‘Nationalism Is a Betrayal of Patriotism’

Gregory Viscusi and Helene Fouquet

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron confronted fellow world leaders with a call for international cooperation, as he marked the centenary of the end of World War I with a denunciation of isolationism.

Standing in the Paris drizzle just feet from leaders including Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Macron used the culmination of a ceremony commemorating the 1918 Armistice to blast ideologies the U.S. leader has embraced.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism, nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said. “In saying ‘our interests first and who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation has that’s most precious, what makes it live, what is most important: its moral values.”

Macron’s message was both a call to learn the lessons of 1918, when the fragile peace gave way to another world war within two decades, and a rebuke to present-day leaders such as Trump who shun the international order in favor of nationalist policies.

The weekend’s events have been marked by contrasting shows of German-French reconciliation -- with Chancellor Angela Merkel constantly at Macron’s side -- and Trump’s testy isolation.

The U.S. president set the tone for his trip by blasting Macron on Twitter for “very insulting” comments advocating a more integrated European security, and was then widely criticized for skipping a planned visit to a U.S. military ceremony due to bad weather. He stood in the rain Sunday at another war cemetery, saying the event was the “highlight of the trip.”

In a symbolic display of unity before his speech Sunday, Macron led the dozens of gathered leaders in a broad line up the Champs-Elysees. Trump and Putin arrived separately in their own motorcades.

Turning Inward

During the ceremony, Macron sat with Merkel on his immediate right, with Trump just beyond the German Chancellor. Merkel and Macron have emerged as the leading defenders of the multilateral institutions created at the end of World War II, while Trump, who embraces what he calls “America First” policies, pronounced at the UN in September that he’s a “nationalist” who rejects globalism.

“Let’s add up our hopes and not our fears,” Macron said. “Let’s reject the fascination for turning in on ourselves, violence, and domination.” He listed climate change, poverty, hunger, inequality and “ignorance” among the global challenges to be tackled jointly.

Merkel echoed the theme at a Peace Forum Macron hosted later in the day, an event that Trump skipped.

“I want to speak of my concerns that are mixed in with today’s commemoration, the concern that national blinders are spreading again, that actions are taken as if to simply ignore our mutual dependencies, relationships and binding ties,” Merkel told the forum. “We’re seeing that international cooperation, a peaceful balance of interests, even the European peace project are again being called into question.”

After drawing criticism for canceling a visit to the Belleau Wood battlefield because of bad weather the day before, Trump stood in the rain Sunday to commemorate U.S. war dead at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial outside Paris.

“It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago,” Trump said.

No Trump-Putin Meeting

The U.S. leader met only briefly with his Russian counterpart, despite earlier statements from the Kremlin that the two might have talks.

“We agreed that we wouldn’t disrupt the schedule of the host country and at their request we’re not organizing any meetings here,” Putin told Russian state-run RT television. “But possibly we will at the G-20 or later. We’re open to dialog.”

The leaders didn’t get to talk separately during the luncheon, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies, but said they would see each other again. Russian officials accused their hosts of changing the seating plan to separate Trump and Putin, a charge the French denied.

The Russian president is hoping his personal ties with Trump, who regularly touts their good relationship, will at some point yield a softening of the U.S. approach to his country. So far, however, the tensions have only built, with the U.S. imposing new rounds of sanctions and vowing to pull out of a Cold War disarmament treaty.

Sunday’s ceremony included youths reading letters written by soldiers and civilians in the “Great War,” and ended with the traditional lighting of the flame on the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Macron paid tribute to the allies and opponents who battled for four years on French soil.

“France knows what it owes these fighters that came from across the world, France salutes with honor the death of soldiers that it fought,” he said. “The combat that’s most worth it is the combat for peace and for a better world.”

--With assistance from Ilya Arkhipov, Justin Sink, Nick Wadhams, Jonathan Ferziger, Shannon Pettypiece and Patrick Donahue.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net;Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net, Gregory L. White

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.