PARIS (BLOOMBERG) – French President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing will separate” France and the US as he spoke after the Bastille Day parade, marking the end of a 24-hour trip to Paris by US President Donald Trump marked more by bonhomie than the rancour of earlier encounters.
Macron sat next to Trump at the two-hour annual Bastille Days parade, which this year included US units and planes to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the nation’s entry into World War I.
“Throughout our history we have found this love of our country that has saved us, this energy to unite around these ideals, but we have also found trustworthy allies,” Macron said, with Trump at his side. “The United States of America are among these, and the presence of Mr Trump and his wife are a sign of a friendship that transcends time.”
Trump returned to the US after the event, while Macron went to greet victims of recent terror attacks in France who’d been invited to the parade.
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Later on Friday he’ll fly to Nice for a ceremony commemorating those who were killed when truck plowed into crowds watching firework displays a year ago.
At their press conference Thursday, Trump and Macron put military affairs and anti-terrorism at the centre of relations between their two countries. The US provides logistical and intelligence support to French anti-guerrilla operations in the Sahel region of Africa, and French warplanes, special forces and an artillery unit are part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The two presidents have clashed in the past over Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Macron said on Thursday that he regretted but “respected” that decision, while Trump said “something may happen” about the accord, which some interpreted as a sign he’s softening his opposition.
Macron’s first attendance as president at France’s annual military parade came amid a public spat with General Pierre de Villiers, chief of the general staff, over the defense budget.
Faced with a 2017 budget deficit that was overshooting targets agreed with the European Union, Macron’s government imposed spending cuts of 4.5 billion euros (US$5.1 billion), of which 850 million will come from the military, mostly by postponing equipment purchases.
De Villiers said in an opinion piece in Friday’s Le Figaro that there’s a “strong tension” between France’s overseas military operations and “a complicated budget situation,” and that “this gap is not sustainable.”
According to French media reports, de Villiers was more outspoken at a closed door testimony July 12 to members of parliament, and some reports said he might resign.
Macron shot back at a reception Thursday night for members of the military taking part in the parade. “I am your chief, I will keep the engagements I’ve taken, and don’t need pressure or comments,” Macron said. “An effort has been asked of all ministries, including that of the armies, and it’s legitimate and it’s do-able. I don’t consider it dignified to expose certain debates in public.”
De Villiers was present at the parade Friday alongside Macron.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed in an interview on BFM after the event that military spending will resume rising in 2018, reaching 34.2 billion euros from 32.7 billion this year. The government has said it’s goal is to reach 50 billion euros by 2025, or 2 per cent of economic output.