More than 60 world leaders gathered in Paris Sunday to mark 100 years since the end of World War I, and although the general theme was unity, President Donald Trump seemed determined to stand apart. While world leaders took a bus to the Arc de Triomphe and walked side-by-side as bells tolled to mark the exact moment 100 years ago when the war ended, Trump arrived with his own motorcade. Russian President Vladimir Putin also arrived separately and walked in by himself to the ceremony that included, among others, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump arrived separately “due to security protocols.” But his insistence on standing apart didn’t sit well with others, particularly after Trump drew fire for his decision to cancel his appearance at a memorial service Saturday because of rain.
When it came time for the speeches, French President Emmanuel Macron sent a thinly veiled message toward Trump as he warned about the dangers of nationalism, noting that “the old demons are rising again” while pointing the finger at nations who put themselves first. “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” he said. “In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.” Trump didn’t flinch at the message that seemed squarely aimed at the commander in chief, who recently called himself a “nationalist,” and his “America First” slogan. He later characterized the commemoration as “very beautiful.”
When it came time for Trump to speak later at an American cemetery outside Paris, he didn’t respond to Macron’s speech and instead honored those who died in the war. But his speech at the cemetery also highlighted the U.S. president’s penchant to stand apart from his allies considering his visit came as Macron, Merkel, and others were opening a peace forum.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus