Trump, Macron at odds on European defense ahead of WW1 commemoration

Trump, Macron at odds on European defense ahead of WW1 commemoration

Trump, Macron at odds on European defense ahead of WW1 commemoration

US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron headed towards a potential clash in talks on Saturday after Trump took offence at what he called a "very insulting" comment from Macron about the need to create a European army.

Macron has been an outspoken critic of Trump's "America First" policies and his decisions to pull out of worldwide agreements such as the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and most recently a nuclear arms treaty.

Europe is the "main victim" of Trump's decision, Macron said in remarks made as he toured World War I battlefields ahead of the centenary of the November 11 armistice, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said Friday in Paris that the US was concerned about stability in Europe and that Mr. Trump was not shirking from global engagement.

Discussing the threat from cyber-hacking and meddling from outside in the electoral process, Macron said Europe needed to protect itself against China, Russia and even the United States.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump will also visit the American cemetery in Belleau, France, on Saturday to pay their respects to US soldiers who died on French soil during the war.

Trump is scheduled to visit two American cemeteries over the course of the weekend, which will culminate with a solemn ceremony Sunday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to France's war dead.

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"It should be a very lovely period of time, the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I. We have many countries - the leadership from many countries will be there, especially since they heard the United States will be there". Early on, Macron tried to position himself as a sort of "Trump whisperer" and Mr. Trump returned the favor, hosting Macron at the first and only state dinner of his presidency.

Trump originally wanted to celebrate Veterans Day on Sunday with a grand military parade in Washington, as he was inspired by the tanks and flyovers he saw during France's Bastille Day celebration when he visited Paris in July of previous year.

Macron's comments came amid the launch of the European Intervention Initiative, a coalition of European militaries that supporters say would not conflict with the largely USA -dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance.

He is also overseeing the formation of a European rapid reaction force, a nine-country endeavour much smaller than an actual army, which is backed by Germany and the UK. Europe, he said in Tuesday's Europe 1 radio interview, must reduce its dependence on USA after Trump announced he was pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.

Before Sunday's festivities get under way, Trump will meet Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The WWI commemorations come at a watershed moment for the liberal post-war order, with anti-immigration populists at the helm in the United States and Brazil, sharing power in Italy, and making strong gains in Germany, prompting Merkel to announce she is bowing out in 2021.

The two men are meeting in Paris on Saturday, and Macron's office says this issue will be on the table.

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