Trump slams Macron’s army calls


Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> PARIS: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump set a com­bat­ive tone for a World War I com­mem­o­ra­tive visit to Paris yes­ter­day when he blasted calls by French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron for a Eu­ro­pean army to de­fend against threats from pow­ers in­clud­ing the US.

No sooner had Mr Trump touched down in Paris for a week­end of events to mark the end of WWI — in­clud­ing a meet­ing with Mr Macron — than he fired off a tweet cas­ti­gat­ing his host over pro­pos­als to en­dow the EU with its own, joint army.

“Pres­i­dent Macron of France has just sug­gested that Eu­rope build its own mil­i­tary in or­der to pro­tect it­self from the US, China and Rus­sia,” the US pres­i­dent tweeted late on Fri­day, re­fer­ring to re­marks made by Mr Macron three days ear­lier.

“Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Eu­rope should first pay its fair share of Nato, which the US sub­sidises greatly,” he added.

Mr Trump, who is vis­it­ing France with his wife Me­la­nia for the sec­ond time since be­com­ing pres­i­dent, was re­fer­ring to a call made by Mr Macron in an in­ter­view on Tues­day for a “real Eu­ro­pean army”.

Mr Macron, an ar­dent ad­vo­cate of closer Eu­ro­pean in­te­gra­tion, said a joint Eu­ro­pean Union mil­i­tary force was needed to wean Eu­rope off Amer­i­can might, not least af­ter Mr Trump an­nounced he was pulling out of a Cold War-era nu­clear treaty.

“We have to pro­tect our­selves with re­spect to China, Rus­sia and even the United States,” he told the Eu­rope 1 broad­caster, sug­gest­ing for the first time that Eu­rope might need to de­fend it­self from Amer­ica.

The French pres­i­dent, who has en­acted ma­jor de­fence spend­ing hikes to bring France in line with Nato spend­ing tar­gets, is spear­head­ing the cre­ation of a nine-coun­try Eu­ro­pean rapid re­ac­tion force, in­de­pen­dent from Nato.

The force, which would fall far short of an army in size and scope, would be able to rapidly mount a joint mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, evac­u­ate civil­ians from a war zone or pro­vide aid af­ter a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

Pro­pos­als for a full EU army with a joint com­mand — a pet project of Eu­ro­pean — re­main deeply sen­si­tive, how­ever, among EU mem­bers anx­ious to de­fend their sovereignty.

French of­fi­cials said Mr Macron’s mooted EU “army” was merely a call for closer de­fence in­te­gra­tion.

The row over EU de­fence risks over­shad­ow­ing com­mem­o­ra­tions to be at­tended by 70 world lead­ers, in­clud­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

Mr Macron and Mr Trump met at the El­y­see Palace at around 11am lo­cal time yes­ter­day for bi­lat­eral talks on is­sues ex­pected to in­clude Syria and Iran be­fore lunch­ing with Me­la­nia and Mr Macron’s wife Brigitte.

The last time the Macrons hosted the Trumps in Paris in July 2017, dur­ing Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tions, they whisked them up the Eif­fel Tower for a pri­vate din­ner on the sec­ond floor.

The tone of this visit is markedly less fes­tive.

Mr Trump is sched­uled to visit two Amer­i­can ceme­ter­ies over the course of the week­end, which will cul­mi­nate with a solemn cer­e­mony to­day at the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier un­der the Arc de Tri­om­phe, a na­tional mon­u­ment to France’s war dead.

Speak­ing to re­porters on Fri­day be­fore his de­par­ture, Mr Trump said he was “look­ing for­ward” to the trip.

“I think it will be some­thing very, very spe­cial,” he said.

The iso­la­tion­ist US leader, how­ever, was able to duck out of a peace con­fer­ence sched­uled to be held to­day af­ter­noon, which Mr Macron and Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in­tend to use as a plat­form for pro­mot­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton on Fri­day down­played Mr Trump’s de­ci­sion not to at­tend the in­au­gu­ral Paris Peace Fo­rum — to be at­tended by Mr Putin and Mr Er­do­gan — telling re­porters in Paris the pres­i­dent had “a lot of press­ing is­sues” to at­tend to.

Mr Trump and Mr Macron struck up a warm re­la­tion­ship ini­tially, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the US leader’s first visit to Paris, but have re­peat­edly clashed since then over a grow­ing list of is­sues, in­clud­ing Mr Trump pulling Amer­ica out of the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord and the Iran nu­clear deal.

The WWI com­mem­o­ra­tions come at a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the lib­eral post­war or­der, with anti-im­mi­gra­tion pop­ulists at the helm in the US and Brazil, shar­ing power in Italy, and mak­ing strong gains in Ger­many, which prompted Ms Merkel to an­nounce she is bow­ing out in 2021.

Mr Macron met British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May near the Bel­gian bor­der on Fri­day to try to make progress on a Brexit deal and re­mem­ber the fallen of the bat­tle­fields of the Somme.

TENSE VISIT: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and First Lady Me­la­nia Trump ar­rive at Orly air­port, out­side Paris on Fri­day.

BET­TER DAYS: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, sec­ond left, shakes hands with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump af­ter the Bastille Day mil­i­tary pa­rade in 2017.

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