PARIS (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday told Donald Trump that France was the United States’ ally and not a vassal state after the U.S. president attacked him in a series of tweets that demonstrated how much their relationship had soured.
Although Macron’s response was restrained, his government spokesman showed Trump’s criticism had struck a chord.
When asked earlier about Trump’s tweets, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said they were posted on the day France was mourning the anniversary of militant attacks in Paris.
“Yesterday was November 13, we were marking the murder of 130 of our people,” Griveaux said. “So I’ll reply in English: ‘common decency’ would have been appropriate.”
In five posts sent on Tuesday after a visit to Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, Trump reminded France of its near-defeat by Germany in two wars, took a swipe at its wine industry, and mentioned Macron’s falling approval ratings.
Trump had earlier criticized Macron’s suggestion that a European army was needed, in part, to reduce reliance on the U.S. military.
Asked in an interview on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier whether he was offended by Trump’s tweets, Macron talked at length about the long military alliance between the two countries, from America’s War of Independence onwards.
“At every moment of our history, we were allies, so between allies, respect is due,” Macron told TF1 television.
“I don’t think the French expect me to respond to tweets but to continue this important history,” he added.
When pressed, Macron dismissed Trump’s comments as an attempt to play to a domestic audience, in the wake of Trump’s losses in mid-terms elections.
“I think he’s playing politics, and I let him play American politics.”
But asked whether there was a deeper misunderstanding between the two countries after Macron’s comments about a European army infuriated Trump, Macron said being a U.S. ally did not mean being subservient.
“The United States are our historic ally and will continue to be. It’s the ally with which we take all the risks, with which we carry out the most complicated operations. But being an ally doesn’t mean being a vassal state,” Macron said.
The public dispute was in sharp contrast with the friendly tone that had been a hallmark of the relationship between the ex-banker and the former real estate developer since Macron was elected in 2017.
After being invited to Paris to attend the Bastille Day military parade in July last year and receiving Macron and his wife for a state visit in Washington in January, Trump had praised Macron as a “great guy” and “a friend of mine”.
Macron had struggled to convert the ‘bonhomie’ into influence. Trump and Macron disagreed on many international issues, including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal or Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on European metals exports.
But the personal rhetoric between the two men had always been friendly, in contrast with previous Franco-American disputes when French-bashing was sometimes on full display, such as during the war in Iraq that France opposed.