Nursing grievances from a weekend visit to France, President Donald Trump lit into French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday over his suggestion for a European defense force, over French tariffs on U.S. wine and even Macron’s approval ratings.
The litany of tweeted complaints served to underscore tensions between the once-chummy leaders and laid bare Trump’s irritation over criticism stemming from his latest trip abroad.
Trump’s tweets included a fresh complaint about Macron’s recent suggestion that Europe build up its militaries because the continent can no longer depend on the U.S. for defense. He misrepresented the French leader’s comments along the way, even though the two presidents had talked through the issue while Trump was in France over the weekend for events marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”
In fact, Macron had said Europe needs to protect itself against cyberthreats from China, Russia and the U.S. The French leader’s office said Trump had lumped together Macron’s remarks on protecting against cyberthreats with a later statement on military defense.
Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the U.S., challenged Trump, tweeting, “For the sake of truth, Pres.@EmmanuelMacron didn’t say that EU needed an army ‘against the US’.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, told European Union lawmakers Tuesday “that we have to work on the vision of one day creating a real European army.” She underscored that such a force would not mean the end of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance.
The president has long complained that NATO countries don’t pay their fair share of the defense alliance’s expenses, leaving the U.S. to carry much of the burden. Burden-sharing was among the topics that Trump and Macron discussed during a meeting Saturday at the Elysee Palace.
A top adviser to Macron said Tuesday that the French position has been “clarified.” Macron explained the European army issue to Trump during their meeting, stressing that France was not making a choice between a European defense mechanism and multilateral organizations such as NATO, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with French customs.
Trump also complained Tuesday about tariffs on U.S. wines sold in France, saying it’s “not fair, must change!” And he appeared to take a dig at Macron’s low public approval rating. Trump’s standing with the French is lower than Macron’s.
“On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”
Nearly all U.S. wine exports to major markets, including the European Union — of which France is a part — face tariffs, according to the Wine Institute, which represents California winemakers in Washington on matters of tax, trade and regulatory issues.
Trump, a former businessman, opened a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2011.
“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so! … MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”
Macron is hovering at around 30 percent in popularity polls, while the unemployment rate is just above 9 percent.
Trump appeared to be referring to Macron’s comment Sunday during a speech for the World War I centennial in which he decried the rise of nationalism around the globe, calling it a “betrayal of patriotism.” The comments were widely viewed as a rebuke of Trump, who sat stone-faced in the company of other world leaders as Macron spoke. Trump has embraced the “nationalist” label despite its negative connotations.
Trump’s continued complaints about France and Macron hit a nerve with some in the European nation, especially since Trump delivered his latest broadsides on the third anniversary of the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in 2015.
The complaints were another marker of the up-and-down relationship between Trump and Macron since they first met last year.
Trump also defended his decision to cancel a trip Saturday to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Wood in northern France after rainy weather grounded his helicopter. The White House later said that driving to the cemetery would have required many Paris roadways to be closed on short notice to accommodate the president’s motorcade and that Trump didn’t want to cause that kind of disruption.
On Sunday, Trump went ahead with a visit and speech in the rain at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial just outside Paris.
“By the way, when the helicopter couldn’t fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!” he tweeted.