Trump begins visit to Europe with jab at French president
He is in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice
PARIS — 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 defense to sustain NATO, the decadesold 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.
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 favor, hosting Macron at the first and only state dinner of his presidency.
PARIS — Paris, the City of Light, always was the grandest prize of World War I, either to conquer or defend.
So it is only fitting that when victors and vanquished meet to mark the centennial of the armistice this weekend, the biggest ceremony should be on the famed Champs-Elysees at the Arc de Triomphe.
On Friday, some leaders began remembrance events in a wide crescent of cemeteries and trenchrutted battlefields north of the capital.
British Prime Minister Theresa May laid wreaths for the first and last British soldier killed in the fighting — the two were buried across from one another near Mons in southern Belgium. One grave holds the remains of Pvt. John Parr, killed Aug. 21, 1914. The other grave is of Pvt. George Ellison, who survived some of the war's worst battles but was shot on Nov. 11, 1918 — the war's last day.
French President Emmanuel Macron continued his pilgrimage of WWI sites and caught up with May, as the two present day leaders of the Allied forces that defeated Germany walked past graves at the Thiepval memorial.
“Each cemetery and memorial across the world is a unique and poignant reminder of the cost of the First World War,” said May.
Sixty-nine heads of state and government will underscore that message at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Sunday, exactly a century after the armistice.
Such was the symbolic importance of the French capital that victorious U.S. Gen. John J. Pershing said it was his “desire that every man in the American Expeditionary Forces should be given the opportunity to visit Paris before returning to the United States.”
Far from every surviving U.S. soldier from the 1914-1918 war made it to the French capital, but on Sunday, President Donald Trump will join his French counterpart and host, Emmanuel Macron, and others to remember the millions who died during the first global conflict.
Alan Seeger, the American poet that Macron lauded in his speech to the U.S. Congress last year, already captured the seeds of reconciliation in 1916 when he wrote, as a soldier in the French Foreign Legion, that “I never took arms out of any hatred against Germany or the Germans, but purely out of love for France.”
France, Britain and its empire, Russia and the United States had the main armies opposing a German-led coalition that also included the AustroHungarian and Ottoman empires. Nearly 10 million soldiers died, often in brutal trench warfare where poison gas added a cruelty in warfare that the world had never seen.
Hundreds of thousands from all corners of the world died in Europe, many of them on the Western Front reaching from Belgium's Flanders Fields almost up to the Swiss border.
Like other leaders visiting national cemeteries dotted around northern France, Trump will visit two burial sites that highlight how the United States came of age as a military power after it joined the war in 1917 and set it up to become a dominating force for the next century.