President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron clashed publicly at a NATO Summit in London today. The two leaders had a tense exchange of words on a variety of issues from NATO to ISIS.
Seated next to Trump, Macron didn’t back down from what he said last month when he argued that NATO is suffering from “brain death” as a result of diminished US leadership of the alliance under Trump’s presidency.
“I know that my statements created some reaction, shake a little bit, a lot of people. I do stand by (them),” he said.
Before meeting, Trump rebuked Macron for his comments.
“I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France. You just look back over the last long period of time. Nobody needs NATO more than France. And frankly, the one that benefits really the least is the United States. We benefit the least, we are helping Europe,” Trump said.
When asked if the US was seeking “a greater divide in NATO between the US and the other countries,” Trump replied, “No, not with us, but I do see France breaking off. I’m looking at him (Macron), and I’m saying, you know, he needs protection more than anybody and I see him breaking off. So I am a little surprised at that.”
The White House insists Trump has done NATO an important favor by demanding that NATO countries pay their fair share to keep the alliance viable. “President Trump has been fighting for increased burden sharing by NATO members, and it’s working. Over $130 billion in new defense spending by member countries!”
President Trump has been fighting for increased burden sharing by NATO members, and it’s working. Over $130 billion in new defense spending by member countries! pic.twitter.com/JXspMyufPs
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 3, 2019
Still, only 9 of the 29 member countries are meeting the goal of spending 2-percent of annual GDP on defense.
On the issue of ISIS, Trump asked if France was willing to take back French terrorists who have been captured in Syria and other regions.
“We have a tremendous amount of captured fighters, ISIS fighters over in Syria. And they’re all under lock and key, but many are from France. Many are from Germany, the UK. They’re mostly from Europe. And some of the countries are agreeing. I have not spoken to the president about that. Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you? You can take every one you want,” Trump said.
Macron acknowledged that jihadist fighters have come from Europe but said most of them are from the Syria and Iraq region as he called for a greater push against ISIS.
“Let’s be serious: The very large number of fighters you have on the ground are ISIS fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq and the region. It is true that you have current fighters coming from Europe. But this is a tiny minority of the overall problem we have in the region. And I think number one priority, because it’s not yet finished. It’s to get rid of ISIS,” Macron said.
To that, President Trump responded, “This is why he’s a great politician, because that’s one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
Meanwhile, Trump said the two leaders did agree on relations with Russia, insisting they both believe “it’s a good thing to get along with Russia.”