Ar­mistice centenary sees old al­lies at odds

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

United States Pres­i­dent Donald Trump wasted no time taking a poke at his French host as he ar­rived in Paris yes­ter­day 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 US, 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 brief visit to Europe comes amid un­cer­tainty about the US re­la­tion­ship with the con­ti­nent. He has railed against trade deals with the Euro­pean Union, and has crit­i­cised some EU na­tions, in­clud­ing France, for not spend­ing enough to de­fence to sus­tain Nato.

Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, said the US 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, were ‘‘driven by na­tional in­ter­ests’’.

For to­day’s ar­mistice an­niver­sary, world lead­ers were to gather at a cer­e­mony in the shadow of the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

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

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.

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


A ceme­tery em­ployee cleans the grave marker of an Amer­i­can ser­vice­man killed in World War I ahead of the ar­mistice com­mem­o­ra­tions at the Amer­i­can Ceme­tery in Suresnes, on the out­skirts of Paris.

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