is very embarrassing, even humiliating for France, notes the geopolitologist Bertrand Badie (author of “Inter-socialities”, CNRS Editions., 228 p, 20 euros). Macron, who has tried hard with Trump, has long been praying for Biden to be elected. Finding amiable formulas in the face of this tough Pompeo will be an unpleasant moment, even if no one is fooled. Not only does Paris not share his views, but he will be leaving soon. “

Everything will obviously depend on the turn taken by the discussions, no doubt more tense than the nice tweet sent upon his arrival on Friday: “Happy to be in France, the oldest friend and ally of the United States“. “It will be a question of the current crises, terrorism, Nagorno-Karabakh … Between Washington and Paris, there are still many disputes, starting with the attitude of Turkish President Erdogan, a NATO ally, to whom Washington forgives many excesses in the eyes of France. And of course Iranian nuclear power: if the Republican still wants to increase sanctions against the mullahs’ regime, Paris is banking on the more flexible attitude of its Democratic successor.

“Pompeo will undoubtedly want to take the maximum of pledges so that Biden does not normalize his relations with Tehran. Trump wants to block his successor, ”said Bertrand Badie. Promised, nothing to destabilize French diplomacy: “We will run until January 20 at noon”, smiles an adviser from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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