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Commemoration of the First World War: Trump and Macron agree on "more European defense"

  • Trump and Macron signal unity: The French and US presidents are placing more emphasis on European defense policy.
  • The night before, Trump Macron had attacked because of its push for a European army.
  • Trump and Macron and dozens of other heads of state, including Chancellor Merkel and Russian President Putin, are gathering to commemorate the end of the First World War.

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump have called for stronger European defense engagement. Speaking at the Elysées Palace, Macron said: "It is unfair that European security is guaranteed by the United States today, so I believe that we need more European capacity, more European defense, to bear that part of the burden." So far, the burden in NATO lies mainly with the US – "we want it to be fair," said Trump, but also stressed that the US wanted to continue to engage.

At the start of his visit to Paris Trump had verbally attacked his host. Immediately after landing his Air Force One government machine on Friday night, Trump sharply criticized Macron's proposal to build his own European army for protection against Russia. "Very hurtful," wrote Trump, who had come to commemorate the end of the First World War 100 years ago, on Twitter. "Perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which is heavily subsidized by the US!" Trump scolded, who has long accused the European NATO allies not to invest enough in the defense and instead to rely on the US.

Macron wants protection from Russia, China – and the US

Macron said in a radio interview on Tuesday that without a "true European army," Europeans could not defend themselves. He referred to threats from China and Russia, but also from the USA. The Elysée Palace admitted on Saturday that Macron's comments may have caused confusion. But he never said that a European army against the USA was necessary. Trump was also more conciliatory in another tweet on Saturday: "I'm in Paris and I'm preparing to celebrate the end of the First World War," Trump wrote. "What could be better than celebrating the end of a war, especially this war, which was one of the bloodiest and worst of all times?" He added.

Macron has invited about 70 heads of state and government to Paris for the weekend, including a dinner and a visit to the famous Musée d'Orsay on Saturday night. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and numerous other heads of state and government are also taking part in the commemoration.

Commemorative speech at the Parisian triumphal arch

Macron and Merkel travel together on Saturday afternoon to a memorial near the northern French town of Compiègne, where on November 11, 1918, the armistice in a converted dining car had been signed in a forest clearing. They want to lay down a wreath and inaugurate a commemorative plaque that recognizes the "importance of German-French reconciliation in the service of Europe and peace". On Sunday, the "World War II Summit" begins in Paris. The highlight will be a big memorial service in the shadow of the Parisian triumphal arch. In the afternoon, the Chancellor visits a peace forum, where she gives the opening speech.

The peak meeting in Paris was tense, said diplomats. At the latest with Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, there were upsets between the US on one side and France and Germany on the other. In addition, Trump sparked a trade dispute with the EU and stepped out of the world climate agreement. For Trump it is the first trip abroad after the US congressional elections.

The First World War is considered by some historians as a "catastrophe" of the 20th century. Almost 9 million soldiers and more than 6 million civilians died. The empires Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia collapsed just as the Ottoman Empire. From the rubble emerged a variety of new states, especially in Central Europe and the Balkans. Even centers of power gradually shifted, for example from Britain to the USA.

Trump – Macron demand for European army is "very offensive"

The US President has sharply criticized the recent proposals made by his French counterpart.

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