Abe and Macron play Politics with Trump

France's Emmanuel Macron is doing what his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe did long before- cozy up to Trump to strengthen their country's positions and save themselves from his whimsical foreign and fiscal policies. For French President Macron, this took ridiculous lengths, like constantly hugging President Trump from the time they met. His efforts have paid off. Trump has paid heed to a number of Macron's requests, like keeping the United States from abandoning the nuclear deal which Iran has signed with the western powers.

East before west

Macron has clearly followed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's well thought and well-executed plan. The Japanese PM has been the first one to follow this strategy. He commissioned psychologists who created the then newly minted US President's personality profile. Abe went to Trump Tower only a few days after the presidential election in November 2016 to form a personal bond with Trump. It was followed by an official visit from the Japanese premier in February. The leaders bonded over with their shared affection of golf.

Japanese officials did their part too. They allowed Trump to take credit as a job maker when the Japanese scions of industry announced a slew of investments in the United States. The aim of all these was to insulate Japan from the tumultuous time which may come in the future. Macron has adopted a similar method. He had invited Trump to Bastille Day parade, shrewdly comprehending that the president will love the exhibition of martial pomp. Macron has bonded with Trump over their mutual status as political outsiders determined to shake up the status quo. The two then subsequently stayed in contact through regular phone calls. This does not mean Macron is a fan of Trump. In fact, the French premier made this extremely clear when his speech in Congress implicitly rebuked the US President.

Not all predicted

Abe's efforts have largely paid off. His initial two visits protected Japan from the trade threats made by the Trump administration towards other countries, including a number of European allies of the United States. Tokyo remained largely unscathed even as the US and North Korea hurtled towards a confrontation.

All these do not mean Trump can be controlled with a pat on his back. Even after Abe played golf with Trump, the US President shocked the Japanese Prime Minister by pasting tariffs on aluminum and steel products. Abe also could not protect Japan from Trump's sudden decision to have a direct engagement with Pyongyang.

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