It was a big day for the entire world, as dozens of global leaders gathered for the armistice centennial in Paris, on November 11, which marked the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.
Led by the French President Emmanuel Macron, the ceremony took place at the base of the Arc de Triomphe.
It was a historic moment, as over 66 dignitaries — including the US President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres — gathered to commemorate the gloomy and rain-soaked ceremony.
On November 11, 1918, the armistice came into force at 11:00 a.m. of Paris time. It was signed in France, to end the genocides of the conflict that began in 1914.
During the beginning of the World War I, several government and military officials presumed that it would end any time soon. However, it exceeded into a prolonged struggle that killed millions of civilians and military personnel.
On Sunday, the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was supposed to begin promptly at 11 a.m., but the leaders arrived late. Many of them flocked into buses at the French presidential palace and traveled together at the venue. However, Trump and Putin came separately for security reasons.
On Sunday, as Trump traveled to the Arc de Triomphe for the ceremony, his motorcade was rushed by a topless protester. She had slogans written on her chest that included the words “Fake” and “Peace,” and was identified as a member of Femen. Therefore, the US President arrived separately than other leaders for security reasons. However, it was Putin who arrived last.
During the ceremony, Macron addressed the crowd and warned them against the dangers of nationalism and the fragility of world peace.
Referring to the Great War, being fueled partly by a rise in nationalism among Europe’s leading powers, he said, “The traces of this war never went away.”
He also added, “The old demons are rising again. We must reaffirm before our peoples our true and huge responsibility.”
Many saw his speech as a denial of Trump’s “America First” policies and rhetoric, and also the recent surge of nationalism seen in Europe and elsewhere.
Macron said, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. 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,” he added.
On Sunday afternoon, the French President convened the Paris Peace Forum— a conference he has defined as a possibility for the global leaders to reflect on the political miscalculations that had led to World War I, and to ensure such a conflict is not repeated.
While Merkel, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the forum, Trump conspicuously remained absent. Instead, he visited the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial outside Paris — where more than 1,500 Americans who died in the war are buried — before he flew back to Washington.
“We are gathered together at this hallowed resting place to pay tribute to the brave Americans who gave their last breath in that mighty struggle,” 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,” he added.
On Saturday, Trump had to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery to pay accolade to the 1,800 American service members who were killed in the battle of Belleau Wood. However, he cancelled the plan due to the rainfall. Several across the world criticized the President for calling off the plan and sending a delegation led by White House chief of staff John Kelly in his place.
The day was significant for the entire world, where several countries held ceremonies and other special events to mark the centenary of the armistice. While the other leaders were seen together, Trump was seen missing from the most powerful moments of the event. While the other dignitaries walked together towards the Arc de Triomphe, Trump chose to come alone. Besides, he was also absent from the forum convoked by Macron.
Probably, the US President had no option than to remain quiet and alone, in order to avoid any sort of criticism which has the potential to affect his already degrading creditability on the world forum. While the anti-Trump group is growing, he might have taken a smart decision.