By Prarthana Mitra
US President Trump’s Twitter tirade against French president Emmanuel Macron cast a grim light on US-France relations. This rant, which ended with a proclamation to “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN! [sic]”, comes at the heels of Trump’s notable absence from the historic walk taken by over 20 global leaders down Avenue des Champs-Élysées to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on Saturday.
The commemoration, marking 100 years of the November 11, 1918 armistice that ended World War I, saw participation from Germany, Russia, Canada among other nations, with Putin, Trudeau, Merkel, Macron and the rest walking, despite the inclement weather.
Justifying his absence from the event citing security reasons and poor weather, a flurry of early morning tweets from Trump on Tuesday underscored the extent to which US-Europe relations had soured since he has come to power. Over the weekend visit itself, the strained relations between the 45th American president and America’s traditional European allies were evident, but the deterioration of a reasonably strong alliance with France became apparent when he mocked and blamed Macron of unfair trade practices and criticised his pan-European call for alliance.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2018
Trump’s history lesson and an appeal to French nationalism
Within two days of his return from Paris, Trump attacked his French counterpart for pandering to Germany which had nearly defeated them in both World Wars, berated the country’s wine industry for high tariffs on US exports, and commented on Macron’s approval ratings, calling him highly unpopular.
For all the tough leader persona, note that just as Trump never fires someone himself, these shots at allies come in tweets after he meets them. Didn't confront Macron in person, just as he didn't confront Trudeau in Canada – he fired off a bunch of tweets after he got on a plane https://t.co/kC2i2YOvUN
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) November 14, 2018
Just two days after French President Emmanuel Macron called nationalism “a betrayal of patriotism” and the root cause of World War I, President Trump praised the French nationalist movement.
“By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!” he tweeted, on the third anniversary of the 2015 terrorist attacks.
Trump’s anxiety over pan-European defence system
Drawing attention to Macron’s speech about Europe’s need to protect itself, Trump felt the need to remind Macron that it was US who rescued France from a certain German victory in the two world wars.
Backing Macron in the current spat with Trump, Merkel has called for the creation of a “European army”. However, according to official sources, Macron, who hasn’t responded to the tweets yet, had reportedly reassured Trump that he was not going to make a choice between a European defence system and a multilateral approach. The office of the French president added that Macron had made his points about a European army and European defence very clear to Trump during their talks on the sidelines of the event on Saturday and painted Trump’s anger as misguided and abrupt.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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