WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump launched verbal assaults Tuesday on France and President Emmanuel Macron, citing his low voter approval ratings and attacking French tariffs on U.S. wine exports and failure to meet NATO's defense spending goal.
"Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia," Trump said first in a salvo of Twitter comments. "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!"
Trump has frequently attacked U.S. allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the West's main defense alliance forged after World War II, for not yet meeting its 2024 goal of each country spending 2 percent of their national economies on defense, chiefly weapons and armed forces.
Eight of the 29 NATO countries are now meeting the 2 percent goal. French defense spending is at 1.82 percent of its gross domestic product, but Paris has announced plans to gradually boost military funding to reach the NATO goal by 2025. By comparison, U.S. defense spending is at 3.1 percent of its world-leading $19.4-trillion economy.
Trump has declared himself a "nationalist," with an America First outlook on international relations. But Macron, with Trump listening nearby at Sunday's centenary of the end of World War I in Paris, deplored rising nationalism throughout the world, declaring it a "betrayal of patriotism."
Trump retorted Tuesday, "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. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so! MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!"
Trump, whose family business empire includes a Virginia vineyard that sells a variety of wines, also complained about French tariffs on U.S. wine exports.
France does charge higher tariffs on U.S. wines, but the monetary difference is relatively small, with five- to 14-cent tariffs on bottles of French wine imported into the U.S. versus 11 to 29 cents on U.S. exported wines headed to France.
Social media critics of Trump in the U.S. have mocked him for skipping a Saturday visit to a U.S. cemetery of World War I casualties because it was raining. Other world leaders in Paris visited their national cemeteries the same day and Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly, accompanied by other U.S. officials, made it to the American graveyard to lay a wreath honoring the war dead.
By way of explanation, Trump tweeted, "By the way, when the helicopter couldn't fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!"