President Donald Trump, fresh off a tense visit to Paris, on Tuesday fired off a string of tweets attacking French President Emmanuel Macron for floating the idea of a self-reliant European military and the country’s wine tariffs, while accusing Macron of swiping at Trump’s nationalism to distract from his own shortcomings.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump began in his first tweet. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”
“MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!” the U.S. president wrote in a follow-up post to Twitter later Tuesday morning.
Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet was his second over the past five days that accused Macron of suggesting European nations need more robust militaries to protect themselves from the U.S., a mischaracterization of what the French president actually said. Macron, in an interview with Europe 1, suggested that Europe needs to better position itself militarily against an increasingly aggressive Russia.
Macron also lamented a U.S. decision to withdraw from a treaty with Russia that prohibited the manufacture of intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The “main victim” of that move, Macron said, was “Europe and its security.”
“I believe in the project of a sovereign Europe. We won’t protect Europe if we don’t decide to have a true European army,” he said. “We have to have a Europe that can defend itself alone — and without only relying on the United States — in a more sovereign manner.”
“We should protect ourselves when it comes to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” the French president also said, alluding to the decision to pull out of the missile treaty with Russia.
Aides to Macron disputed that the president was insinuating that France would target the U.S. with any proposed European army, even if other European countries have shown no interest in such a force.
Trump has repeatedly called for NATO allies to rely less on the U.S. for their defense and has railed against nations that he says do not put enough of their gross domestic product toward defense spending. Trump has regularly demanded that NATO countries increase their defense spending to a higher percentage of their GDP, forcing the issue at last summer’s NATO summit by seeming to threaten to pull the U.S. out of the pact if spending targets were not met.
Macron, in his interview, agreed that Europe should become less dependent on the U.S. for its military.
But just after landing in Paris on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to call Macron’s comments “very insulting,” adding a new layer of tension to the weekend’s ceremonies, but the two leaders discussed the issue during Trump’s visit.
“Never easy bringing up the fact that the U.S. must be treated fairly, which it hasn’t, on both Military and Trade,” Trump tweeted after he returned to the U.S.
Trump, who owns vineyards in the U.S., also hit Macron on Tuesday for what he said were unfair tariffs on wine. “France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S.,” he wrote, claiming that France has tougher barriers and higher tariffs in place for importing U.S. wine than the U.S. has for importing French wine.
The president also responded to what was perceived to be a dig at Trump’s self-proclaimed nationalism.
Speaking at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Macron called nationalism “the exact opposite of patriotism” in a forceful rebuke to an ideology Trump has supported.
On Twitter on Tuesday morning, Trump appeared to suggest that Macron’s reading of nationalism was incorrect, writing that “there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!”
He said that Macron was using Trump as a foil to distract from lagging approval ratings and rising unemployment.
“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject,” he said.