Macron snubs US arms in defense spat with Trump
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Macron snubs US arms in defense spat with Trump

French president says European countries should not be increasing budgets ‘in order to buy American and other arms or materials’

PARIS, France — Europe should not spend higher defense budgets on US-made weapons, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview due to air Sunday, after a defense row with US President Donald Trump.

One of dozens of world leaders attending World War I commemorations in France this weekend, Trump tweeted after landing in Paris that Macron’s call for a “real European army” was “insulting.”

In an interview recorded on Saturday with CNN after talks with Trump, Macron said the two leaders had spoken about what his office has portrayed as a misunderstanding.

“We had a regular discussion this morning and he confirmed in front of the press that he was OK,” Macron told CNN.

Both leaders agree there should be “better burden-sharing within NATO,” meaning Europe should be less reliant on US spending for its defense, Macron said.

French President Emmanuel Macron pays his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, during a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018. (Ludovic MARIN/AFP)

But Macron told CNN: “To be very direct with you, what I don’t want to see is European countries increasing the budget in defense in order to buy American and other arms or materials coming from your industry.”

Macron had last month criticized Belgium’s decision to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets instead of European planes, saying it “goes against European interest.”

US President Donald Trump (R) speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on November 10, 2018, on the sidelines of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

In his CNN interview, he stressed the need for Europe to take charge of its defense.

Whereas “after the Second World War we needed the US to be present for our security, I think now the momentum for Europe is to build its own security and its own sovereignty,” he said.

He refrained from commenting on Trump’s “insult” tweet, beyond saying, “I always prefer having direct discussions or answering questions than making my diplomacy through tweets.”

‘Cooperation is good’

In a radio interview this week, Macron had named the United States alongside China and Russia as sources of risk.

He said the EU needed to be less dependent on the United States, not least following Trump’s withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.

Trump on Friday called Macron’s comments “very insulting.” The French presidency later sought to defuse the row, saying Macron remarks had been misinterpreted.

In his talks with the US leader, Macron said he was merely arguing that Europe needed to take greater ownership of its own security, and Trump described the pair as “very good friends.”

Macron however told CNN that while he and Trump had things in common — notably their rise to power as outside candidates — their outlook on the world was very different.

“I’m not a nationalist, which for me is very different from being a patriot. I do defend my people, I do defend my country, I do believe we have a strong identity,” Macron said.

“But I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples. And I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody.”

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