Trump opens visit to France with a jab at Macron

Times Colonist - - Canada -

PARIS — U.S. 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 the First World War, 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 to­day 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 on de­fence to sus­tain NATO, the decades-old West­ern mil­i­tary al­liance.

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 the First World War] 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 is 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 tonnes would do to the streets in Wash­ing­ton.

The pres­i­dent and first lady Me­la­nia Trump were ex­pected to visit sev­eral memo­rial sites in France that are ded­i­cated to Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers. Not on Trump’s sched­ule, de­spite ear­lier dis­cus­sions about the pos­si­bil­ity, is an ex­tended meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

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