President Donald Trump's visit to Paris on Thursday will take him to a city he has repeatedly derided — and at the side of a French leader best known to Americans as the earnest young man with the endless handshake.
"Paris isn't Paris any longer," Trump declared in February, implying the city had been ruined by jihadi attacks. "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he said just last month as he announced the U.S. would leave the Paris climate agreement.
But Trump isn't the only politician who can use Paris to make a symbolic point.
When Trump arrives in the French capital, it will be as French President Emmanuel Macron's guest of honor, with a private tour of Napoleon's tomb, dinner at the Eiffel Tower and, to top off the Paris tourist trifecta, a seat at the tribune as American troops open the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees.
He departed the White House on Wednesday evening, joined by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, and top aides, including chief of staff Reince Priebus and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster.
The visit follows revelations this week that Trump's eldest son appeared to welcome Russian help in the U.S. election. He'll likely face questions about that at a news conference with Macron.
It was Macron, who at 39 is modern France's youngest president, whose handshake with Trump left both men with white knuckles and clenched jaws. Macron later described it as "a moment of truth" between them.
Still, Macron extended an invitation to Trump to join the national day celebrations, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. And the meetings on Thursday have been billed by both governments as a time to deepen the ties that bind the U.S. and France.
"What our two countries share is stronger (than our differences), given our peoples and our histories and our values as well. So yes, there is a disagreement, like I said to President Trump, and then I said it publicly, because there is nothing to hide. That being said, it does not prevent us from cooperating in many fields," Macron said Saturday.
Thursday's talks are expected to center on fighting terrorism and defense policy, two areas where French-American cooperation has traditionally been strong.
There is little downside for Macron.
"It's important to establish a relationship that is functional, for both Mr. Macron and Mr. Trump, to know where the other stands, so they can speak to each other, to facilitate trans-Atlantic relations," said Yannick Mireur, a political scientist who follows U.S. politics.
The greater risk is for Trump, said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute for International Relations.
"There is a Russian sword of Damocles over Mr. Trump's head and it's been there since he took office. At the same time, Emmanuel Macron during his campaign and at his first meeting with Vladimir Putin was critical of Russian interference," Gomart said.
In emails made public this week, an intermediary told Donald Trump Jr. that a Russian attorney had negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton that was part of the Russian government's efforts to help Trump in the election campaign. "I love it," the then-candidate's son responded.
The revelations raise new questions about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow during the election, a charge the president has denied for months. And it points those questions more directly at the inner circle of Trump's own family.
Macron supports intervention against Syria's government in response to its use of chemical weapons and could prove an important ally as the Trump administration seeks to increase pressure against Damascus. But in doing so, they'll need to tackle the issue of Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, something Trump has only passively acknowledged.
The visit will also gauge whether Trump and Macron can find consensus on any of the critical issues on which they openly disagree. After Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, Macron, a staunch advocate of research to combat global warming, urged "all responsible citizens," including American scientists and researchers, to bring their fight against climate change to France.
Date created : 2017-07-13