Trump patches over rift with Macron, can­cels ceme­tery visit

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - News - BY JILL COLVIN AND DAR­LENE SUPERVILLE

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron tried to project unity Satur­day af­ter Trump had lashed out at one of Amer­ica’s strong­est al­lies in Europe, claim­ing Macron in­sulted the United States when he pushed the idea of the con­ti­nent hav­ing its own de­fense force.

The Amer­i­can and French lead­ers, who have had an up-and-down re­la­tion­ship, told re­porters they were good friends be­fore go­ing be­hind closed doors for talks at the El­y­see Palace. It was Trump’s first stop on a week­end trip to Paris where dozens of world lead­ers were gather­ing to com­mem­o­rate Sun­day’s 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I.

Trump also had been sched­uled to visit the Aisne-Marne Amer­i­can Ceme­tery at Bel­leau

Wood on Satur­day, but can­celed be­cause of rainy weather that grounded the pres­i­den­tial he­li­copter. The pres­i­dent was crit­i­cized for not find­ing a way to get to the ceme­tery, which is about a two-hour drive east of Paris, where Amer­i­cans killed in World War I are buried. The White House sent a del­e­ga­tion that in­cluded chief of staff

John Kelly in his place.

The dustup over Euro­pean se­cu­rity, which threat­ened to di­vert at­ten­tion from the week­end’s somber re­mem­brance cer­e­monies, was just the lat­est ex­am­ple of fall­out from Trump’s un­pre­dictable brand of Twit­teras­sisted diplo­macy.

His frac­tious, desta­bi­liz­ing re­la­tion­ship with Europe has driven a wedge be­tween the U.S. and some of its old­est al­lies on is­sues in­clud­ing trade, de­fense spend­ing and his seem­ing def­er­ence to their loom­ing neigh­bor to the east, Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin. It also un­der­scored the hot-and­cold re­la­tion­ship that Trump has had with Macron, who has in­creas­ingly branded him­self as a bul­wark against the ris­ing tide of Trump-style na­tion­al­ism across Europe.

The brouhaha be­gan Fri­day night, when Trump unleashed an an­gry Twit­ter jab at his host just as Air Force One touched down in Paris. 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 tweet was es­pe­cially wound­ing to Macron. Macron’s of­fice said Trump had mis­un­der­stood the French lead­ers’ com­ments, lump­ing to­gether two dif­fer­ent ideas. Macron had said in an in­ter­view that Europe needs to pro­tect it­self against cyber threats and the “in­ter­fer­ence in our democ­ra­cies” from “China, Rus­sia and even the United States.” Later, he made the case that Europe needs to build up its own mil­i­tary be­cause it can no longer de­pend on the U.S. for de­fense.

The two men struck a more friendly tone as they opened their meet­ing at the grand pres­i­den­tial residence. “We want to help Europe but it has to be fair. Right now, the bur­den­shar­ing has been largely on the United States,” Trump said.

Trump has long com­plained about un­com­pen­sated U.S. de­fense spend­ing that ben­e­fits al­lies, and this year threat­ened to turn his back on NATO if mem­bers didn’t boost their de­fense spend­ing.

Macron de­fended his view­point, say­ing he shares Trump’s in­sis­tence that there be more bur­den shar­ing. He said it’s “un­fair to have the Euro­pean se­cu­rity to­day be­ing as­sured just by the United States,” but did not re­spond to a ques­tion about why he felt France needed pro­tec­tion from the U.S.

Cen­tral to ef­forts for Euro­pean unity is the in­au­gu­ral Paris Peace Fo­rum, a gather­ing of heads of state, govern­ment of­fi­cials, heads of in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, cor­po­ra­tions, aca­demics, phi­lan­thropists and oth­ers be­gin­ning Sun­day. The fo­rum aims to re­vive col­lec­tive gov­er­nance and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion to tackle global chal­lenges.

Trump, how­ever, will not be at­tend­ing. The White House cited a sched­ul­ing con­flict, say­ing the pres­i­dent in­stead would at­tend a Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony to pay re­spects to U.S. sol­diers who died on

French soil.

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