On the face of it, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Jeremy Corbyn would seem to have very little in common.
Mr Macron is a brainy, sleek technocrat who believes in the capitalist system. Having read philosophy at university, he obtained a master’s degree in public affairs before training for a civil service career at the prestigious Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
Comrade Corbyn, by contrast, is neither sleek nor technocratic, and has no time for capitalism. His academic studies were undistinguished, consisting of two A-levels at the bottom grade, and a year at the North London Polytechnic.
Two more different men could scarcely be conceived. And yet on one matter they both sing lustily from the same hymn sheet. The French President and would-be Prime Minister of Great Britain are united in their disapprobation of Nato.
As was frequently mentioned during the organisation’s 70th anniversary summit in London, Mr Macron recently called Nato ‘brain dead’ — words described as ‘sweeping’ by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and dismissed as ‘nasty’ by President Trump on Tuesday.
Perhaps the implications of that phrase ‘brain dead’ haven’t been fully considered. Brains which are dead can’t be revived. They are finis, kaput, wrecked. That is what Mr Macron thinks of the alliance that has defended Europe for so long.
The Labour leader has held similar views. Speaking in South Wales in 2014, he opined that Nato should have ‘shut up shop’ when the Cold War came to a close at the end of the 1980s.
Video footage has recently come to light which showed Mr Corbyn saying around the same time: ‘I’m no fan of Nato. Indeed, I wish Nato didn’t exist’. This has now been wiped from the internet, presumably by anxious Labour spin doctors.
I doubt Mr Corbyn has changed his mind. Although Labour’s election manifesto fleetingly pledges to maintain a ‘commitment’ to Nato, he found it impossible to express any enthusiasm for it during an interview on Radio 2 on Tuesday.
While repeatedly setting out Labour’s position (Nato membership had been ‘accepted by the party’), he refused to be drawn on his own views, though encouraged several times by Jeremy Vine.
So there we have it. Two men who share a dislike of Nato. And not just Nato, I submit. Both are driven by a visceral anti-Americanism. We must pray neither of them succeeds in killing off the alliance.
Mr Macron may be the lesser threat. France was for many years a semi-detached member of Nato. In 1966, President Charles De Gaulle — distrustful of Anglo-Saxon dominance of the organisation, and hopeful of detente with the Soviet Union — demanded that all U.S. troops, as well as Nato’s military headquarters, be removed from French soil.
France didn’t re-join the military structure of Nato, and become a proper member again, for 43 years. Throughout the most testing years of the Cold War, it was not a fully engaged member of the western alliance.
In effect, President Macron is reverting to the nationalist, Gaullist position. He sees an opportunity for France in Britain’s departure from the EU. Despite some initial flirting with the brash and maverick U.S. president, he disdains Trumpian America.
So he has championed the creation of a European army. France would play the leading role, and the Germans obligingly dig into their pockets to bankroll the project.
The trouble is, just as De Gaulle was unable to persuade West Germany to distance itself from the United States over 50 years ago, so a re-unified Germany today is very reluctant to jettison the protection of an American-led Nato.
For one thing, it would be enormously expensive for Europe entirely to look after its own defence. The U.S. at present accounts for more than 70 per cent of all the military spending of 29 Nato countries.
Moreover, having described the alliance as ‘obsolete’ before assuming office, Mr Trump has begun to warm to it, partly because countries including Germany, which have not pulled their weight in terms of financial contributions, have indicated they are prepared to pay a little more.
From Britain’s point of view, it would be idiotic and reckless to throw in our lot with France, given how unreliable and skittish an ally it has been for most of the past 70 years.
America, on the other hand, has proved a loyal and dependable friend.
Only once during this post-war period — during the 1956 Suez crisis, after the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt — have the United States and United Kingdom been seriously at loggerheads.
Which brings me back to Jeremy Corbyn. Does anyone honestly think that, if he became Prime Minister, Britain would remain as one of the respected leading countries of Nato?
So long as President Trump is in the White House, he and Mr Corbyn would scarcely speak. It’s doubtful whether Labour would maintain an independent nuclear deterrent despite its manifesto pledge to do so.
Britain under Corbyn would be a diminished military power, often picking fights with the United States, and probably other members of Nato. It would embrace Leftish causes around the world — in the Middle-East, South America and Africa.
It’s most unlikely that, under Prime Minister Corbyn, the UK would continue to play its traditional role of helping to keep Nato together, as the key ally of the United States and a European power.
If elected, Mr Corbyn might well do more to bring about the demise of Nato than Mr Macron’s grandiose but unrealistic dreams of a European army ever could.
Of course, I don’t at all deny Nato has problems, even though it is, as Boris Johnson said yesterday in his press conference at the end of the summit, ‘the most successful alliance in history’.
There are undoubtedly serious divisions — most notably with Turkey, which is attacking Kurds who were Nato allies in the war against IS, in northern Syria.
It can’t be right for Turkey, a Nato member, to be buying an anti-aircraft missile system from Russia, which is the alliance’s foremost potential adversary, and particularly feared by its East European members.
But there have been severe problems before — during the Suez crisis and over French disengagement under De Gaulle, as I have mentioned, and in perennially fractious relations between Turkey and its fellow Nato member, Greece.
Despite Mr Trump’s criticism of Canada’s President Justin Trudeau as ‘two-faced’ after the latter was recorded apparently making disobliging and unstatesmanlike remarks about the American leader at Buckingham Palace, the alliance remains in good shape.
Like him or loathe him, President Trump won’t be around for ever. He could be gone in 13 months. The Nato alliance is obviously able to outlast him, as it should survive the vainglorious schemes of Emmanuel Macron.
And I’m sure most Britons would rather trust the U.S. as the rock of the West’s defence rather than the popinjay French with their record of unreliability and flakiness.
Unless, that is, Jeremy Corbyn should by some mischance find himself in No 10 — in which case our place in an alliance that has lasted 70 years will be in jeopardy, as we find ourselves at odds with our closest friend.