US Pres­i­dent heads to Paris for Bastille Day

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and France’s Em­manuel Macron may be the world’s odd­est of po­lit­i­cal odd cou­ples. Far apart on cli­mate change and im­mi­gra­tion, the two lead­ers will look for com­mon ground on ter­ror­ism and de­fense pol­icy when they meet this week in Paris. The pres­i­dent will be the guest of honor at this year’s Bastille Day events - a cel­e­bra­tion of French na­tional pride at a time when, ac­cord­ing to Macron, “our world has never been so di­vided.”

The over­seas trip comes as Trump is dogged by fresh con­tro­versy over his cam­paign’s po­ten­tial con­nec­tions to Rus­sia. Don­ald Trump Jr. on Tues­day dis­closed 2016 emails about his meet­ing with a Russian lawyer de­scribed to him as some­one who was “part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr Trump” in the cam­paign against Hil­lary Clin­ton. The pres­i­dent has main­tained that nei­ther he nor mem­bers of his cam­paign col­luded with the Russian gov­ern­ment ahead of the 2016 elec­tion.

Macron, for his part, has come out strongly against Rus­sia’s pur­ported ef­forts to in­ter­fere in elec­tions in the US and across Eu­rope. He has ac­cused Moscow of work­ing against his own cam­paign in sup­port of his op­po­nent, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The visit will gauge whether Trump and France’s new leader can find con­sen­sus on any of the crit­i­cal is­sues on which they find them­selves deeply at odds. After Trump with­drew the US from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord agree­ment last month, Macron, a staunch ad­vo­cate of re­search to com­bat global warm­ing, beck­oned “all re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens,” in­clud­ing Amer­i­can sci­en­tists and re­searchers, to bring their fight against cli­mate change to France. The pres­i­dent will mark the 100th an­niver­sary of Amer­ica’s en­try into World War I by vis­it­ing US troops. White House of­fi­cials are cast­ing it as a cel­e­bra­tion of the US-French mil­i­tary al­liance - both then and now. Trump and Macron are sched­uled to hold a joint news con­fer­ence, dur­ing which Trump may face tough ques­tions on the lat­est rev­e­la­tions about his son’s con­tacts with a Russian lawyer. The two lead­ers and their wives will end a busy day of meet­ings to­day with a lav­ish din­ner at Jules Verne, at the top of the Eif­fel Tower.

In the leadup to what will be Trump’s first of­fi­cial visit to France, the White House chose to high­light ar­eas where the two lead­ers can col­lab­o­rate, and said their dif­fer­ences could fos­ter more con­struc­tive di­a­logue. “Macron and the pres­i­dent have some­what dif­fer­ent views on how to achieve the end goal, but I think the end goal is the same,” Trump’s top eco­nomic ad­viser Gary Cohn said last week. Macron’s path to the pres­i­dency was nearly as un­likely as Trump’s.

Re­ject­ing ties with the French main­stream par­ties that had con­trolled the gov­ern­ment since mod­ern France be­gan, he launched his own po­lit­i­cal move­ment just over a year ago and cam­paigned on pro-busi­ness and pro Euro­pean poli­cies in direct counter to Le Pen. “Both of these men were elected as out­siders and nei­ther of them is re­ally tied to their own na­tional po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ments,” said Ben­jamin Had­dad, a Wash­ing­ton-based French po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst with the Hud­son In­sti­tute. “That may ac­tu­ally work to their ad­van­tage.”

And Macron’s na­tional se­cu­rity pitch hasn’t dif­fered dras­ti­cally from Trump’s. On Syria, he ar­gues for in­ter­ven­tion, say­ing that Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad is a threat to Syria and the Is­lamic State group is a threat to France. France has been plagued in re­cent years by a se­ries of ex­trem­ist at­tacks, in­clud­ing one of the dead­li­est at­tacks dur­ing Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tions last year, when a 19-ton cargo truck de­lib­er­ately plowed into crowds in Nice, killing more than 80 peo­ple.

Macron sup­ports in­ter­ven­tion against Syria’s gov­ern­ment in re­sponse to its use of chem­i­cal weapons and could prove an im­por­tant ally as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to in­crease pres­sure against Da­m­as­cus. But in do­ing so, they’ll need to tackle the is­sue of Rus­sia’s sup­port for As­sad, some­thing Trump has only pas­sively ac­knowl­edged. At age 39, Macron be­came France’s youngest pres­i­dent when he won a runoff against Le Pen in April. De­spite no po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, he pulled to­gether an over­whelm­ing leg­isla­tive ma­jor­ity in France’s par­lia­ment and re­cent polls show him with strong pub­lic pop­u­lar­ity.

For Trump, whose ap­proval rat­ings at home and abroad have sunk since he took of­fice, ex­perts say lever­ag­ing Macron’s pop­u­lar­ity could be the pres­i­dent’s best bet to thaw his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­age among Euro­pean al­lies. “Macron doesn’t have the same con­straints as (Ger­many’s) An­gela Merkel, who is en­ter­ing an elec­tion cam­paign in which her op­po­nents would love to make it a cam­paign about Don­ald Trump,” said Jef­frey Rathke, deputy di­rec­tor of the Eu­rope Pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.—AP

PARIS: Mem­bers of the US Armed Forces stand in at­ten­tion dur­ing a re­hearsal for the French Bastille Day pa­rade on Champs-El­y­sees av­enue in Paris.—AP

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