Macron moves to smooth over ten­sions with Trump

The US pres­i­dent had taken of­fence at Macron’s pro­posal that Europe cre­ate its own mil­i­tary force


French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron moved to smooth over ruf­fled re­la­tions with Donald Trump af­ter the US pres­i­dent took of­fence at his pro­posal that Europe cre­ate its own con­ti­nen­tal mil­i­tary force.

Macron re­ceived Trump at the El­y­see Palace on a wet Satur­day morn­ing in Paris ahead of a week­end of com­mem­o­ra­tions with world lead­ers to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I.

But while both lead­ers flashed thumbs up signs as they met, the first task was to deal with a pub­lic spat over Macron’s com­ments in a ra­dio in­ter­view this week that a “strong and sov­er­eign Europe” was needed to de­fend the con­ti­nent’s in­ter­ests against China, Rus­sia and “even the U.S.” Trump sent a tweet call­ing Macron’s pro­posal “very in­sult­ing” as the U.S. pres­i­dent’s plane landed Fri­day evening.

Macron moved quickly to defuse the dis­agree­ment, say­ing he agrees that Europe needs to do more to de­fend it­self and that his ef­forts to cre­ate more com­mon Euro­pean Union de­fense ini­tia­tives were moves in that di­rec­tion.

“Our de­fense co­op­er­a­tion is very im­por­tant,” Macron said at the start of the meet­ing. “I do share Pres­i­dent Trump’s view we need much bet­ter bur­den shar­ing within NATO. And that’s why I do be­lieve my pro­posal for Euro­pean de­fense are re­ally con­sis­tent with that.”

Trump re­sponded in kind. “I ap­pre­ci­ate what you are say­ing about bur­den shar­ing. We know what my at­ti­tude has been, and we want a strong Europe — very im­por­tant to us to have a strong Europe,” Trump said. “Which­ever way we can do it the best and most ef­fi­cient will be some­thing that we both want.”

Trump has de­manded that NATO coun­tries spend more on their own de­fense and has ques­tioned whether the U.S. should re­main in the al­liance. Macron and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel have both pub­licly ques­tioned whether Europe can de­pend on the U.S. to come to its aid in the event of war. Macron noted that Trump doesn’t ask France or Ger­many to as­sure the de­fense of the US.

The French pres­i­dent has crit­i­cized Trump’s plan to with­draw from the 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces Treaty, which the US says Rus­sia has vi­o­lated. Europe is the “main vic­tim” of Trump’s de­ci­sion, Macron said in re­marks made as he toured World War I bat­tle­fields ahead of the centenary of the November 11 ar­mistice, ac­cord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal.

Trump and Macron also have ex­ten­sive dif­fer­ences over trade and US sanc­tions on Iran.

How­ever, Macron’s com­ments on stronger Euro­pean de­fense co­op­er­a­tion were not in­tended to add to the points of con­tention. His stance is not new and he did not sug­gest that mil­i­tary forces should be di­rected against the US. And while greater Euro­pean au­ton­omy in all spheres is a fo­cus for both Macron and Merkel, they are a long way from achiev­ing it.

Speak­ing to re­porters, a French official sug­gested that Trump had con­flated two sep­a­rate is­sues. Macron has said Trump’s with­drawal from the INF treaty con­cerns Europe and threat­ens Euro­pean se­cu­rity, and there­fore Europe should be in­volved in that de­ci­sion, but that’s a sep­a­rate point from Europe’s need to cre­ate an au­ton­o­mous mil­i­tary force, the official said.

Macron’s point is the army is needed so that Europe doesn’t solely rely on the U.S. against threats from the east. The comment on the army was never in­tended to say Europe had to pro­tect it­self from the U.S., ac­cord­ing to the French official.

Putin, Er­do­gan

While in Paris, Trump will see Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin for the first time since their sum­mit ear­lier this year in Helsinki, though White House of­fi­cials down­played the en­counter, say­ing Trump doesn’t plan ex­ten­sive talks with Putin over a week­end that mostly will be de­voted to cer­e­monies.

Trump drew bi­par­ti­san crit­i­cism af­ter the Helsinki sum­mit for sug­gest­ing he be­lieved the Rus­sian pres­i­dent’s de­nial of elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence over the as­sess­ment of his own in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity. The pair are ex­pected to meet dur­ing the G20 meet­ing later this month in Ar­gentina, and the White House has in­vited Putin to visit Wash­ing­ton.

Other pos­si­ble en­coun­ters to watch in­clude Trump’s in­ter­ac­tion with Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, amid badly strained ties over se­cu­rity and eco­nomic is­sues. In par­tic­u­lar, there is a grow­ing rift over Iran sanc­tions.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion reim­posed sanc­tions on Iran over in­ter­na­tional op­po­si­tion, black­list­ing hun­dreds of Ira­nian firms and in­di­vid­u­als. The sanc­tions stem from Trump’s ef­forts to exit or rene­go­ti­ate an in­ter­na­tional deal struck dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fer­ing eco­nomic re­lief in ex­change for a freeze of Iran’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

Macron and other Euro­pean lead­ers have re­peat­edly crit­i­cized Trump’s ef­forts to un­der­mine the deal, and have sought to cre­ate a spe­cial mech­a­nism that would al­low the bloc to avert US sanc­tions and con­tinue trad­ing with Iran. That ef­fort hasn’t yet yielded results, and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has warned that coun­tries host­ing a so­called "spe­cial pur­pose ve­hi­cle" to sub­vert the sanc­tions could face penal­ties them­selves. Euro­pean lead­ers say main­tain­ing trade ties is es­sen­tial to keep Iran from ex­it­ing the deal and restart­ing de­vel­op­ment of nu­clear weapons.

Tar­iffs re­tal­i­a­tion

Ear­lier this sum­mer, Trump im­posed steel and alu­minum tar­iffs on Europe, which re­tal­i­ated with sim­i­lar du­ties on Amer­i­can prod­ucts in­clud­ing bour­bon and Har­ley-David­son mo­tor­cy­cles. In July, Trump and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker an­nounced they would halt the tit-for-tat penal­ties and pro­ceed with ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Trump has crit­i­cized ex­ist­ing Euro­pean tar­iffs and reg­u­la­tions on au­tos, and has said he be­lieves it’s un­fair that bar­ri­ers are higher for Amer­i­can auto man­u­fac­tur­ers seek­ing to sell in Europe. But the elim­i­na­tion of tar­iffs could have an acute im­pact on French com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Re­nault and PSA Group, the maker of Peu­geot and Citroen ve­hi­cles, who don’t sell cars in the U.S. but would face in­creased com­pe­ti­tion in their home mar­kets.


French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron wel­comes US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump at the El­y­see Palace in Paris on Satur­day

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