Trump, macron agree on eu­ro­pean de­fence

Meet­ing for talks a day be­fore the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I, Macron wel­comed Trump un­der Parisian skies.

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and France’s Em­manuel Macron agreed on Satur­day on the need for more Eu­ro­pean de­fence spend­ing, pa­per­ing over an ear­lier Trump tweet that had de­scribed Macron’s call for a Eu­ro­pean army as “very in­sult­ing”.

Meet­ing for talks at the El­y­see a day be­fore com­mem­o­ra­tions to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War One, Macron wel­comed Trump un­der rainy Parisian skies with a firm hand­shake. But there ap­peared to be less im­me­di­ate warmth in the greet­ing be­tween the two than in the past. Seated on gilded chairs in the or­nate pres­i­den­tial palace, Macron placed his hand on Trump’s knee and re­ferred to him as “my friend”, while Trump kept more dis­tance, although he also talked up com­mon ground on an is­sue that had caused fric­tion.

“We want a strong Eu­rope, it’s very im­por­tant to us, and which­ever way we can do it the best and more ef­fi­cient would be some­thing we both want,” said Trump.

“We want to help Eu­rope but it has to be fair. Right now the bur­den shar­ing has been largely on the United States.” Macron echoed those sen­ti­ments, say­ing he wanted Eu­rope to bear a greater share of the de­fence costs within NATO, a point he has made re­peat­edly since tak­ing of­fice, along­side his am­bi­tions for Eu­rope to have its own mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity.

“That’s why I do be­lieve my pro­pos­als for Eu­ro­pean de­fence are to­tally con­sis­tent with that,” Macron said in English.

Fresh off U.S. con­gres­sional elec­tions that saw his Repub­li­can Party’s power eroded, Trump’s visit is aimed at bol­ster­ing the US-Eu­ro­pean al­liance at a sym­bolic time, with the world mark­ing the cen­te­nary of World War One’s armistice.

But in a tweet prior to land­ing in Paris, Trump took a dim view of com­ments Macron made in a Eu­rope 1 ra­dio in­ter­view this week in which he ap­peared to cast the United States as a threat. Dis­cussing the grow­ing dan­gers from cy­ber-hack­ing, med­dling in elec­toral pro­cesses and the US de­ci­sion to with­draw from a mis­sile treaty, Macron said Eu­rope needed to pro­tect it­self against China, Rus­sia “and even the United States”.

Later in the in­ter­view he spoke about the need for a Eu­ro­pean army, say­ing:

“Faced by Rus­sia, which is on our borders and which has shown that it can be threat­en­ing... we need to have a Eu­rope that can bet­ter de­fend it­self by it­self, with­out de­pend­ing solely on the United States.”

Trump, who has pushed NATO al­lies to pay more for com­mon de­fense and not rely on the United States, com­plained.

“Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Eu­rope should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. sub­si­dizes greatly,” Trump said on Twit­ter. The El­y­see said the mis­un­der­stand­ing, which it said had been caused by “ex­ag­ger­ated” US press re­ports, was cleared up dur­ing more than an hour of talks it de­scribed as “sub­stan­tial” and “very con­struc­tive”.

“We had a great dis­cus­sion and we are aligned,” the El­y­see quoted Trump as say­ing dur­ing the meet­ing, which cov­ered trade, de­fence, Syria and the fall­out from the mur­der in Is­tan­bul last month of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi.

Af­ter a lunch with Macron and their wives, Me­la­nia and Brigitte, Trump was sched­uled to visit an Amer­i­can ceme­tery at Bel­leau Wood, east of Paris. But he can­celled the trip due to the weather. White House chief of staff John Kelly, a re­tired four-star gen­eral, and Gen­eral Joe Dun­ford, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will at­tend the cer­e­mony in­stead, the White House said.

On Sun­day, af­ter a solemn com­mem­o­ra­tion at the Arc de Tri­om­phe to hon­our the armistice cen­te­nary, Trump is sched­uled to visit an Amer­i­can ceme­tery at Suresnes, on the west­ern out­skirts of the cap­i­tal, where he will make for­mal re­marks. His trip comes just days af­ter con­gres­sional elec­tions de­liv­ered re­sults that will com­pli­cate his next two years. While Repub­li­cans slightly ex­panded their ma­jor­ity in the US Se­nate, they lost con­trol of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to Democrats who may use their new­found power to launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Trump and stymie his agenda. Sri Lanka Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena’s de­ci­sion to dis­solve par­lia­ment, wors­en­ing an al­ready ma­jor po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, has drawn crit­i­cism from West­ern pow­ers, in­clud­ing the United States and Bri­tain.

Sirisena dis­solved par­lia­ment on Fri­day night, only five days be­fore it was due to re­con­vene and he was in dan­ger of los­ing a vote of no con­fi­dence. He has also called a gen­eral elec­tion for 5 Jan­uary. The pres­i­dent trig­gered an in­tense power strug­gle when he sacked prime min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe late last month and ap­pointed the is­land’s for­mer leader, Mahinda Ra­japaksa, a proChina strong­man ousted by Sirisena in 2015, in his place.


A fire­fighter car­ries a hose through an apart­ment com­plex as the Woolsey Fire burns in Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia, US on Fri­day. The fire de­stroyed dozens of struc­tures, forced thou­sands of evac­u­a­tions and closed a ma­jor free­way.

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