President Donald Trump appeared to mock France’s record in World War I and II in a Tuesday morning tweet that again waved the idea of the US pulling out of, or modifying its relationship to NATO.
French President Emmanuel Macron has long pushed for a European army separate from NATO, the global alliance that includes the US and Canada, and has since the end of World War II sought to secure the continent against Russian aggression.
Spurred by the US’s withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons and almost completely denuclearized the continent, Macron renewed his calls to break away from depending on US military might.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Macron said on November 6. Macron later clarified his comments about protecting Europe from the US, saying they mainly focused on cyber crime and building domestic defense industries that didn’t need to buy or invest in US arms.
But Trump immediately took offense to Macron’s suggestion, calling it “very insulting.”
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. 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!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
France’s war records
While France has long borne shame for coming under German occupation with much of Paris intact during World War II, the French fought an extremely dedicated fight in World War I.
World War I saw France lose nearly 1.4 million in its military and an additional 300,000 civilians.
In World War II, France lost just over 200,000 soldiers and another 350,000 civilians after being taken by surprise by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi war machine. France began fighting against the Nazi advances in 1939, while the US only joined the fight two years later after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor.
France has long faced ridiculed for its World War II performance, despite a complicated and extremely taxing war effort that consumed nearly the entire continent before US and UK forces made the D-Day landings.
Once Allied forces landed back on the continent, French soldiers rejoined the war effort and fought shoulder to shoulder to end Nazi occupation across Europe.
Additionally, it was with French help that the US defeated the British during the revolutionary war.
Today, France’s military stands among Europe’s best. Only France has a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and has contributed greatly to anti-terrorism and anti-extremist fighting across the Middle East and Africa.
Germany keeps a relatively small military, and has resisted heavy spending or foreign operations.
On Monday, Trump also seemed to float the possibility of pulling out of NATO if trade deficits continue while the NATO countries typically spend less than 2% of their GDP on defense.