Trump mocks Macron as Europe moves on defence without US

US President Donald Trump meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, before the World War I Armistice Day centenary commemoration on Sunday. Mr Trump has attacked Mr Macron over several issues.
US President Donald Trump meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, before the World War I Armistice Day centenary commemoration on Sunday. Mr Trump has attacked Mr Macron over several issues.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has unleashed an extraordinary attack on Mr Emmanuel Macron, mocking the French President's approval rating and lashing him over European defence proposals which enjoyed a crucial new boost from Germany.

On the heels of a rocky trip to Paris to mark the World War I centenary, Mr Trump on Tuesday fired off a caustic series of early-morning tweets against his weekend host and renewed his frequent charge that America's European allies in Nato spend too little on defence.

"Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France?" Mr Trump tweeted.

"They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along," he added, in a low blow sure to gall many French. "Pay for NATO or not!"

"MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!" Mr Trump continued in a play on his own campaign slogan, before turning to what he slammed as protectionist French tariffs on US wine - saying they were "not fair, must change!"

The fierce broadside comes as Europeans increasingly ask whether they should rely on the mercurial Mr Trump and the US for defence, which has been assured during the Cold War and beyond by the Nato alliance stretching from Alaska to Turkey.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who, unlike Mr Macron, has barely concealed her disdain for Mr Trump - on Tuesday voiced clear support for France's idea of a common European defence.

 

"What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army," Dr Merkel told a session of the European Parliament, drawing applause and some boos.

Dr Merkel said that the European army would function in parallel to Nato and come under a European Security Council, which would centralise defence and security policy on the continent.

"Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community," said Dr Merkel, a day after her show of unity with former enemy France on the anniversary of the end of World War I.

Mr Trump had already berated Mr Macron in a tweet from Air Force One just as he landed in Paris, calling the French proposals for European defence "very insulting". Mr Trump appeared to be incensed after critical media coverage of his trip - during which he was called out for cancelling a visit to an American military cemetery after his helicopter was grounded by the rain.

Adding to the rough reception, Mr Macron in his Armistice Day speech declared that nationalism "is a betrayal of patriotism", in a clear rebuke of the self-described nationalist Trump, who was in attendance.

In a show that France's alliance with the US goes beyond any temporary disagreement between the presidents, Mr Macron was set to head to sea on France's biggest warship yesterday in a trip that had been planned for weeks.

France's sole aircraft carrier, the Charles-de-Gaulle, the world's most powerful vessel outside the US navy, returned to active service yesterday and would sail to the Indian Ocean early next year.

It is starting a joint mission with the US and an American frigate will escort it on the voyage, according the Elysee presidential palace.

The Charles-de-Gaulle, after its 18-month refit, is built to connect with the systems on US navy vessels.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Trump mocks Macron as Europe moves on defence without US'. Print Edition | Subscribe