U.S. President Donald Trump says “something could happen” regarding the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate accord, and he also dismissed the significance of a meeting last year between his son and a Russian lawyer.
“Zero happened from the meeting,” Trump told reporters after talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Earlier this week, the U.S. leader’s oldest son Donald Trump Jr., released emails showing he believed the meeting was to discuss possible damaging material regarding the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Numerous U.S. investigations are underway about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, including allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian interests.
On climate change, Macron acknowledged the two sides disagree on the issue but “respects” Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord. Trump indicated that rejoining the accord is something that could happen in the future. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Macron made headlines at the NATO summit last May, when cameras focused on his handshake with President Trump, in which the slender, 39-year-old French leader firmly gripped Trump’s hand for several seconds in what some media characterized as an arm wrestle.
President Trump’s aim was to show that his administration remains engaged with traditional European allies. Like Trump, Macron is newly elected and assumes leadership as a political outsider. Analysts say the meeting was expected to be a civil encounter, although it will be difficult to hide the profound differences between the two.
“At the same time, this will be a particularly awkward encounter; because the French not only have elected a president who is almost the antithesis of Mr. Trump, but there is this deep animosity to the fact that the Trump administration is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord,” said Timothy Stafford, a U.S. foreign policy researcher at the Henry Jackson Society.
Many French, including Macron, were dismayed by the U.S. decision, largely because France put much work into hosting the 2015 climate change summit and considers the agreement a great achievement.
“So to finally have reached a conclusion on that agreement only to see the newly-elected United States president withdraw the U.S. from it almost with next to no notification, that will be a very sore point of contention at those meetings and no matter how much they try to paper over it in their public appearances, you can be sure that in the private discussions that they have, the French will be doing everything they can to try to find some sort of solution to this,” Stafford said.
Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on display in their marathon meeting at the G-20 last Friday, is another thorn in the relationship.
France, along with the rest of western Europe, is nervous.
“There’s nothing that’s happened there in substantive terms in which we should worry a lot,” said Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director of the Royal United Services Institute in London. “But the process, the language, the way in which he seems very ready to use quite harsh language against allies and more reluctant to use harsh [language] against Russia makes people think, well a few months down the line, are we going to see an American initiative on Syria, or Russia, or on Ukraine, or somewhere else agreed with the Kremlin before it’s been discussed with people in Paris, or Berlin or indeed London.”
This is Trump’s third overseas visit since taking office in January. All three trips have included Europe.
For Trump, the visit to the French capital and his participation in a high-profile event attended by other global leaders is a way to show America remains engaged with the world under his administration while promoting Americans’ interests. For Macron, it is a chance to assert himself as a strong leader who is able to deal with and influence major powers. On Thursday, a headline in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro read “Macron wants Trump to Emerge from Isolation.”
Bastille Day Celebrations
On Friday, the U.S. president and First Lady Melania Trump will take part in Bastille Day celebrations and commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I.
Shortly after Air Force One touched down at Paris’ Orly airport Thursday, the U.S. leader went into meetings with U.S. embassy personnel and U.S. military officials.
Later Thursday, Trump toured Les Invalides, a 17th century complex housing a military museum and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, before heading to the Élysée Palace for talks with President Macron.