Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron traded public barbs over ISIS and defence spending during an awkward news conference ahead of the NATO summit in London.
The U.S. president acknowledged he and his French counterpart were having a “minor dispute” over trade tariffs but promised that “we’ll work it out.”
But the two leaders repeatedly contradicted each other over everything from Turkey and terrorism to strategy and missiles as they battled each other in front of the cameras.
“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said. “You can take every one you want.”
“Let’s be serious,” Macron responded, setting out the other strategic challenges for NATO.
Trump retorted: "That's why he's a great politician because that's one of the greatest non-answers I've ever heard."
Macron said the most critical issues facing NATO were strategic, particularly over Turkey which is fighting the Kurds and buying Russian military hardware that is not compatible with the alliance.
“I’m sorry to say we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table,” Macron said. “They are fighting against those who are fighting with us.”
But Trump returned to his familiar topic of how much money NATO members were contributing, saying it still wasn’t enough.
The strained encounter came only a few hours after Trump called Macron's NATO criticism “very, very nasty.”
As prime ministers and presidents of the 29-member alliance converged on London to mark NATO’s 70th birthday, Trump told reporters that the French leader had been wrong to lamented the “brain death” of the organization due in large part to a lack of U.S. leadership.
“I think that’s insulting to a lot of different forces,” Trump said. “You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.”
During campaigning in 2016, Trump described NATO as “obsolete.” He has since tempered his criticism somewhat.
Macron was angered when Trump unilaterally pulled troops out of northern Syria last month, a move that Turkey saw as a green light for an invasion. The European Union is mired in a political crisis sparked by its inability to manage Syrian refugee arrivals, and fears that more people might flee.
Relations between the U.S. and France are also particularly strained this week after The U.S. Trade Representative proposed introducing tariffs on $2.4 billion in goods in retaliation for a French tax on global tech giants.
Later, on Tuesday, the 29 leaders were greeted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, from where some, including Trump and Macron, went on to 10 Downing Street.