Trump opens armistice visit to France with jab at Macron

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wasted no time tak­ing a poke at his French host Fri­day as he ar­rived in Paris 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 U.S., 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 visit comes on the heels of midterm elec­tions in which Amer­i­cans de­liv­ered a split ref­er­en­dum on his pres­i­dency, keep­ing the Se­nate in his party’s con­trol but ced­ing the House to op­po­si­tion Democrats.

He planned to meet with Macron on Satur­day for talks on top­ics ex­pected to in­clude Euro­pean se­cu­rity, Syria and Iran. As he ar­rived, Trump tweeted that Macron “has just sug­gested that Europe build its own mil­i­tary in or­der to pro­tect it­self from the U.S., China and Rus­sia. Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. sub­si­dizes greatly!’’

Trump’s brief visit to Europe comes amid un­cer­tainty about the U.S. re­la­tion­ship with the con­ti­nent. Trump has railed against trade deals with the Euro­pean Union and has crit­i­cized some EU na­tions, in­clud­ing France, for not spend­ing enough to de­fence to sus­tain NATO, the decades-old Western al­liance formed as a bul­wark to Moscow’s ag­gres­sion.

Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, said Fri­day in Paris that the U.S. 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, are “driven by na­tional in­ter­ests.’’

For Sun­day’s armistice an­niver­sary, Trump was to join world lead­ers at a cer­e­mony in the shadow of the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

“It should be a very beau­ti­ful pe­riod of time, the 100th an­niver­sary of the end­ing of World War I. We have many coun­tries — the lead­er­ship from many coun­tries will be there, es­pe­cially since they heard the United States will be there. And we look for­ward to that,’’ Trump told re­porters Fri­day be­fore leav­ing the White House. “I’ve seen what they have planned, and I think it’s go­ing to be some­thing very, very spe­cial.’’

Trump orig­i­nally wanted to cel­e­brate Veter­ans Day on Sun­day with a grand mil­i­tary pa­rade in Wash­ing­ton, as he was in­spired by the tanks and fly­overs he saw dur­ing France’s Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tion when he vis­ited Paris in July of last year. Trump or­dered the Pen­tagon to come up with plans for his own ver­sion, but they were even­tu­ally scrapped over con­cerns about costs and the dam­age tanks weigh­ing many tons would do to the streets in Wash­ing­ton.

Trump and Macron’s early re­la­tion­ship was marked by kisses, fre­quent meet­ings and marathon 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 U.S. tar­iffs.

The div­i­dends of Macron’s cul­ti­va­tion of Trump are “mod­est at best,’’ said Stew­art M. Pa­trick, a fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

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.

AP PHOTO

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron visit the Thiep­val ceme­tery as part of cer­e­monies to mark the cen­te­nary of the 1918 Armistice, in Thiep­val, north­ern France, Fri­day.

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