Trump, Macron agree on de­fence af­ter row over Eu­ro­pean army call

Gulf Times - - EUROPE -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and France’s Em­manuel Macron agreed yes­ter­day 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 I, Macron wel­comed Trump un­der rainy Parisian skies with a firm hand­shake.

How­ever, 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 that he wanted Europe to bear a greater share of the de­fence costs within the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion (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 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 One’s ar­mistice.

How­ever, 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 that 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 de­fence and not rely on the United States, com­plained.

“Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Europe should first pay its fair share of Nato, which the US sub­sidises 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, at­tended the cer­e­mony in­stead, the White House said.

To­day, 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 US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to Democrats who may use their new­found power to launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Trump and stymie his agenda.

While the talks with Trump cov­ered trade and for­eign pol­icy, it was not clear if they touched on Eu­ro­pean con­cerns about Trump’s plans to with­draw the United States from the 1980s In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces (INF) Agree­ment.

Macron told Europe 1 ra­dio that the “main vic­tim” of the US with­drawal from the INF ac­cord was Europe and its se­cu­rity.

The French pres­i­dent, who tried but failed ear­lier this year to talk Trump out of with­draw­ing from the 2015 Iran nu­clear deal, has also voiced wor­ries about the im­pact of sanc­tions on Eu­ro­pean com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with Iran.

Trump: We want a strong Europe, it’s very im­por­tant to us.

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