The French-American outpouring of Bastille Day is little more than a distant memory. Invited to France to attend the commemorative ceremonies for the 1918 Armistice, the U.S. president was anything but tactful.
The French and American presidents hugged in front of the White House six months ago. Emmanuel Macron was on an official visit to Washington, and Donald Trump expressed his delight at meeting his French counterpart in a Tweet: “Having great meetings and discussions with my friend, President Emmanuel Macron of France,” he posted on April 24.
But the bromance is over, following Macron’s decision on November 6 to create “a real European army.” In an interview on French radio station Europe 1, he stated that “Europe had to defend itself better alone, without simply relying on the United States.” This criticism of NATO was taken by Trump to be a declaration of war.
The POTUS retorted on November 9. Immediately after arriving at Orly airport, he declared that Macron’s stance was “very insulting,” before suggesting Europe should settle its debts to NATO. In 2018, France allocated 1.81% of its GDP to the international organization, despite the United States setting the contributions of member states at 2%.
A Trump-less Ceremony
The following day, on Saturday, November 10, Trump refused to attend the ceremony held at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Wood, the site of a major U.S. offensive in June 1918. The official reason given was that bad weather had prevented the presidential helicopter from taking off. Trump was offered a car transfer to the ceremony, which he also refused, on the pretext his motorcade would block the streets of Paris.
The storms continued on November 11. The 72 heads of state in Paris met at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe. Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau arrived together, making their way up the final part of the Champs-Elysées on foot. Donald Trump emerged from a car several minutes later. The two presidents were also not sat together during the official ceremony, with the POTUS positioned between his wife and his German counterpart.
© Benoit Tessier/AFP/Getty Images
In his speech, Macron condemned the nationalism encouraged by Trump. “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” he said in a solemn tone. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” Trump was more consensual in his speech given that afternoon at the American military cemetery of Suresnes to the west of Paris. In less than 11 minutes, he praised the bravery of the American and French soldiers killed in World War I (“a horrible, horrible war,” “a great, great victory”) before listing the names of the American military officials and veterans in attendance.
Trump boarded the plane immediately after the ceremony, avoiding the Paris Peace Forum led by Macron at the Grande Halle de la Villette. The objective of this meeting was to reaffirm the importance of multilateralism and address the withdrawal of the United States from international organizations.
Upon returning to Washington, Trump returned to his anti-Macron offensive. He repeated his criticism of France’s insufficient financial contribution to NATO, and of Macron’s wish to create a European army. He then complained about tariffs imposed on American products. “France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S.,” he tweeted on November 13. “The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs. […] Not fair, must change!”
The French-American divorce is official. Trump no longer shares Macron’s point of view and is hardly afraid of saying it: “There is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so! MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”