PARIS – President Trump struck back French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday after Macron called for a "real European army" to protect himself against the United States and other potential adversaries, triggering tensions between the two men while attending a personal meeting prepare this weekend.
When Air Force One landed here on Trump's two-day visit to mark the centenary of World War I, Trump sent a tweet – one of several during the six-hour transatlantic flight – taking note of Macron's comments on French radio this week.
"French President Macron has just proposed that Europe build its own military to protect itself from the US, China and Russia," says Trump twittered Friday night, just before getting out of the presidential plane. "Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US heavily subsidizes!"
Trump has long been irritated by NATO alliance countries that do not spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on their forces. They claimed that the US had to subsidize defense spending from other nations.
His sudden demand at the NATO summit this summer that other nations spend billions for defense purposes rocked the annual convention, as some diplomats saw Trump's statements as a threat to the US exit.
In an interview with radio station Europe 1, Macron referred to Trump's recent announcement that the United States would withdraw from the INF Treaty, an arms control pact concluded in 1987 with the former Soviet Union by President Ronald Reagan.
The "main victim" of the retreat, Macron argued, was "Europe and its security."
"We will not protect the Europeans if we do not choose a true European army," Macron said in an interview he conducted during his tour of the main battlefields of the First World War in northeastern France. He said Europe must "protect itself from China, Russia and even the United States of America".
The spit is a controversial start for Trump's weekend in this French capital and is very different from the message relayed by John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, who had traveled to Paris in advance this week.
"In Paris today, we work with our allies to master the toughest global security challenges we need to tackle together," Bolton said twittered early Friday.
Trump and Macron will meet for a bilateral meeting in Paris on Saturday morning, and Macron will have a dinner later that evening for the visiting heads of state who are in town to commemorate the First World War. The official day of the truce day is Sunday.
Macron has also invited world leaders to attend the Paris Peace Forum, another venue where common global challenges are discussed, but Trump is not expected to attend.