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World Leaders Warn Against Nationalism At World War I Remembrance Ceremony

President Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron took part in a ceremony Sunday to commemorate the end of World War I.
Francois Mori
President Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron took part in a ceremony Sunday to commemorate the end of World War I.

At a ceremony in Paris on Sunday to commemorate the end of World War I, world leaders made impassioned pleas for global cooperation, with several making forceful denouncements against rising forces of nationalism.

In a speech at the Arc de Triomphe, French President Emmanuel Macron took aim at the style of nationalism that has been embraced by President Trump, warning a crowd of dignitaries and heads of state about how the splintering of multilateral institutions led to the first World War and now threaten to divide the world once again.

"The traces of this war never went away," Macron said. "The old demons are rising again."

"Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism," Macron continued. "Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying, 'Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,' you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: its moral values."

Among the dozens of world leaders in attendance were Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Most of the world leaders attending the Armistice Day event were transported to the ceremony site in buses, and they then marched together down the Champs-Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived to the commemoration separately, citing security reasons.

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Putin greeted Trump with a thumbs-up at the ceremony. According to The Associated Press, Putin told Russian broadcaster RT that he didn't speak with Trump in Paris but said the two will meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this month.

Putin said he and Trump decided "not to interrupt the schedule" of the World War I events with a separate meeting.

Later Sunday, Macron convened a Paris Peace Forum, which he said would give world leaders an opportunity to discuss the miscalculations that led to World War I and promote concrete actions toward peace.

Celia Belin, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution,wrote that the forum was part of a broader effort by the international community to find "new approaches to save global cooperation." According to Belin:

France — and Macron — are taking the lead to empower a global "resistance" of multilateralists hoping to salvage, or rebuild, a dwindling rules-based order. The question remains open whether the multilateralists can do that without U.S. leadership.

At the forum, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against taking peace for granted, saying, "We have to work for it."

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also spoke at the forum and "warned of 'parallels' between the present day and the unstable and dangerous 1930s as he marked the centenary of World War I in a speech in Paris," according to a report by RFI.

"As I see it, several elements today have many parallels with both the start of the twentieth century and the 1930s, giving us grounds to fear that an unpredictable chain of events could ensue," Guterres said at the forum, according to RFI.

Trump did not attend the forum, instead visiting the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial outside of Paris before returning to Washington.

In his remarks at the cemetery, Trump said, "The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two republics."

The president was widely criticized for calling off a Saturday visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, on the site of a World War I battle in which 1,800 American soldiers were killed.

An armistice officially ended World War I at exactly 11 a.m., 100 years ago. The global conflict originated in Europe, killing an estimated 8.5 million soldiers and injuring 21 million more.

Countries around the world commemorated the armistice on Sunday, with New Zealand holding a 100-gun salute, planes dropping thousands of red paper poppies in Australia, and hundreds of bagpipers across the United Kingdom playing a lament at 6 a.m.

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