Trump, Macron agree on defence after 'insulting' European army spat
US President Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron agreed on Saturday on the need for more European defence spending, papering over an earlier Trump tweet that had described Macron’s call for a European army as “very insulting”, Reuters reported.
Meeting for talks at the Elysee a day before commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, Macron welcomed Trump under rainy Parisian skies with a firm handshake. But there appeared to be less immediate warmth in the greeting between the two than in the past.
Seated on gilded chairs in the ornate presidential palace, Macron placed his hand on Trump’s knee and referred to him as “my friend”, while Trump kept more distance, although he also talked up common ground on an issue that had caused friction.
“We want a strong Europe, it’s very important to us, and whichever way we can do it the best and more efficient would be something we both want,” said Trump.
“We want to help Europe but it has to be fair. Right now the burden sharing has been largely on the United States.”
Macron echoed those sentiments, saying he wanted Europe to bear a greater share of the defence costs within NATO, a point he has made repeatedly since taking office, alongside his ambitions for Europe to have its own military capability.
“That’s why I do believe my proposals for European defence are totally consistent with that,” Macron said in English.
Fresh off US congressional elections that saw his Republican Party’s power eroded, Trump’s visit is aimed at bolstering the US-European alliance at a symbolic time, with the world marking the centenary of World War One’s armistice.
But in a tweet prior to landing in Paris, Trump took a dim view of comments Macron made in a Europe 1 radio interview this week in which he appeared to cast the United States as a threat.
Discussing the growing dangers from cyber-hacking, meddling in electoral processes and the US decision to withdraw from a missile treaty, Macron said Europe needed to protect itself against China, Russia “and even the United States”.
Later in the interview he spoke about the need for a European army, saying:
“Faced by Russia, which is on our borders and which has shown that it can be threatening... we need to have a Europe that can better defend itself by itself, without depending solely on the United States.”
Trump, who has pushed NATO allies to pay more for common defence and not rely on the United States, complained.
“Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly,” Trump said on Twitter.
The Elysee said the misunderstanding, which it said had been caused by “exaggerated” US press reports, was cleared up during more than an hour of talks it described as “substantial” and “very constructive”.
“We had a great discussion and we are aligned,” the Elysee quoted Trump as saying during the meeting, which covered trade, defence, Syria and the fallout from the murder in Istanbul last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.