The on-again-off-again relationship between President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron is on the skids again. As meetings began during the NATO summit in London, President Trump referenced Macron’s recent critical remarks against the alliance of nations. He tore into Macron and called his remarks “very disrespectful”.
President Macron gave an interview to The Economist in October where he declared that “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO”. He said that Europe stands on “the edge of a precipice”. Europe needs its own military defense system or army because the countries can no longer count on the support of the United States. He said it was time for Europe to “wake up”. The remarks were just as crazy as they sound.
So, when President Trump met with Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg during opening meetings Tuesday, Trump unloaded on Macron to the press. Stoltenberg, it can be noted, smiled and seemed to be agreeing with President Trump’s remarks when Trump said they were very disrespectful to the alliance. He called Macron’s words “dangerous”, too.
“I think nobody needs it more than France,” Mr. Trump said of the alliance, “and that’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”
Take that, Emmanuel. As I mentioned in the post I wrote at the time Macron delivered his nonsensical hot take, his European allies were less than enthusiastic about putting together a European army. Macron ended up calling President Trump and making nice with him. Trump poured salt into Macron’s wounds over his failure to unite European countries against the United States (and Trump, specifically) in London.
President Trump spent more than 50 minutes with reporters and Secretary-General Stoltenberg. He spoke about the strength of the American economy versus the French economy. Besides noting that France needs the protection of other countries, he called out Macron’s “nasty statements”.
‘You just can’t go around making statements like that against NATO. It’s very disrespectful,’ Trump groused at the start of two days of meeting with world leaders, including Macron.
Trump called it a ‘very, very nasty statement to essentially 28, including them, 28 countries’ that are part of NATO.
‘I heard that President Macron said that NATO was brain dead,’ Trump said, in a long back-and-forth with reporters. ‘I think that is very insulting towards a lot of different forces,’ he added.
The irony is not lost on many observers that usually it is President Trump who is reported as the world leader who goes rogue on remarks and creates less than favorable headlines in the press. This time it is Macron’s time in the barrel. If Macron is trying to mimic Trump and his success with NATO, he is failing miserably at the present time. Trump has been very successful in encouraging the other NATO nations to pay their dues pledges and increase their contributions, too. He has a good relationship with Stoltenberg and Stoltenberg has been complimentary of Trump’s efforts to bring about joint cooperation between nations.
Trump mentioned France’s “very tough year” with the yellow vest protesters and noted that more tariffs against French products may be on the horizon. And, he addressed France’s digital services tax.
He referenced new tariff escalations being recommended by U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer Monday. They include new tariffs on French champagne, wine, cheese, and other products totaling $2.4 billion.
‘We’re doing their wines and everything else,’ Trump said. ‘You just can’t go around making statements like that against NATO. It’s very disrespectful.’
Trump also teed off on France’s digital services tax which he said is unfair to U.S. tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
‘I’m not going to let people take advantage of American companies. Because if anybody’s going to take advantage of American companies, it’s going to be us,’ Trump said.
Meh. There are plenty of California wines that can effortlessly replace a bottle of French wine any day. American cheesemakers are putting out some really good products, too. The days of bowing to the snobbery of French wine and cheese are over.
Macron is trying to increase France’s place in world leadership and so far he’s failing miserably. He looks more like a petulant child. What he has done this time is to increase President Trump’s standing with other NATO members. Trump is speaking up on their behalf against Macron’s statements. Macron is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is, apparently. Trump has proven to be a master disrupter at home and on the world stage. Macron is not doing so well either at home or on the world stage right now. He’d do well to take a breath and reflect on that before he lashes out again. This is true on the NATO front, too. Last week, officials praised President Trump for his success in getting the countries to increase their own military spending. Trump has been “spectacularly successful” in urging allies to increase their military spending by more than $100 billion.”
The 70th anniversary of NATO is off to an interesting start. Later Tuesday Trump meets with Macron. And, also there is a meeting scheduled with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. Trump mentioned that he has spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and respects his request that Trump does not insert himself into the upcoming election. Johnson is hosting several of the leaders and that includes President Trump later on Tuesday evening before he and First Lady Melania head to Buckingham Palace for a reception with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.
And, just like that, as I was finishing up this post, Trump and Macron appeared on my television screen, holding their joint appearance before the press. Trump’s body language is not receptive to Macron, to put it mildly. He is leaning away from Macron and towards the translator. A reporter asked about Macron’s NATO remarks and Trump answered that a lot of countries are stepping up and “putting up a lot of money” but it’s not enough. “NATO was heading in the wrong direction three years ago and now it’s not.” “The president and I agree that we both need more flexibility.” “NATO is becoming much bigger than it was, different than it was. We don’t want to have countries delinquent. We don’t want countries, including France to not pay their way.” Macron said he stands by his remarks.
Macron hid behind Trump’s remarks and agreed that European nations must pay more – and he claims that is why he suggested a European army. Hoo boy. He pointed to Turkey and how some other nations support Turkey while Turkey fights “those who fight with us.” Good heavens. Was that a slap at Trump’s relationship with Erdoğan? Trump described a vision of “a bigger picture” in response. And then he sang the praises of NATO again, as he did earlier with Stoltenberg.