Trump and Macron seek to ease tensions

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron worked Saturday to ease tensions after a dustup over their comments about European security that threatened to divert attention away from a weekend celebration marking 100 years since the end of World War I.

The American and French leaders, who have had somewhat of an up-and-down relationship, worked to project unity on whether Europe should create an army as they addressed reporters before they retreated behind closed doors at the Elysee Palace.

Trump's visit to France opened on a testy note after he unleashed an angry Twitter jab at his host as he arrived for the celebration. Just as Air Force One touched down in Paris Friday night, 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!"

Macron's office said Trump misunderstood Macron's comments about sharing the defense burden and 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 burden-sharing has been largely on the United States," Trump said, adding that Macron "understands that and he understands the United States can only do so much, in fairness to the United States."

Trump added that the U.S. wants to "absolutely be there" to help defend Europe but that "different countries have to also help."

Macron defended his viewpoint, saying "I do share President Trump's views that we need a much better burden sharing with NATO and that's why I do believe that my proposal for a European defense" is "utterly consistent with that."

Macron said it's "unfair to have the European security today being assured just by the United States."

An official in Macron's office said Trump lumped together two different comments by the French president, and that the leaders would discuss the comments. By custom, the official was not authorized to be publicly named.

Macron said in an interview earlier this week that Europe needs to protect itself against "China, Russia and even the United States" in terms of cyberspace. Later, Macron reiterated that Europe needs to build up its own military because it can no longer depend on the U.S. for defense.

Trump has made similar arguments, particularly in urging NATO members to increase their defense spending.

It was the latest instance of Trump introducing tension before meeting with a world leader, then playing nice when they were face to face.

Earlier this year, Trump insulted British Prime Minister Theresa May at an especially vulnerable time for her government in an interview with a British tabloid. He also threatened not to work toward a trade deal with Britain and said May's political nemesis would make a great prime minister. The interview was published as Trump attended a grand welcome dinner hosted by May hours after he arrived in London.

But Trump was far more cordial to May's face. He complimented her leadership and expressed his great respect for her.

Trump's comments aside, Macron welcomed Trump in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace with a handshake and pats on the arm. Standing in a cool drizzle, the leaders flashed thumbs-up signs to reporters but ignored their shouted questions about Macron's remarks.

Inside a gilded meeting room, Macron referred to Trump as "my good friend" and tapped him on the thigh. Trump said they had become "very good friends over the last couple of years" and were "similar in our views" on many issues.

The tweet by Trump marked a fresh sign that the "America first" president was ready to go his own way yet again as world leaders gather to remember the coalition that brought an end to the first global war in which millions were killed.

Trump was joining scores of other world leaders for a Sunday ceremony in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe to mark the WWI centennial.

The weekend visit comes on the heels of midterm elections in which Americans delivered a split referendum on his presidency, keeping the Senate in his Republican Party's control but giving control of the House to opposition Democrats.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump, who joined him at the palace later Saturday for a social lunch with Macron and his wife, Brigitte, had planned to visit the American cemetery in Belleau, France, to pay respects to U.S. soldiers who died on French soil. But the White House scrapped the visit Saturday because of rain. The president is scheduled to visit a different American cemetery in France on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S President Donald Trump, left, shake hands at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Saturday, Nov.10 2018. Trump is joining other world leaders at centennial commemorations in Paris this weekend to mark the end of World War I. (Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool via AP)
Source: Associated Press


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