Donald Trump

Trump touches down in France, instantly slams Macron’s ‘insulting’ EU army proposal

  • French president had said earlier in the week that continent needed a joint military force to protect itself from ‘China, Russia and even the United States’
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 9:21am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 9:40pm

US President Donald Trump on Friday blasted calls by Emmanuel Macron for a European army to defend against threats from powers including the US as “very insulting”, setting a combative tone for his first world war commemorative visit to Paris.

Right after Trump touched down in Paris on a trip to mark the end of the first world war, he fired off a tweet slamming his host for suggesting the EU should have its own joint army.

“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia,” the US president tweeted, referring to remarks made by Macron three days earlier. “Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of Nato, which the US subsidises greatly!”

Trump, who is visiting France with his wife Melania for the second time since becoming president, was referring to a call made by Macron in an interview Tuesday for a “real European army”.

Macron, an ardent advocate of closer European integration, said a joint European Union military force was needed to wean Europe off American might, not least after Trump announced he was pulling out of a cold war-era nuclear treaty.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States,” he told Europe 1 broadcaster, suggesting for the first time that Europe might need to defend itself from America.

The French president, who has enacted major defence spending hikes to bring France in line with Nato spending targets, is spearheading the creation of a nine-country European rapid reaction force, independent from Nato.

The force, which would fall far short of an army in size and scope, would be able to rapidly mount a joint military operation, evacuate civilians from a war zone or provide aid after a natural disaster.

Proposals for a full EU army with a joint command – a pet project of European federalists – remain deeply sensitive, however, among EU members anxious to defend their sovereignty.

French officials said Macron’s mooted EU “army” was merely a call for closer defence integration.

The row over EU defence risks overshadowing commemorations to be attended by 70 world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Saturday morning, Macron and Trump will hold bilateral talks on issues expected to include Syria and Iran before lunching with Melania and Macron’s wife Brigitte.

The last time the Macrons hosted the Trumps in Paris in July 2017, during Bastille Day celebrations, they whisked them up the Eiffel Tower for a private dinner on the second floor.

The tone of this visit will be less festive.

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

Speaking to reporters Friday before his departure Trump said he was “looking forward” to the trip.

“I think it will be something very, very special,” he said.

The isolationist US leader has, however, ducked out of a peace conference on Sunday afternoon, which Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel intend to use as a platform for promoting multilateralism.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton on Friday downplayed Trump’s decision not to attend the inaugural Paris Peace Forum – to be attended by Putin and Erdogan – telling reporters in Paris the president had “a lot of pressing issues” to attend to.