President Donald Trump struck back at French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday after Macron called for a “true European army” to protect itself from the United States and other potential adversaries, inflaming tensions between the two men as they prepare to meet one-on-one later this weekend.
As Air Force One touched down here for Trump’s two-day visit for the centennial commemoration of the end of World War I, Trump sent out a tweet – one of several during the six-hour trans-Atlantic flight – taking umbrage at Macron’s comments to French radio earlier this week.
“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 tweeted Friday night just before disembarking from the presidential plane. “Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”
Trump has long been irritated at countries in the NATO alliance who do not yet pay at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product for their military, claiming the United States has had to subsidize the defense spending of other nations.
His sudden demand at the NATO summit this summer for other nations to pay billions more for the military rattled the annual meeting, after some diplomats viewed Trump’s remarks as a threat for the United States to withdraw from the alliance.
In the interview with Europe 1 radio, Macron referred to Trump’s recent announcement that the United States would withdraw from the INF Treaty, a nuclear arms control pact that then-President Ronald Reagan struck with the former Soviet Union in 1987.
The “main victim” of the withdrawal, Macron argued, is “Europe and its security.”
“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Macron said in the interview, conducted during his tour of the main battlegrounds of World War I in northeastern France. He said Europe has to “protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”
The spat marks a contentious start to Trump’s weekend in this French capital and is a decidedly different tone from the message relayed by John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, who had traveled in advance to Paris this week.
“In Paris today working together with our Allies to confront the toughest global security challenges we face together,” Bolton tweeted earlier Friday.
Trump and Macron will meet for a bilateral meeting Saturday morning in Paris, and Macron will host a dinner later that evening for the visiting heads of state who are in town for the World War I commemoration. The official Armistice Day event will be held Sunday.
Macron has also invited world leaders to participate in the Paris Peace Forum, another venue to discuss shared global challenges, but Trump is not expected to attend.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Seung Min Kim