US President Donald Trump arrived in France on Thursday morning at the Orly airport south of Paris at the start of a two-day visit.
Trump’s visit comes in celebration of the Bastille Day commemorations of the entry 100 years ago of US troops into World War One.
Accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, the 71-year-old hopes the visit will distract from weighty allegations that his family and inner circle colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US election.
Trump and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron have incentives to improve ties as Trump comes to France for the first time as president beset by the said allegations.
Emails released on Tuesday suggest his eldest son welcomed Russian help against his father’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The scandal has put his son and top aides in legal jeopardy and cast a pall over his efforts to remake American politics.
Macron hopes to influence US policy or, at the least, help avoid serious strains between the EU and Washington with tensions over climate change and trade, as Trump was openly critical of the EU.
“It’s very difficult to play chess with a man whose strategy is a complete mystery and whose only consistency is his pursuit of American national interest,” foreign affairs expert Bertrand Badie of Sciences Po university in Paris told AFP.
“To imagine that you might change his mind on something is simply mad.”
Meanwhile, talks will focus on shared diplomatic and military endeavors, but an Elysee official said Macron would not shy away from trickier issues. Trump has made few friends in Europe with his rejection of the Paris accord on climate change and “America First” trade stance.
Macron’s aides say he does not want Trump to feel backed into a corner.
Sources in the French presidency insist ties are healthy even after a muscular handshake seen as a battle of wills between the two of them when they first met at a NATO summit in May.
“The relationship is excellent,” said one member of Macron’s team.
“What Emmanuel Macron wants to do is bring Trump back into the circle so that the United States, which remains the world’s number one power, is not excluded,” French government spokesman Christophe Castaner told BFM TV.