PARIS – Coming from all over the world to the battlefields where their soldiers fell 100 years ago, winners and losers marked those sacrifices before Sunday's Armistice Day and evaluated the alliances that were radically redefined since those dark days.
A century ago, the entry of US troops in the First World War reversed the trend towards its allies, including France and Britain. On Saturday, as he embarked on two days of commemoration of the 1914-1918 war, US President Donald Trump declared that his country bore far too much of the defense burden on the West.
A wave of diplomacy linked to the Armistice once again transformed Paris, the jewel that Germany had wanted to take in 1914 but that the Allies had fought to defend, Saturday in the center of the city. Worldwide attention, with dozens of world leaders arriving Sunday for solemn commemorations.
After an embarrassing meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump canceled a visit to the Belleau Wood battlefield due to bad weather. Macron went to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
No separate meeting between Trump and Merkel was planned. Instead, Merkel emphasized how the macabre history of her country with France has become a close alliance that is now driving the European Union. She and Macron had to go to the site where the armistice was signed in a railway car at Compiegne, north of Paris.
After four years of brutal trench warfare and the first use of gas, France, the British Empire, Russia and the United States had the main armies opposed to a German coalition including the Austro-Hungarian empires and Ottoman.
Nearly 10 million soldiers died. France lost 1.4 million and Germany 2 million.
Yet, despite a war meant to end all wars, the Second World War again pits the two sides against each other.
On the other side of the line that marked the Western Front, the leaders praised the courage of the soldiers killed in the unprecedented massacre, before heading to Paris for a dinner.
The armistice came into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and on Sunday, 69 world leaders will mark the centenary of the event on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, under the Arc. of Triumph, in the center of Paris.
On Saturday, at dawn, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Vimy Ridge, the battlefield of northern France, where Canada regained its identity by defeating the 39, German opposition against all odds.
Standing amidst white gravestones on an ashy sky, Trudeau addressed the dead, declaring that what Canada has accomplished in the last century has been "a story built on your sacrifice. You defend the values on which Canada was built. "
In southern Belgium, in Mons, Canadians also praised George Price, the last Commonwealth soldier to die in the war, after being shot by a German sniper two minutes before the effect of the armistice.
Trump was looking beyond the tragedy of death and destruction, asking in a tweet: "Is there anything better to celebrate than the end of a war, especially one that has been one of the bloodiest and worst of all time? "
After meeting with Macron, Trump was on the battlefield of Belleau Wood, 90 kilometers northeast of the capital, where US troops had their decisive battle stopping a German push for Paris soon after its entry in war. 1917.
The battle of Belleau Wood proved the courage of America, both with its allies and its enemies, and at the end of the war, the American forces were at least equal to all the other great armies, exhausted and exhausted.
However, Trump canceled his visit because of bad weather.
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