Did Trump pull out of battlefield tribute over Macron EU army jibe?
...or was he just fed up with French President’s touchy-feely diplomacy!
PRESIDENT Donald Trump snubbed a key part of the Armistice commemorations yesterday by scrapping a planned visit to an American First World War cemetery in France.
The White House’s excuse that the trip was called off because of rain was met with widespread scorn, especially after a very public spat with French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to have soured Mr Trump’s mood.
Although low cloud apparently prevented the President’s Marine One helicopter from flying the 55 miles from Paris to Belleau Wood and the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, critics wondered why the journey couldn’t have been made by road.
Mr Trump’s no-show followed a row with Mr Macron over France’s contribution to Nato. The French leader said the EU needed a joint army now the US was pulling out of a disarmament treaty with Russia.
‘We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even
‘He sits in a hotel rather than honour the dead’
the United States of America,’ he said. A furious Mr Trump tweeted in response: ‘Very insulting.’
The Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918 was a pivotal victory, largely credited to US Marines who defeated a huge German force. More than 1,800 Americans were killed. In total, 8,100 soldiers died in the month-long battle.
Political commentator David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, contrasted the sacrifices made by the 116,000 US troops who died in the war to Mr Trump’s lack of resolve.
He tweeted: ‘None of this is surprising. Doesn’t make it any less dismaying. These troops fought victoriously alongside allies with whom the US still stands today. It’s worth a few miles in a limo, a few words from under a tarp.’
Ben Rhodes, a former senior staffer to Barack Obama, tweeted: ‘I helped plan all of President Obama’s trips for eight years. There is always a rain option. Always. Trump will use the US military for a pre-election political stunt but sits in his hotel instead of honoring those who fought and died for America.’
Mr Trump’s Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, made the hour-long journey by road from Paris.
Mr Trump’s cancellation came after a day of tension between the US and French leaders.
In response to Mr Macron’s suggestion that the EU should have its own army, Mr Trump tweeted on Friday night: ‘President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of Nato, which the US subsidizes greatly!’
The frosty relationship took a turn for the worse on Saturday morning during talks at Elysee Palace in Paris as Mr Macron awkwardly reached out to pat Mr Trump’s leg. In marked contrast with the pair’s power-grip handshakes and back slaps at previous meetings, a stony-faced Mr Trump appeared unimpressed. Later, he offered a begrudging thumbs-up while the tactile French president pawed at his arm.
As they prepared to meet for dinner last night, Mr Macron tried to smooth over the row, saying: ‘We need a much better burden sharing within Nato. When President Trump has to protect one of the states of the United States he doesn’t ask France or Germany or another country to finance. That’s why I do believe that we need more investments.’
TOUCHY: President Macron tries to ease the tension by reaching out to pat Mr Trump’s thigh, but the US leader looks distinctly unimpressed by the gesture
FEELY: Mr Macron moves down to Mr Trump’s knee, but still gets no response
ARM-ISTICE: A reluctant thumbs up as Mr Macron aims higher