Donald Trump has taunted France over Emmanuel Macron's call for a European army, referencing both world wars in an extraordinary early-morning tweet which claimed “they were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along”.
In a 6.50am post likely to provoke dismay in Europe days after he visited the French capital to commemorate the First World War centenary, the US president wrote: “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two.”
He added: “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!
Over the next hour, Mr Trump fired off a flurry of Twitter posts complaining about French wine tariffs and mocking Mr Macron’s approval ratings. He also challenged the French leader’s attack on nationalism before tweeting “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!” in reference to his own presidential campaign slogan.
The outburst was a theatrical escalation of Mr Trump’s indignant response to his French counterpart’s suggestion of a “true European army” to help the EU defend against threats.
“We have to have a Europe that can defend itself alone — and without only relying on the United States — in a more sovereign manner,” Mr Macron said last week in an interview with France’s Europe 1 radio station.
The French president suggested Mr Trump’s proposed withdrawal from an international nuclear treaty put the continent in danger.
He said: “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”
Mr Trump last week described Mr Macron’s remarks as “very insulting”, adding: “Perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of Nato, which the US subsidizes greatly!”
The US leader has regularly vented his frustration over the international military alliance, repeatedly calling for all member nations – most of which are European – to contribute a minimum of two per cent of their GDP towards its cost.
He reiterated his complaint as he sat down with Mr Macron for an apparently frosty meeting at the Elysee Palace on Saturday morning.
Mr Trump had flown to Paris to take part in events to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, but provoked incredulity and condemnation by skipping a visit to an American military cemetery because it was raining.
The White House said the presidential helicopter had been grounded by the weather and Mr Trump did not want to cause traffic jams with a hastily arranged motorcade.
Mr Trump contradicted this explanation on Tuesday, tweeting: “I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO, too far from airport and big Paris shutdown.”
The president complained his speech at another American military cemetery in the French capital’s suburbs the following day was “little reported”.
The US president later joined dozens of other world leaders at a memorial event at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where he sat stony-faced as Mr Macron bluntly warned of the threat of the nationalism.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” the French president said in a speech which appears to have stoked tensions with his American counterpart.
In a thinly veined reference to Mr Trump, he added: “When we say ‘our interests come first, those of others don’t matter’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.”
The US president has described himself to be a proud nationalist and has defined his foreign policy as “American first”.
In an apparent response to Mr Macron’s speech in a tweet on Tuesday, he wrote: “By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!”
The French president’s office declined to comment on Mr Trump’s tweets, but said Mr Macron had had made his points about a European army clear to the American leader during their talks in Paris on Saturday.
Mr Trump’s Twitter tirade came on the third anniversary of terror attacks in the French capital, where 130 people were murdered in Isis-coordinated shootings and bombings at the Bataclan music venue and bars and restaurants.