PARIS — President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron met Saturday amid tensions over Macron’s call for a “true European army” — remarks the U.S. president deemed “very insulting” moments after he landed here for World War I commemoration ceremonies this weekend.
There were some visible signs of strain between the two men Saturday even as they exchanged warm words at the start of their bilateral meeting at Élysée Palace, as Macron stressed publicly that European nations in the NATO alliance should pay more in defense — aligning himself with Trump over a constant irritation of his.
“I do share President Trump’s views that we need a much better burden sharing with NATO,” Macron said at the start of their meeting, as Trump sat on the edge of his chair with a tight smile on his face. “My proposals for European defense are totally consistent with that.”
Calling Trump “my good friend,” Macron proclaimed “great solidarity” between the two nations and said the leaders will discuss a litany of issues during their one-on-one meeting, including Iran, Syria, Yemen, trade and climate change.
Trump reciprocated Macron’s warm tone, telling the French leader that we “have become very good friends” and that the two countries “have much in common in many ways.”
“I appreciate what you’re saying about burden sharing. You know my view,” Trump responded to Macron. Later, Trump added: “We want to help Europe, but it has to be fair … we want to absolutely be there, we want to help, we want to be a part of it, but different countries have to help.”
On trade, Trump said that “we’ve made a lot of progress; let’s see if we can get it over the line.”
The tenor of the brief public comments between the two leaders was markedly different from Trump’s tweet he sent as Air Force One touched down in Paris late Friday, as Trump revived his frustration over countries in the NATO alliance that do not spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their militaries.
“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted minutes after he landed here. “Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”
Trump was referring to an interview Macron gave earlier this week to Europe 1 radio, in which he said he believes in the “project of a sovereign Europe” and that the continent would not be protected “if we don’t decide to have a true European army.”
“In front of Russia which is at our borders and which can be threatening, I would like to start a security dialogue with Russia, which is a country I respect and which is European,” Macron said in the interview, conducted during his tour of the main battlegrounds of World War I in northeastern France. “We have to have a Europe that can defend itself alone — and without only relying on the United States — in a more sovereign manner.”
In the interview, Macron also referred to Trump’s recent announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a nuclear-arms-control pact that President Ronald Reagan struck with the former Soviet Union in 1987.
The “main victim” of the withdrawal, Macron argued, is “Europe and its security.” Macron also said Europe has to protect itself “with respect to China, Russia and even the United States” on cybersecurity matters and fading multilateralism.