Trump, Macron defuse tense comments on European defense, appear united on ‘strong Europe’

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared united on Saturday after contentious comments by both leaders that threatened to derail the celebration in France marking 100 years since the end of World War I.

Trump attacked his French host upon arrival in France late Friday, lashing out at Macron’s “very insulting” suggestion that Europe needs to protect against “China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!” Trump tweeted.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron inside the Elysee Palace in Paris Saturday Nov. 10, 2018. Trump is joining other world leaders at centennial commemorations in Paris this weekend to mark the end of World War I.

But the tension was all gone by Saturday when the pair met at the Elysee Palace and appeared in agreement, with Macron calling Trump his “good friend.”

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Trump said Macron “understands that the United States can only do so much” and noted that the U.S. wants to help.

“You know what my attitude’s been, and we want a strong Europe. It’s very important to us to have a strong Europe. And whichever way we can do it the best and most efficient would be something we both want,” Trump said.

“We’re getting along from the standpoint of fairness, and I want to be fair. We want to help Europe, but it has to be fair. Right now the burden-sharing has been largely on the United States as the President will say and he understands that. He understands the United States can only do so much.”

Macron agreed. “I do share President Trump’s views that we need a much better burden-sharing with NATO and that’s why I do believe that my proposal for a European defense” is “utterly consistent with that.”

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Earlier this week, the French president made the comments about a European army in reference to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Macron said, according to The Wall Street Journal. He went on to group the U.S. with the countries from which France needed protecting.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” he said on French radio.

Despite a friendly meeting in Washington in April, filled with back-slapping and warm greetings, Macron has taken a number of swipes at Trump’s nationalism in recent months. In September, he spoke in front of the United Nations General Assembly and criticized a unilateralist approach that entails “a certain lawlessness where everyone pursues their own interests.”

“I will never stop upholding the principle of sovereignty even in the face of a certain nationalism, which we’re seeing today, brandishing sovereignty as a way of attacking others,” he said just hours after Trump addressed the General Assembly.

Trump is joining a number of other world leaders on Sunday for a ceremony in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe to mark the WWI centennial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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