President Trump pays tribute to fallen soldiers in Paris speech

PARIS (AP) — President Donald Trump paid tribute Sunday to U.S. and allied soldiers killed in World War I as he and dozens of other world leaders commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of "a horrible, horrible war" that marked America's emergence as a world power.

"We are gathered together at this hallowed resting place to pay tribute to the brave Americans who gave their last breath in that mighty struggle," Trump said at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in the suburbs of Paris, where more than 1,500 Americans who died in the war are buried.

"It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago," he said.

The Veterans Day speech came a day after Trump was criticized for failing to visit a different American cemetery about 60 miles (100 kilometers) outside of Paris Saturday because rain grounded the helicopter he had planned to take. A handful of senior administration officials, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, went in the president's place.

RELATED: Commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War I

19 PHOTOS
Commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War I
See Gallery
Commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War I
(From L) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Morocco's Prince Moulay Hassan, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove attend a ceremony the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, as part of the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. Over 60 heads of state and government were taking part in a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the mute and powerful symbol of sacrifice to the millions who died from 1914-18. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II attends the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in London, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Remembrance Sunday is held each year to commemorate the service men and women who fought in past military conflicts. 2018 marks the centenary of the armistice and cessation of hostilities in WWI, which ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,1918. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
French President Emmanuel Macron re-lights the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Benoit Tessier/Pool Photo via AP)
A soldier walks by wooden crosses and names of the missing during an Armistice ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Sunday marks exactly 100 years since the end of the First World War. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
U.S President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. Over 60 heads of state and government were taking part in a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the mute and powerful symbol of sacrifice to the millions who died from 1914-18. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with US President Donald Trump as he arrives to attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Heads of states and world leaders attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. Over 60 heads of state and government were taking part in a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the mute and powerful symbol of sacrifice to the millions who died from 1914-18. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
French President Emmanuel Macron's wife Brigitte Macron and U.S first lady Melania Trump pose Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 at Palace of Versailles. The companions of head of states and government were invited to a lunch hosted by France's first lady, Brigitte Macron, at the Palace of Versailles west of Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French President Emmanuel Macron hugs German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. International leaders are taking place in a ceremony in Paris on Sunday at mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, right, welcome German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. International leaders are taking place in a ceremony in Paris on Sunday at mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
U.S first lady Melania Trump, center, poses with other leaders' companion Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 at Palace of Versailles. The companions of head of states and government were invited to a lunch hosted by France's first lady, Brigitte Macron, at the Palace of Versailles west of Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
People react in front of a large inflatable blimp depicting President Donald Trump in Republique square in Paris, Sunday Nov. 11, 2018 ahead of an anti-Trump gathering. President Trump joined other international leaders in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
US President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shake hands as they attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (Photo by BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BENOIT TESSIER/AFP/Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) touches the knee of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2nd R) as they sit next to US President Donald Trump (2nd L) and US First Lady Melania Trump (L) during a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS MORI/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May lays a wreath at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in central London, on November 11, 2018. - On the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, the days events mark the final First World War Centenary commemoration events hosted by the UK Government. Services are held annually across Commonwealth countries during Remembrance Day, to commemorate servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since WWI. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
(R-L) Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, lay wreaths at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in central London, on November 11, 2018. - On the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, the days events mark the final First World War Centenary commemoration events hosted by the UK Government. Services are held annually across Commonwealth countries during Remembrance Day, to commemorate servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since WWI. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
(R-L) Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Britain's Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, lay wreaths at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in central London, on November 11, 2018. - On the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, the days events mark the final First World War Centenary commemoration events hosted by the UK Government. Services are held annually across Commonwealth countries during Remembrance Day, to commemorate servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since WWI. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
(From L) US President Donald Trump (2nd R), holds the hand of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) as they attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (Photo by BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BENOIT TESSIER/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The speech was the final stop of the president's brief trip to Paris to commemorate the anniversary. Earlier in the day, he joined more than five dozen leaders gathered on a rainy day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe a century after guns fell silent in a global war that killed millions. Bells tolled across Europe's Western Front and fighter jets passed overhead to mark the exact moment the devastating war came to a close.

But Trump, a leader who has proudly declared himself a "nationalist" and advocated an "America First" approach, stood out at a memorial ceremony that focused on international cooperation.

The president and first lady Melania Trump traveled separately from most of the other presidents and dignitaries, who had gathered earlier at the Elysee Palace and traveled to the ceremony by bus. And Trump was not present as the other leaders arrived, walking side-by-side in a somber, rain-soaked line holding black umbrellas as bells finished tolling. They had arrived a few minutes late, missing the exact moment — 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — that four years of fighting ended.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited security protocols for the presidential motorcade's solo trip to the arc down the grand Champs-Élysées, which was closed to traffic. But at least one topless woman breached tight security, running into the street and shouting "fake peace maker" as the cars passed. She had slogans, including the words "Fake" and "Peace," written on her chest.

Police tackled the woman and the motorcade continued uninterrupted. The feminist activist group Femen later claimed responsibility.

The ceremony included a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron aimed directly at the rising tide of populism in the United States and Europe.

With Trump and other leaders looking on, Macron warned against the dangers of nationalism and said the "ancient demons" that caused World War I and millions of deaths are growing stronger.

"Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism," he said, adding that, when nations put their interests first and decide "who cares about the others" they "erase the most precious thing a nation can have... Its moral values."

Trump, who has repeatedly declared himself a nationalist, sat mostly stone-faced as he listened to Macron, who sees himself as Europe's foil to the rising sentiment, which has taken hold in Hungary and Poland among other countries.

Trump has repeatedly branded himself a "nationalist," despite criticism from some that the term has negative connotations. At a news conference last week, Trump defended his use of the phrase. "You know what the word is? I love our country," he said, adding: "You have nationalists. You have globalists. I also love the world and I don't mind helping the world, but we have to straighten out our country first. We have a lot of problems."

Sitting several seats away was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived at the ceremony separately as well. Putin shook Trump's hand, flashed him a thumbs-up sign and patted Trump's arm as he arrived, and Trump offered a wide smile.

Trump's eagerness to get along with the Russian leader — in spite of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and numerous other aggressive moves — has alarmed America's European allies, who view Russia as a growing threat.

National Security Adviser John Bolton had said at one point that Trump would meet with Putin during the visit. But Trump later said he would instead sit down with him formally later this month at a world leaders' summit in Buenos Aires.

The two both attended a lunch Macron hosted for world leaders following Sunday's ceremony. But Putin was quoted by the state-funded Russian broadcaster RT saying they didn't end up meeting because they didn't want to "interrupt the schedule."

France was the epicenter of World War I, the first global conflict. Its role as host of the main international commemoration highlighted the point that the world mustn't stumble into war again, as it did so quickly and catastrophically with World War II.

___

Associated Press writers Lori Hinnant and Angela Charlton contributed to this report from Paris.

___

For more information on World War I, go to The Associated Press' WWI hub: https://www.apnews.com/WorldWarI

___

Follow Superville and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dsupervilleap and https://twitter.com/colvinj

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.