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Macron: White-Knuckle Handshake with Trump Was 'Moment of Truth'

Taliban fighters ride in their vehicle in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gal)

French President Emmanuel Macron said his handshake with President Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels, described by the press pool as a grip with “considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening,” was no accident.

“My handshake with him – it wasn’t innocent,” Macron told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in an interview today. “It’s not the alpha and the omega of a policy, but it was a moment of truth.”

“Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power,” he added. “That doesn’t bother me. I don’t believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues I won’t let anything pass.”

Macron said one must “ensure you are respected.”

“You have to show you won’t make small concessions – not even symbolic ones,” the 39-year-old president said.

Trump and Macron had a working lunch over veal and chocolate mousse Thursday at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. “President Trump urged President Macron to meet the NATO defense spending pledge and ensure that NATO is focused on counterterrorism. The president thanked President Macron for France’s leadership in counterterrorism efforts in Africa. The leaders agreed on the critical importance of defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. President Trump discussed his recent travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel and his hope for Middle East peace,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. “The two leaders committed to maintaining and building on the already strong alliance between the United States and France as they cooperate on these and other vital issues.”

During the bilateral handshake session, Trump lauded Macron’s “incredible campaign” and “tremendous victory” over Marine Le Pen. “All over the world they’re talking about it. And we have a lot to discuss, including terrorism and other things. Congratulations. Great job.”

“For my part, I’m also very happy to be with President Trump,” Macron replied. “We have an extremely large agenda to discuss: the fight against terrorism, the economy, climate and energy.”

During another point in the summit, Macron walked to greet other NATO leaders and veered toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel to embrace her first. Macron shook a couple more hands before Trump, who yanked Macron’s arm toward him in the handshake.

Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit it off at the NATO and G7 summits, with Macron calling his Canadian counterpart “inspiring.”

“We belong to a generation of leaders that will deeply renew practices and a vision of global affairs,” the French president said.

Macron also renewed cooperation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the summits. Merkel said at a weekend campaign event in Munich that the meetings showed her “the times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over.”

“I experienced that in the last a few days, and therefore I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands,” she said.