French press review 14 August 2017


There is a fair amount of doom and gloom in the French papers this morning, as they react to the tense stand-off between North Korea and Washington over the weekend, as well as the US President’s threat of military intervention in Venezuela.

Le Monde says Trump’s sabre-rattling has the unfortunate effect of distracting public opinion from Kim Jung-un’s paranoid regime.

Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests are to blame for the escalation, Le Monde says.

That is why the UN unanimously adopted sanctions on North Korea.

But instead of capitalising on his success at the UN, Trump chose to improvise a shocking response to Kim Jung-un’s regime, ignoring how catastrophic a conflict would be in a region which is both economically important and densely populated.

“Mr Trump, probably because he does not spend enough time thinking or listening to his experts, seems to be the prisoner of simple ideas,” the editorial reads.

Playing “good cop, bad cop” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not always a bad idea, according to Le Monde, as long as it’s done intelligently, whereas throwing militaristic slogans around as he did on the campaign trail, only undermines Trump’s credibility.

Deter or attack?

Le Figaro, on the other hand, thinks that we should give Trump some slack, as it reminds its readers that the real danger is not in Washington but in Pyongyang.

“We’ve known this for a long time,” its editorial reads.

“Trump’s words are raining like bullets,” it says. But “his aim is more to deter than to attack”.

In a rather optimistic interpretation of the president’s own words, Le Figaro says Trump’s strategy is to show his strength in order to avoid having to use it, to put off the regimes of both Kim Jung-un and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

We have misunderstood the US president, according to Le Figaro. We thought that he was isolationist when he is actually a protectionist, always ready to intervene wherever he thinks his country is threatened.

And that is precisely what he is doing now.

Trump’s stance on far-right violence questioned

Libération is also preoccupied with the attitude of the US president, including his ambiguous reaction to the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia on Saturday.

“If Trump persists in his ambiguity, it will give a free reign to all the people who dream of fighting minorities and restoring white rule,” the paper says.

Libération makes a direct connection between the far-right violence and Trump himself, saying that the far right is now marching with its head held high, inspired by all the outrageous comments made by Trump and his entourage.

Does France still need Opération Sentinelle?

La Croix has a report which raises questions about Opération Sentinelle, France’s large-scale military deployment in response to terrorist attacks.

According to La Croix, it is coming under a lot of criticism within the military.

As last Wednesday’s attack in Levallois-Perret shows, soldiers have become prime targets for attacks.

But that is just one of many arguments being made for the reduction of the number of troops patrolling in the streets.

Experts quoted by Libération point out that the operation is absorbing too many troops, reducing their availability for training, as well as other missions.

They say France should return to the Plan Vigipirate, which was in place prior to the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, and keep the military as a strategic intervention force.

French President Emmanuel Macron has commissioned a report which could lead to a reshaping of the operation in the fall.

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