Donald Trump watched U.S. and French soldiers march together through the Paris sunshine in a double celebration Friday marking 100 years since the United States entered the First World War and France’s annual Bastille Day holiday.
The occasion, also featuring a binational flypast of fighter jets symbolizing military co-operation in the Middle East and elsewhere, followed a day of talks between the U.S. president and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, a tour of Paris by the leaders’ wives, and a dinner for the four at a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.
The ceremonies bring to an end a visit Macron needs as a boost to France’s standing on the world stage — one that could also help a U.S. leader left short of international friends by his stance on free trade and climate change.
Trump, also dogged at home by an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, appeared on Thursday to leave open the door for more talks on the Paris accord that he pulled the United States out of earlier this year.
Macron arrived standing in a military jeep and surrounded by cavalry — repeating a scene from his inauguration two months ago and reinforcing the message that he heads an important military power.
The scene also serves as a reminder of a fierce row that erupted this week between Macron and his Armed Forces chief, Gen. Pierre de Villers, over proposed budget cuts for the Defence Ministry.
Two hours before the parade Friday, the famed Champs-Élysees avenue was emptied, as was the Place de la Concorde with its golden-tipped obelisk. The wide boulevard has been targeted repeatedly by Islamic extremists, most recently last month when a man crashed his car into a convoy of gendarmes.
Trump arrived with his wife Melania Trump in a black sedan to be greeted in the sunshine by Brigitte Macron, the wife of the French president.
At the parade, the two heads of state sat together in a stand, applauding, pointing and touching each other on the arm as military aircraft flew overhead. Trump saluted as military personnel — some in WW I battledress — filed past with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.
Also in the parade were French soldiers taking part in the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). France and the United States are among a coalition of nations fighting the extremist organization.
For France, this year’s Bastille Day has an additional poignancy as the first anniversary of one of the deadliest Islamist militant attacks of the past few years.
After the parade, his first as president, Macron will head for the Mediterranean city of Nice, where he will join a commemoration for the 86 people who died when a Tunisian man drove a truck at a crowd on the waterfront a year ago. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack and others in France, including last month’s attack on the Champs-Élysees.