Donald Trump, an unpredictable American in Paris

US President Donald Trump departs for Paris to celebrate 100 years since US troops entered World War One on the side of France and Britain.

PARIS • Six weeks after welcoming Russian leader Vladimir Putin to France at the Palace of Versailles, new French President Emmanuel Macron will use history and his country's grandeur to try to charm Mr Donald Trump today.

In London, Berlin, Brussels and Paris, European leaders are wondering how best to handle the unpredictable US President, whose nationalist "America First" agenda has upended assumptions about transatlantic relations.

Mr Macron, a 39-year-old elected in May, hopes to build a relationship with Mr Trump that might enable him to influence US policy or, at least, help avoid serious strains between the European Union and Washington.

There are already tensions over climate change and trade, while Mr Trump was openly critical of the EU last year and snubbed a handshake with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their first meeting in March.

"It's very difficult to play chess with a man whose strategy is a complete mystery and whose only consistency is his pursuit of American national interest," foreign affairs expert Bertrand Badie of Sciences Po university in Paris said.

Mr Macron has invited Mr Trump to be his guest of honour for the July 14 Bastille Day ceremony, when they will watch troops parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris and mark 100 years since America entered World War I on France's side.

Mr Trump arrives today for talks with Mr Macron that are set to focus on joint efforts to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, where United States and French troops are in action side by side.

They will then dine together, along with their wives Melania and Brigitte, in a Michelin-starred restaurant up the Eiffel Tower, while enjoying stunning views of the French capital.

The two leaders appear to share little in common, with their views at odds on everything from globalisation to immigration, leading Mr Macron to be described sometimes as the "anti-Trump" during his run for the French presidency this year.

As well as a huge generational gap - Mr Trump, at 71, is almost twice Mr Macron's age - there is scant evidence of any overlap of interests in their personal lives.

Nearly 11,000 police officers will be on duty tomorrow, with France in its highest state of alert after a string of terror attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 300 people.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Donald Trump, an unpredictable American in Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe