It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that Charles de Gaulle’s youngest grandson has “denounced the US, condemned Nato, vilified Ukraine and spoken up for Russian president Vladimir Putin”, says Tony Barber in the FT. There is a tendency among the progeny of famous leaders to adopt political stances that echo their forebears but are “distinctly more extreme”. In this case, Pierre de Gaulle told Le Parisien newspaper that the West had “unfortunately let Zelensky, his oligarchs and neo-Nazi military groups lock themselves into a spiral of war”. The rest of the family has “rejected his analysis” and insist the late war hero and president would not have shared it.
To be fair to Pierre, his grandfather – the greatest French statesman of the 20th century – always “ploughed a proudly independent furrow” on matters of foreign policy. He pulled France out of Nato’s military operations in 1966 and harboured “deep suspicion” of American global power. When some US scientists went to French Polynesia to view an eclipse in 1965, de Gaulle wrote in a memo: “Refuse them everything, even if they ask us for a box of matches.” But unlike his grandson, de Gaulle grand-père knew who the real baddies were. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, elder statesman Dean Acheson visited Paris to show the French president photographs of Soviet launch sites. No need, said de Gaulle. “A great nation like yours would not act if there were any doubts about the evidence.”