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US-France rift and Trump-Macron spat looms over Nato summit

Date: 04-12-2019
Subject: US-France rift and Trump-Macron spat looms over Nato summit
WASHINGTON: Some 250 years of Franco-American romance – not to speak of the 70-year old Nato alliance — is coming apart at the seams, illustrated by public sparring on Tuesday between US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emanuel Macron on everything from terrorism to trade. 

In extraordinary scenes on world stage the likes of which the world seldom sees in public, Trump openly taunted Macron in an interaction before the media, asking him "Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I could give them to you," as they jousted about the situation in Syria, where France and European allies think Washington’s decamping is hasty and derelict, while the American President believes it is not up to US to fight battles others have invited on themselves. 

"We have a tremendous amount of captured fighters, ISIS fighters over in Syria. And they are all under lock and key but many are from France, many from Germany and many are from the UK. They’re mostly from Europe," Trump said in a public rebuke of France and its European partners. 

Macron did not back down in the face of Trump’s needling as he fact-checked the US President to his face (and his implicit suggestion that Nato allies’ immigration and monitoring policies have been lax). 

"Let’s be serious… It is true you have a current fighters coming from Europe. But it’s a minority problem of the overall problem we have. And I think the number one priority because it is not yet finished is to get rid of ISIS," he schooled the US President, contesting Trump’s claim that the US has wiped out ISIS. 

"And it is not done, I'm sorry to say that. Your number one problem are not the foreign fighters, it is the ISIS fighters in the region and you have more and more of these fighters due to the situation today," he pressed on with Trump seated next to him, arguing that the two sides first needed to agree on identifying who are the terrorists. 

"We don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table. When I look at Turkey, they are fighting against those who fight with us," Macron added, referring to Kurdish fighters who Washington has dumped under pressure from Ankara. 

"It's why he is a great politician. That was one of the greatest non-answers I've ever heard and that's okay," Trump said, backing down a bit and trying to make light of the exchange. 

The spat was preceded by another Trump outburst to reporters against Macron in which he lashed out at the French President for saying in an interview to the Economist that the Nato alliance was risking suffering "brain death" because of differences over Turkey and Syria. 

Trump called it a "very, very nasty statement" to the 28 countries that form the Nato, and said, "You just can't go around making statements like that... It's very disrespectful." 

But more insultingly, he reminded Macron that "nobody needs NATO more than France. You just look back over the long period of time," — a snide reference to US help that rescued France during the World War, although going even further back, France helped US gain independence from British. 

"Frankly the one that benefits really the least is the United States. We’re helping Europe. Europe unites when they go against a common foe ... That may or may not be a foe," Trump said in an apparent reference to Russia. 

The US President also trashed France over its economic performance and its current situation, saying "It's a very tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France" while reminding Macron of the ‘yellow vest’ protests and France’s high unemployment rate. "They’ve had a very rough year…not doing well economically," he noted tartly. 

It was a nasty prelude to a  that is taking place under the shadow of an ever-aggravating trade war. 

Shortly before he headed out to London for the meeting, Trump announced new tariffs on French champagne, wine, cheese, and other products totaling $2.4 billion, saying the digital service tax France is imposing on US. tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter is unfair and unacceptable. 

"I'm not going to let people take advantage of American companies. Because if anybody's going to take advantage of American companies, it's going to be us,"Trump said. 

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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