Trump, Macron agree on de­fense af­ter ‘in­sult­ing’ Euro­pean army


PARIS (Reuters) – US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron agreed on Satur­day on the need for more Euro­pean de­fense 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 I, 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 de­fense 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 de­fense are to­tally con­sis­tent with that,” Macron said in English.

Fresh off US 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 I’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 US 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, de­fense, 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 can­celed 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 honor the ar­mistice centenary, Trump was sched­uled to visit an Amer­i­can ceme­tery at Suresnes, on the western out­skirts of the cap­i­tal, where he will make for­mal re­marks.

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