Wednesday 18 September 2019

Trump taunts France over US intervention in two world wars

US president renews gripe over Nato contributions while wife demands axeing of White House official

At odds: Donald Trump with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the weekend. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
At odds: Donald Trump with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the weekend. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Darlene Superville in Washington

US President Donald Trump has escalated his verbal assaults on France, suggesting America's stalwart European ally would have been vanquished in both world wars if not for the military firepower provided by the United States.

Mr Trump tweeted about a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that Europe build up its militaries because the continent can no longer depend on the US for defence.

Mr Macron also said Europe needs to protect itself against cyber threats from China, Russia and the US.

"Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia," Mr Trump tweeted. "But it was Germany in World Wars One and Two - how did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for Nato or not!" The US president has long complained that Nato countries do not pay their fair share of the defence alliance's expenses, leaving the US to carry much of the burden.

He has criticised Mr Macron before and after attending a weekend ceremony in Paris to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War I.

Mr Trump and Mr Macron met at the Élysée Palace and discussed defence, trade and other issues.

A top adviser to Mr Macron said yesterday that the French position has been "clarified".

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with French custom, said Mr Macron explained the European army issue to Mr Trump, stressing that France was not making a choice between a European defence mechanism and multilateral organisations such as Nato.

Mr Trump also complained yesterday about tariffs on US wines sold in France and appeared to take a dig at Mr Macron's low public approval rating. Mr Trump tweeted that French tariffs on American wine is "not fair, must change!"

"On trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the US. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the US to sell its wines into France, and charges big tariffs, whereas the US makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small tariffs. Not fair, must change!"

Melania Trump wants Mira Ricardel fired. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Melania Trump wants Mira Ricardel fired. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Mira Ricardel. Photo: REUTERS

Mr Trump, who built a career as a businessman before he entered politics, himself opened a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2011.

The US president added: "The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low approval rating in France, 26pc, and an unemployment rate of almost 10pc. 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!"

Mr Macron is hovering at around 30pc in popularity polls, while the unemployment rate is just above 9pc.

Mr Trump's comments struck a nerve with some, especially since the latest broadsides came on the third anniversary of the Paris terror attacks which killed 130 people. It prompted French journalist Hugo Clement to tweet in response: "We are already great, especially on November 13. Go back to your room and give the phone to an adult."

Meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump has taken the extraordinary step of publicly demanding one of the president's senior national security officials be sacked.

Mrs Trump is reported to have complained about Mira Ricardel, who currently serves as the deputy national security adviser under John Bolton, after her recent trip to Africa.

Following reports that Ms Ricardel could be pushed out during a staffing reshuffle, Mrs Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said yesterday: "It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she [Ms Ricardel] no longer deserves the honour of serving in this White House".

Reports have been circulating in recent weeks that Mr Trump would shake up his cabinet after the midterm elections, but it is highly unusual for the First Lady's office to comment on personnel issues within the West Wing.

According to US media, Ms Ricardel had a recent spat with members of the First Lady's staff over her trip to Africa, including seating on the plane and use of National Security Council resources.

Ms Ricardel has only been in the post for seven months and is reported to have previously clashed with James Mattis, the defence secretary.

Mr Trump is planning to make several major staffing changes in the next few weeks, including replacing his chief of staff John Kelly.

The US president has already forced his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to resign. Mr Sessions said he was submitting his resignation at the "request" of Mr Trump. The announcement was made on November 7, the day after the midterm elections.

Another cabinet member thought to be in the firing line is Kirstjen Nielsen, the embattled Homeland Security Secretary. (Additional reporting © Daily Telegraph, London)

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