A striking image will remain etched in the public mind after the first meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump: That of their interminable handshake. Far from assuming its usual salutary function, the gesture was nothing short of a declaration of independence.
Macron had clearly observed Trump’s manners and behavior. Particularly with regard to his vigorous handshake, in which the POTUS would pull back his arm to drag his unsuspecting counterpart towards him. Trump used this technique to appear as the alpha male, someone to bow down to, but Macron reversed the maneuver. The French president seized Trump’s fingers and gripped his hand until his knuckles went white.
Macron was the clear winner of this childish yet symbolic battle, and went as far as boasting to the French press. His body language shows that France will not let itself be manipulated or intimidated by the American government. Trump will certainly have understood the message, but will his vindictive, egocentric temperament allow him to forgive Macron? Most probably not. And yet Macron is not alone in his resistance, as he enjoys the support of Europe. As Angela Merkel declared following the NATO and G7 summits last weekend, Europe should no longer count on the United States to defend its interests.
The new priority — and one shared by Macron — is to create a European army. Such a decision goes far beyond Trump, as even Barack Obama in his time implied that the United States no longer wished to make sacrifices for the Europeans. This trend of U.S. withdrawal is a historical turning point, and Macron’s handshake is slightly more poignant than anecdotal.