You’ve got to hand it to French President Emmanuel Macron—he’s tried to assuage Donald Trump’s hostility toward Europe, whether on security or trade, with a chummy approach aimed at stroking Trump’s narcissistic ego.
The two leaders have dined at the Eiffel Tower. Macron hosted Trump at a flashy military parade in Paris. But nothing seems to be working.
Trump—wounded by the recent midterm elections in the U.S.—has traveled once again to France to meet with Macron on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. With that decision, Trump has snubbed his own country’s military families by skipping Veterans Day in the U.S. on Sunday.
And it didn’t get off to a good start.
As he landed in Paris aboard Air Force One on Friday night, Trump attacked his host on Twitter, claiming insult over statements Macron had made earlier in the week.
“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!” Trump tweeted.
According to media reports, it appears Trump had misunderstood comments Macron made about Europe’s responsibility for its own security.
Per the Associated Press:
An official in Macron’s office said Trump lumped together two different comments by the French president, and that the leaders would discuss the comments. By custom, the official was not authorized to be publicly named.
Macron said in an interview earlier this week that Europe needs to protect itself against “China, Russia and even the United States” in terms of cyberspace. Later, Macron reiterated that Europe needs to build up its own military because it can no longer depend on the U.S. for defense.
It’s unclear what Trump was so worked up about, considering he’s been pushing since before taking office for Europe to take a more proactive role in its own defense, particularly by providing more funds to NATO.
Macron is right in worrying about Europe’s defense, given the Trump administration’s refusal to take swift action—or even acknowledge—Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential elections in 2016, or its announcement last month that the U.S. would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, which has been in place since 1987.
“It was the latest instance of Trump introducing tension before meeting with a world leader, then playing nice when they are in his face,” the AP commented.
Perhaps it’s Trump’s negotiating style, or maybe he’s still mad he didn’t get a military parade of his own. Regardless, the chumminess seen between the two leaders in previous encounters seems to be waning.
While the two were cordial in public comments on Saturday, the body language seems to have changed, at least in Trump’s case.
Previously, Macron and Trump were known for their physical exchanges. There was the white-knuckled handshake in May:
And Trump’s feigned dusting off of “dandruff” from Macron’s shoulder in April:
On Saturday, Macron affably squeezed Trump’s thigh, calling him “my good friend.” Trump swayed briefly to the right, then sat there grimacing.
Julie Smith, an ex-national security adviser to former Vice President Joseph Biden, told The Washington Post, “Macron is at the point where he understands the limits of their relationship.” She added: “And, frankly, I think behind closed doors Macron fully appreciates the limits of what France an as individual nation can do.”