Armistice centenary sees old allies at odds
United States President Donald Trump wasted no time taking a poke at his French host as he arrived in Paris yesterday for events marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, tweeting as he landed that President Emmanuel Macron had made an ‘‘insulting’’ proposal to build up Europe’s military to counter the US, China and Russia.
It was a clear sign that the ‘‘America first’’ president was ready to chart his own course yet again as world leaders gathered to remember the coalition that brought an end to the first global war.
Trump’s brief visit to Europe comes amid uncertainty about the US relationship with the continent. He has railed against trade deals with the European Union, and has criticised some EU nations, including France, for not spending enough to defence to sustain Nato.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said the US was concerned about stability in Europe, and that Trump was not shirking from global engagement. ‘‘I think the enduring lesson [of World War I] for the United States is that when you become a global power ... you have global interests to protect,’’ Bolton said. ‘‘Great world leaders,’’ he said, were ‘‘driven by national interests’’.
For today’s armistice anniversary, world leaders were to gather at a ceremony in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe.
Trump and Macron’s early relationship was marked by kisses, frequent meetings and power handshakes. Early on, Macron tried to position himself as a sort of ‘‘Trump whisperer’’, and Trump returned the favour, hosting Macron at the first and only state dinner of his presidency.
But the relationship-building failed to persuade Trump to remain in the global climate change or Iran deals, and did nothing to protect France from US tariffs.
At the same time, Macron has increasingly been positioning himself as a bulwark against the rising tide of Trump-style populism across Europe, speaking out loudly against the dangers of nationalism and isolationist retreat.
The president and first lady Melania Trump were expected to visit several memorial sites in France dedicated to American service members. Not on Trump’s schedule, despite earlier discussions about the possibility, was an extended meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A cemetery employee cleans the grave marker of an American serviceman killed in World War I ahead of the armistice commemorations at the American Cemetery in Suresnes, on the outskirts of Paris.