Donald Trump Rounds Off Disastrous Armistice Day Weekend With Dubious Cemetery Excuse

Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron

President Donald Trump, his wife Melania Trump, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris.

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

The Russian Empire, which had a population of around 150 million people, suffered 1.7 million deaths during the war.

As President Trump was arriving at the unity ceremony in Paris on Sunday, a topless woman bearing the messages "fake" and "peace" on her chest threw herself at the president's motorcade as it pulled up to the Arc de Triomphe in protest.

There was no immediate response from either the White House or the Kremlin to Macron's comments.

Abroad, though, the equivalent of any modern U.S. president's base - the network of alliances built up through two World Wars and beyond - appears more fragile.

Trump, who champions a policy of "America first" and has said he is proud to be a nationalist, snubbed the event.

Macron said that the meeting of 84 world leaders at a ceremony in Paris to commemorate the armistice is a historic moment.

On Saturday, President Trump skipped a visit to a World War I cemetery, citing the weather; Marine One will not fly in windy, rainy conditions, and the kind of motorcade necessary to transport the president some 50 miles outside of Paris could not be organized in time. The feminist activist group Femen later claimed responsibility.

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The ceremony, held at the Arc de Triomphe , honours the almost 10 million soldiers killed during the 1914-'18 war. Macron is hosting a Peace Forum starting Sunday, but Trump is planning to leave for Washington and won't attend.

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Remembered for brutal trench warfare and the first use of chemical weapons, WWI pitted the armies of France, the British empire, Russian Federation and the USA against a German-led coalition that included the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.

"We need a much better burden-sharing within Nato", Mr Macron said while patting Mr Trump's knee.

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But on Sunday both the United States and Russian presidents arrived separately for the solemn ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, skipping the bus ride and symbolic walk with other leaders.

Russian officials said the French had been the ones to ask that no separate Trump-Putin meeting be arranged Sunday in order not to distract from the solemn commemorations.

"The aim of the forum is to show that there are lots of forces in the global system - states, NGOs, foundations, intellectuals, companies - who believe we need a world of rules, an open world and a multilateral world", chief organiser Justin Vaisse told AFP.

The president sent a delegation that included chief of staff John Kelly instead.

The Paris Peace Forum aims at promoting concrete actions toward peace and should be repeated every year, he said.

The UK government has invited 10,000 members of the public to march past the Cenotaph in a "People's Procession" to give thanks and pay their respects to all who served in World War I. It has also called for bells to be rung across the nation and around the world to replicate the spontaneous ringing of bells across Britain on November 11, 1918 as news of the war's end spread. At the war's end, the US had 2 million troops in Europe and another 2 million ready to cross the Atlantic if needed, a force that turned the United States into a major military power whose soldiers then fought and died again for Europe in World War II.

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