Monday 19th April 2021

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  • Trump, Macron gloss over differences in France after rough start

    US President Donald Trump began his 48-hour visit to Paris on Saturday meeting with his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, a onetime friend who he chided on Twitter within minutes of landing in the French capital.

    The men worked to paper over their differences during a morning meeting. But the effusive expressions of bonhomie that once colored their interactions were gone, replaced by businesslike handshakes and wooden declarations of cooperation.

    Seconds after Air Force One touched down at Orly Airport outside Paris on Friday, Trump vented on social media about a proposal for more robust European military cooperation floated by his French counterpart days earlier.

    “President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump wrote. The message appeared before he’d even gotten off his plane. “Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”

    It was an inauspicious start to Trump’s short visit to Paris, which kicked off Saturday morning with one-on-one talks with Macron.
    At the start of the meeting, the pair seemed to gloss over whatever differences they may have on European military cooperation, saying they were aligned on burden sharing.

    “We’re getting along from the standpoint of fairness, and I want to be fair. We want to help Europe, but it has to be fair,” Trump said. “Right now, the burden sharing has been largely on the United States as the President will say and he understands that. He understands the United States can only do so much.”
    Macron said his “proposals for European defense are consistent” with Trump’s views.
    The reason for Trump’s visit
    The morning meeting precedes the real reason for Trump’s visit: marking the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, which will bring leaders from across Europe to the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday for a solemn ceremony.

    Trump is also due to mark to the centenary with visits to burial grounds for some of the 117,000 American military personnel who died in the war. On Saturday, he will visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, near where the Battle of Belleau Wood was fought in 1918. He will deliver remarks from Suresnes American Cemetery on Sunday — Veterans Day in the United States.

    “Is there anything better to celebrate than the end of a war, in particular that one, which was one of the bloodiest and worst of all time?” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning.

    Trump and Macron began their relationship as fast friends, extending invitations to each others’ capitals for ceremony-filled visits. But differences on trade, climate change and the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal have soured their ties.

    The tweet only underscored Trump’s willingness to blow up his global friendships if he believes it better serves the United States or his own agenda. He has taken similarly assertive stances against leaders in the United Kingdom and at NATO hours before sitting for talks.

    On Tuesday, Macron called for a “real European army” during a tour of the former Western Front, according to AFP.
    “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Macron said, according to the French press agency.

    Macron also suggested that since the start of Trump’s presidency, the US has been seen as a less reliable ally.
    “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security,” he said.
    Macron has been advocating a similar position for months.

    Trump’s Friday tweet could preview another high-level international meeting in which the US President distances himself from traditional American allies. Unlike the tense G7 summit in June, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be present at this weekend’s commemoration.
    Evolving relationship


    While both Trump and Macron appeared to be off to a warm start following Trump’s inauguration, their relationship appears to have soured.

    During a call about trade and migration in June, sources familiar with the call told CNN that it didn’t end well.
    “Just bad. It was terrible,” a source told CNN. “Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can’t handle being criticized like that.”
    And more recently, a senior diplomatic source told CNN that Trump was “ranting and venting on trade” with Macron during their bilateral meeting in September.

    There was “some rapport” between the two, “but it’s not what it (once) was,” the source said.
    His meeting with Macron at the Élysée Palace on Saturday morning is the only meeting with another world leader on his schedule, though more informal encounters are possible at the Armistice ceremony and a subsequent lunch on Sunday. Other leaders attending including Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
    US officials said the civil war in Syria and efforts to counter Iran would sit high on Trump and Macron’s agenda. And trade — one of Trump’s signature issues when he visits with foreign leaders — was also likely to arise.


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