PARIS – US President Donald Trump blasted calls by Emmanuel Macron for a European army to defend against threats from powers including the US as “very insulting”, setting a combative tone for his World War I commemorative visit to Paris.
No sooner had Trump touched down in Paris for a weekend of events to mark the end of World War I, than he fired off a tweet castigating his host over proposals to endow the EU with its own, joint army.
“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia,” the US president tweeted, referring to remarks made by Macron three days earlier.
“Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!,” he added.
Trump, who is visiting France with his wife Melania for the second time since becoming president, was referring to a call made by Macron in an interview Tuesday for a “real European army.”
Macron, an ardent advocate of closer European integration, said a joint European Union military force was needed to wean Europe off American might, not least after Trump announced he was pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States,” he told Europe 1 broadcaster, suggesting for the first time that Europe might need to defend itself from America.
The French president, who has enacted major defence spending hikes to bring France in line with NATO spending targets, is spearheading the creation of a nine-country European rapid reaction force, independent from NATO.
The force, which would fall far short of an army in size and scope, would be able to rapidly mount a joint military operation, evacuate civilians from a war zone or provide aid after a natural disaster.
Proposals for a full EU army with a joint command — a pet project of European federalists — remain deeply sensitive, however, among EU members anxious to defend their sovereignty.
French officials said Macron’s mooted EU “army” was merely a call for closer defence integration.