CAEN, France — France wants the D-Day commemoration to showcase its long friendship with the United States, but relations are strained as President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron prepare to meet Thursday on the sidelines of the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy that helped free Europe from Nazi occupation.
Trump and Macron enjoy putting on a show of exaggerated handshakes, warm kisses and taps on the back, but they disagree on key issues, including climate change, Iran and world trade.
Still, Macron’s office insists the two leaders get along.
“The relations between the two presidents are very good with a careful combination of warmth, mutual respect and also straightforward manners when they disagree,” a top official at Macron’s office said on customary condition of anonymity.
The two leaders showed camaraderie as they marked D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery near Omaha Beach, where the Americans landed on June 6, 1944. Trump praised Macron’s poignant speech of gratitude — and they even briefly hugged. They seemed more tense, however, as they started their one-on-one meeting later.
The bilateral talks are expected to last about two hours, including lunch in the city of Caen.
It will give them “the opportunity to go a little bit deeper into a few big international, priority issues to try to make our positions get closer and build joint initiatives,” the senior French official said.
Security, the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East and trade policies are on the agenda.
Amid rising tensions between Iran and the U.S., Macron’s office said France would deliver a message of appeasement and dialogue. As the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons, France is pushing to keep Iran in the deal and find ways to counter Washington’s increased economic sanctions.
Macron also wants to discuss the upcoming summit of the Group of Seven most advanced economies, which is scheduled to take place in August in southwestern France.
The French president advocates for a stronger Europe in a globalized world. He positions himself as a bulwark against rising populism on the continent, warning against the dangers of nationalism and isolationism — a position that is the opposite of Trump’s.
The two leaders’ ideological differences have gotten in the way in the past. The last time that Trump came to France, for World War I commemorations in November, things went wrong.
Tweeting as he landed in Paris, Trump blasted Macron for making an “insulting” proposal to build up Europe’s military to counter the U.S., China and Russia. The French presidency argued that it was a misunderstanding.
Macron still defends the idea of a European military force that would be a way “to say that Europe knows how to protect itself.” That force “would be part of NATO and it would strengthen Europe within NATO,” Macron said last month.
Trump also tweeted last November against French tariffs on U.S. wine and pointed to Macron’s “very low approval rate.”
Since then, he has mocked Macron on Twitter about the yellow vests anti-government protests that have wracked France for more than six months, suggesting his climate policy was to blame.
The official from Macron’s office said that’s all water under the bridge, noting that the two leaders met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina in December and have spoken one the phone several times since then.
Despite diverging policies, France and the U.S. have a close military cooperation. They are deeply involved in the fight against the Islamic State group, and Washington also supports France’s military operations to maintain security in Africa’s Sahel region.
An aide to Macron said the French president’ speech at the Normandy American Cemetery will highlight France and America’s “indestructible friendship.” France is considered to be America’s first ally, dating back to the days when it helped the colonists win the Revolutionary War against the British.
“Every time we need to defend the ideal of freedom and the democratic values in the world, France and America always stand side by side,” Macron’s aide said.