PARIS – Bells tolled across France and Europe on Sunday, as President Donald Trump and other global leaders gathered to mourn the dead of World War I and heed the harsh lessons designed to prevent future conflict – perhaps including Trump-style nationalism.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has criticized Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, used his speech to decry excessive “nationalism” at the root of the First World War and succeeding conflicts.
“Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron told a gathering of world leaders that ranged from Russian President Vladimir Putin to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as Trump.
Speaking on the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I, Macron told fellow leaders they have a have a “huge responsibility” to defeat modern forces that threaten a “legacy of peace” from the two world wars of the past century.
“I know there are old demons coming back to the surface,” the French president said. “They are ready to wreak chaos and death.”
It was not clear if Macron was referring to Trump, who did not speak but remained near the center of attention.
Trump said during a meeting with Macron Saturday that other countries need to share the burdens of mutual defense and free trade: “We want to help Europe but it has to be fair.”
Before the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, the bells at Notre Dame and other cathedrals in Paris as well as across the continent rang at the exact time the armistice took effect: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, one hundred years ago.
The event itself ran a little late, as Macron and other leaders marched up the Champs Elysee toward the event site.
Trump arrived separately, though not without incident: A topless woman ran toward the presidential motorcade, but was quickly caught by police. At least one other anti-Trump demonstrator was also arrested.
The nude woman had something written on her body; it appeared to say “fake peacemaker.”
Holding umbrellas, the president and first lady Melania Trump greeted Macron and other guests, including Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president gave Trump a thumbs up and patted him on the upper arm.
During the ceremony, a military band played “La Marseillais”; a choir of veterans later sang the French national anthem a capella. Yo-Yo Ma, seated near the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the arc, performed cello solos. The French Air Force staged a flyover.
Other countries across the world held similar World War I commemorations, from Australia and New Zealand to England and India.
With Trump and more than 60 other world leaders in attendance, the Paris event took place amid heavy security.
On Saturday night, siren-blaring police vehicle began lining the streets around the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his military victories and finished more than a decade after his death in exile.
Just twenty minutes before the program, Trump tweeted another complaint attributing the California wildfires to poor supervision of forest lands. “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!” he said.
For the American president, the program at the Arc de Triomphe began a day of commemorations before heading back to Washington, D.C., later in the day.
After the luncheon, Trump travels to a World War I cemetery to make remarks.
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