At the NATO summit in May 2017, the French president dug his fingertips into Donald Trump's hand, staring at him. "He wasn't innocent," Mr. Macron said later. "In my bilateral dialogues, I will not allow anything to pass," he said.
He advanced four years to the last G7 summit in Cornwall, Joe Biden's first as President of the United States, and Once again Mr. Macron realized the moment. As the cameras were cut, he walked across the beach with his arm around Mr. Biden. The transformation of body language was clear: the arms in the arm again.
But in capitals across Europe, from London to Berlin, Afghanistan lit up the sweetness of Joe Biden's honeymoon. It is not the fact of the withdrawal itself that has been classified, but the failure of the United States to coordinate with its allies, especially since nato's mission at the time of the withdrawal included troops from 36 countries, three-quarters of which were non-American, leading to an international evacuation scramble.
The German deployment to Afghanistan was his first major combat mission since World War II, so the frustration with how it ended is deep. Armin Lachett, Germany's conservative candidate for chancellor ahead of elections later this month, described the US withdrawal as "the biggest disaster NATO has seen since its founding."
Czech President Milos Zeman described it as "cowardice," adding that "The Americans have lost the prestige of a world leader."
"The expectations were very high when Joe Biden came in - maybe they were too high, they were unrealistic," Carl Bildt, Sweden's former prime minister, told the BBC. "America is back," he said, suggesting a golden age in our relations. But this did not happen and there was a shift in a fairly short period of time. The total lack of consultation on withdrawal has left a scar," he said.
A Pew Research Center poll last year found that the proportion of Germans trusting the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs jumped from 10% under Donald Trump to 79% with Joe Biden. The rise in France was almost identical.
But, as Natalie Loiseau, France's Europe minister until 2019, says, "Many EU countries were in denial. They thought they had to wait until Trump left and return to "old normalcy." But this "old normal" is no longer alive. I hope it's a wake-up call for us."
For Europe's leaders, the way the U.S. withdrawal is and Joe Biden's comments that the United States will no longer send troops to "reshape other countries" have echoes of Donald Trump's "America First" policy.
But while there is frustration here over Washington's lack of communication with EU capitals, it may be too early to know how much this will affect widespread satisfaction with changing U.S. administrations.
"The main controversy under Trump had less to do with specific foreign policy decisions and more that we didn't suddenly share the same values," says Natalie Tucci, adviser to the EU's head of foreign policy, Josep Burrell, and a visiting professor at Harvard University.
"The real shock to Trumpism was not only "America First" but it seemed that he was starting to get more with Chez and Putin. On the same side that has not been questioned with Afghanistan, what has changed is the growing concern in Europe that with the Withdrawal of the United States from the world, it may be very committed to protecting values in America -- but what about anywhere else?"
Indeed, some see the Issue of Afghanistan as merely a continuation of the old American tendency to go alone. "Is this new?" asks Mrs. Tucci. "It has always been a European complaint about the United States. But Americans are acting now without coordinating their departure, not entering."
This feeling - that Europe has been here time and again - has brought the debate on "strategic autonomy" back to focus: a long-standing goal of EU foreign policy, especially from France, which often longs for a more egalitarian geopolitical balance with the United States.
"Some other countries, such as the UNITED Kingdom and Germany, have always thought they could rely mostly on the United States for security," says Ms. Loiseau, a former French minister. "So of course they fear that times have changed. But we have often said that we should reconsider how NATO works. We must not remain in denial."
The chaos in Afghanistan comes at the head of other simmering transatlantic ranks, which deepen the sense that Europe's warmth toward Joe Biden is calming down. His administration's failure to fully lift trade tariffs on European goods under Trump, his call to brandish patents for Covid vaccines -- which appear to have been done again without consultation with the European Union -- and his refusal to lift the pandemic-related travel ban on EU countries have raised tentacles.
European Commission Vice President Margaret Sheenas said he canceled his scheduled trip to the United States next week "because I don't find the non-reciprocity on travel rules fair." Now the EU has removed the United States from the "safety list" for travel: seen by some as an example of rising tensions.
Now the EU's concerns are twofold. First, the chaos in Afghanistan is spurring another migrant crisis, which awakened echoes of 2015, when more than a million people fleeing Syria and elsewhere arrived in Europe.
Second, whether America is more self-focused, along with Germany initially without Angela Merkel and France whose president faces imminent re-election, leaves a power vacuum already filled by Russia and China. This would prompt action, such as the growing threats Beijing poses to Taiwan, without fear of Western retaliation.
"There was a time when the United States talked about maintaining world order," says Carl Bildt.
"But that's not the language that comes out of the White House. Expectations of a revival of transatlantic relations have been diminished. One resigned to America, which does so in its own way."