At the World War I Armistice Day commemoration on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron took a pointed stand against nationalism — calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” — while standing steps away from President Donald Trump.
Macron warned that “the old demons” that led to that war a century ago have been resurfacing and said that “giving in to the fascination for withdrawal, isolationism, violence, and domination would be a grave error.”
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying our interests first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values.”
This was also the line of the speech Macron’s office chose to tweet out:
Trump recently labeled himself a nationalist, adopting the loaded term as a badge of honor.
“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much, and you know what, we can’t have that,” he said at a campaign rally in October. “I’m a nationalist. Okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Use that word.”
According to the Washington Post, Macron went on to say that the millions of soldiers who fought and died did so to reject the “selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests,” in an apparent dig at Trump’s campaign-trail remarks and “America First” policies.
Macron’s remarks could also have been aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who showed up last to the ceremony, or any of the other nations across Europe showing rising nationalism — including France. But though the French president didn’t mention Trump or America by name, his US counterpart seemed to sense the rebuke was meant for him. As NBC reports, “After Macron finished his remarks, Trump appeared to grimace while offering muted and delayed applause.”
Macron and Trump’s “bromance” isn’t what it used to be
Today’s speech is just the latest unraveling of the Trump-Macron bromance. Once chummy and physically affectionate (in a manly man kind of way), the two world leaders have begun airing their ideological differences and policy disagreements more openly.
Trump and Macron have had their differences from the start: In June 2017, just a month after he was inaugurated, Macron released a three-minute statement in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, saying “make our planet great again.” But Macron positioned himself as one of the few world leaders who could get Trump’s ear, and they built an unexpectedly strong personal relationship. Trump once famously brushed dandruff from Macron’s shoulder, calling him “perfect.”
Today is not, however, the first time Macron has specifically rebuked Trump’s “America First” mentality. In an April 2018 address to a joint session of Congress, Macron slammed Trump, also without mentioning him by name. As Zeeshan Aleem noted at Vox, the French president’s “thinly veiled criticism of his host stood in stark contrast to the chummy rapport” the two displayed on his visit:
Macron, widely considered to be Trump’s favorite European leader, laid out positions sharply at odds with Trump’s positions on the Iran nuclear deal (Macron said the US should stay in it), climate change (Macron said it was real and needed to be fought), free trade (Macron warned against protectionism), and international cooperation more broadly.
“We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears,” Macron said. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”
Sunday’s remarks suggest tensions are still high between the two leaders, despite efforts to smooth things over in a Saturday meeting.
Trump may have gotten a thumbs-down from Macron, but another world leader had a thumbs-up for him: Vladimir Putin, who strolled in late, before offering Trump a handshake and a thumbs-up.