PARIS – President Trump traveled 3800 km in this French capital for ceremonies honoring the military sacrifice of the First World War, hoping to take part in some kind of brave bravery for the Armed Forces. he was unable to maintain in Washington.
But on his first full day here, it rained on the weekend of his runway show.
On Saturday at dawn, the White House announced that Trump and his first lady had canceled, due to bad weather, their first stop in a series of commemorative activities of the weekend: a visit to the solemn cemetery from Aisne Marne, commemorating the fierce Battle of Belleau Wood. .
It was not entirely clear why the Trumps could not attend the meeting. The cemetery is 50 miles from Paris. So the president may have planned to travel aboard Marine One, which is sometimes grounded by the secret services.
But the sight of dignitaries arriving at other sites outside Paris, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, led some foreign policy analysts to speculate on the fact that that the US commander-in-chief was not ready to do it.
"It's amazing that a president travels to France for this important anniversary – and then stays in his hotel room watching television rather than personally paying tribute to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory won a hundred years ago tomorrow ", David Frum, who was speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, wrote a series of tweets. Trump is currently staying at the residence of the United States Ambassador in Paris.
So it started a weekend in which Trump, who was fighting on several political fronts in Washington, seemed distracted and disengaged. Trump left Washington as the list of White House worries accumulated: newly invested Democrats, critical of his choice as Acting Attorney General and retaliation for his personal attacks on journalists.
Trump was in France in the body, but seems unenthusiastic in the spirit.
The White House announced that Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Co-Chair Joseph Dunford would attend the Belleau Ceremony in the absence of Trumps, but Frum suggested that Trump might have tried to scramble a procession to respect his schedule.
The cemetery has 2,288 graves honoring the dead, including many Americans. The names of 1,060 other Americans missing and whose bodies were not found are engraved on the walls of the site.
Trump held a bilateral meeting with Macron, but the US president appeared mild, almost sullen, as Macron tried to mask growing tensions between them.
When Macron tried to caress Trump's thigh, the president ignored it and did not recognize the touch or make it reciprocal – a marked difference from their antagonistic handshakes and setbacks at previous meetings.
Trump is still considering attending the ceremony presented under the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, during which over 100 world leaders will pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the Great War.
But he will not really have a show. The event will not feature tanks or missiles like the Trump parade imagined on the streets of Washington during Veterans Day, but canceled due to exorbitant costs.
After another visit on Sunday, the president plans to return home when the Forum for Peace in Paris, organized by Macron, will be held for three days of meetings to galvanize global action on common challenges, such as climate change.
Thomas Wright, a European expert at the Brookings Institution, said Trump had announced that he would be heading to France on a whim in August, after abruptly canceling his order to scroll the Pentagon.
The Peace Forum was meant to "make a bit of a counterpoint to" America first, "Wright said, citing Trump's nationalist foreign policy in which he had disrupted his trade and defense allies. "Now they have this strange situation of Trump being there [in Paris] but the forum goes against everything and he [national security adviser John] Bolton represents. . . I have the impression that he will pretend that this does not happen. "
Trump's critics, including former national security advisers under President Barack Obama, are probably piling up, but it may be for all the times that Trump ridiculed Obama as clumsy and weak on the world stage.
Since his election, Trump has not visited the troops in an active war zone for two years. Last November, a surprise visit attempt to the demilitarized zone of Korea was halted when Marine One was forced to turn back because of bad weather.
"Real low energy, @realDonaldTrump should not bother to honor the sacrifice of American soldiers during the First World War because of the rain. In one way or another, everyone was able to do it today. Obama has never had this problem. He also visited our troops in war zones, "Kelly Magsamen, senior Pentagon official for Asian affairs, wrote on Twitter.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser under Obama, said that he had helped plan Obama's trips abroad throughout his tenure and that it was common to have a backup plan to cope with bad weather.
"There is always a rain option. Always, he wrote in a tweet. "Trump will use the US military for a pre-election political stunt but will sit in his hotel instead of honoring those who fought and died for America."
On Instagram, Trump made a statement to US troops by posting a photo of himself speaking to members of the military service at Miramar Air Station in San Diego.
"Happy 243rd Anniversary of the GREAT US Marine Corps!" Wrote Trump.
But in Paris, apparent signs of tension between Trump and his host were signaled by tensions over Macron's call for a "real European army" – the US president said "very insulting" moments after his landing on Air Force One on Friday night.
Fearing losing the commitment of the United States, Macron evoked a new path for Europe during a radio interview this week in which he touted the "project of a Sovereign Europe "and affirmed that the continent would not be protected to have a real European army. "
"We must have a Europe that can defend itself – and not just the United States – in a more sovereign way," he said.
This provoked an angry response from Trump in a tweet he sent when Air Force One landed in Paris on Friday night. Trump has rekindled his frustration with NATO alliance countries that do not spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on their armed forces.
Before their bilateral meeting at the Elysee, Macron tried to calm Trump by publicly emphasizing that the European countries of the NATO alliance should pay more to defend themselves.
Calling Trump "my good friend", Macron proclaimed "great solidarity" between the two countries and said the leaders would discuss a litany of issues during their individual meeting, including Iran, Syria , Yemen, trade and climate change.
Trump exchanged Macron's warm tone, informing the French leader that "we have become very good friends" and that the two countries "have a lot in common in many ways".
"I appreciate what you say about sharing the load. You know my point of view, "said Trump. Later, he added: "We want to help Europe, but it has to be fair."
But even if their words were meant to hide their differences, their body language betrayed growing tensions.
Foreign policy analysts said Macron and other European leaders had felt scared by Trump, who had released the United States from the Iranian nuclear deal and the agreement of Paris on climate, both negotiated by the Obama administration.
"I think it has dispelled any illusion about Trump that flattering him would be a way to get concessions," said Wright, Brookings' expert. "But he hesitates to back down because he does not know what it will bring him. It's a cautious realism. "
Paris weather forecasts indicate more rain for Sunday.