WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump escalated his verbal assaults against France on Tuesday, suggesting that America's stalwart European ally would have been vanquished in both world wars if not for the military firepower provided by the United States.
Trump tweeted about a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that Europe build up its militaries because the continent can no longer depend on the U.S. for defense. Macron had also said Europe needs to protect itself against cyberthreats from China, Russia and the U.S.
"Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia," Trump tweeted. "But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!"
The president has long complained that NATO countries don't pay their fair share of the defense alliance's expenses, leaving the U.S. to carry much of the burden. He has criticized Macron before and after attending a weekend ceremony in Paris to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War I.
Trump and Macron met Saturday at the Elysee Palace and discussed defense, trade and other issues.
A top adviser to Macron said Tuesday that the French position has been "clarified." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with French customs, said Macron explained the European army issue to Trump, stressing that France was not making a choice between a European defense mechanism and multilateral organizations such as NATO.
Trump also complained Tuesday about tariffs on U.S. wines sold in France and appeared to take a dig at Macron's low public approval rating.
Trump tweeted that French tariffs on American wine is "not fair, must change!"
"On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!"
Nearly all U.S. wine exports to major markets, including the European Union — of which France is a part — face tariffs, according to the Wine Institute, which represents California winemakers in Washington on matters of tax, trade and regulatory issues.
Trump, who built a career as a businessman before he entered politics, opened a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2011.
The president added that "The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!.......MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!" he said.
Macron is hovering at around 30 percent in popularity polls, while the unemployment rate is just above 9 percent.
Trump's continued complaints about France and Macron struck a nerve with some in the European nation, especially since the president's latest broadsides came on the third anniversary of the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in 2015.
It prompted French journalist Hugo Clement to tweet in response: "We are already great, especially on november 13th. Go back to your room and give the phone to an adult."
Trump also defended his decision to cancel a trip Saturday to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Wood in Northern France after rainy weather grounded his helicopter. The president did go ahead with a trip and speech in the rain Sunday at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial just outside Paris.
"By the way, when the helicopter couldn't fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!" he tweeted.
Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.
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