PARIS (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump and Frenchman Emmanuel Macron agreed Saturday on the need to increase European defense spending, recalling Trump's previous tweet describing Macron's call for a European army. as "very insulting".
Meeting for talks at the Elysee Palace a day before the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Macron welcomed Trump under the rainy Parisian sky with a firm handshake. But there seems to be less immediate heat in the salvation between the two than in the past.
Sitting on golden chairs in the ornate presidential palace, Macron placed his hand on Trump's knee and called him "my friend," while Trump kept more distance, although he also spoke on a subject that had caused friction.
"We want a strong Europe, it's very important for us, and we both want the most effective and efficient way," Trump said.
"We want to help Europe but it has to be fair. At the moment, burden sharing is largely in the hands of the United States.
Macron echoed these comments, saying that he wanted Europe to bear a greater share of defense costs within NATO, which he stressed to several since taking office, in parallel with its ambitions to endow Europe with its own military capability.
"That's why I think my proposals for European defense are going in that direction," Macron said in English.
After the end of the US congressional elections that saw the power of his Republican party eroded, Trump's visit aims to strengthen the US-European alliance at a symbolic time, the world marking the centenary of the Armistice of the United States. First World War.
But in a tweet before landing in Paris, Trump had a tarnished view of Macron's comments in an interview with Europe 1 on the radio this week in which he seemed to be launching the United States as a threat.
Discussing the growing dangers of hacking, interference in electoral processes and the US decision to withdraw from a missile treaty, Macron said Europe needed to protect itself from the China, Russia "and even the United States".
Later in the interview, he spoke about the need for a European army and said:
"In the face of Russia, which is on our borders and has shown that it can be threatening (…), we need a Europe that can defend itself better, without depending on only from the United States. "
Trump, who pushed NATO allies to pay more for the common defense and not to rely on the United States, complained.
"Very insulting, but maybe Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the United States is subsidizing greatly," Trump said on Twitter.
The Elysee said the misunderstanding, which he said was caused by "exaggerated" press reports in the United States, was dispelled in over an hour of talks he described as "substantial" and "very constructive".
"We had an excellent discussion and we are aligned," said Trump, quoted by the Elysee, at the meeting devoted to trade, defense, Syria and the consequences of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
After lunch with Macron and their wives, Melania and Brigitte, Trump was to visit an American cemetery in Belleau Wood, east of Paris. But he canceled the trip because of the weather. White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star general, and General Joe Dunford, president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will attend the ceremony, the White House announced.
Sunday, after a solemn commemoration in the Arc de Triomphe in honor of the centenary of the armistice, Mr. Trump must go to an American cemetery in Suresnes, on the western outskirts of the capital, where he will make an official statement.
His trip comes just days after congressional elections produced results that would complicate his next two years. Although Republicans have slightly increased their majority in the US Senate, they have lost control of the US House of Representatives in favor of Democrats who could use their new power to launch Trump investigations and thwart his agenda.
While discussions with Trump covered trade and foreign policy, it was unclear whether they touched European concerns about Trump's plans to withdraw the United States from the 1980 Mid-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement. .
Macron told Europe 1 radio that the "main victim" of the US withdrawal from the INF agreement was Europe and its security.
The French president, who had tried unsuccessfully this year to dissuade Trump from giving up on the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015, also worried about the impact of sanctions on European companies doing business. with Iran.
On Sunday, Trump could also briefly discuss with Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of 70 world leaders who will gather at the Arc de Triomphe. Trump and Putin are expected to hold formal talks later this month at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Report by Steve Holland and Luke Baker; Other reports by Michel Rose, Mathieu Rosemain and Richard Lough; Edited by Hugh Lawson