ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump leaves for Paris tonight for his first official visit to France. He's been invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to take part in Bastille Day celebrations and to mark the 100th anniversary of American troops coming to aid France during World War I. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, the two leaders will also try to make progress on the many issues that divide them.
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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: American troops joined French soldiers this morning on the Champs-Elysees for a pre-dawn practice ahead of Friday's traditional Bastille Day military parade. General Pershing's doughboys are being honored this year, a century after they arrived in France to help turn the tide of the war. Major Jared Nichols says participating in the Bastille Day parade is special.
MAJOR JARED NICHOLS: The centenary of the Great War is a major - a significant event in the history of the world. And to have the United States forces invited here - I mean, there's no greater honor the French government could render upon us.
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BEARDSLEY: President Trump and the first lady will be guests of honor in the grandstand, watching Nichols and more than 200 American troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines march by as American fighter jets swoop overhead. Not everybody is pleased that Trump will be there. Far-left opposition leader Jean-Luc Melenchon accused Macron of endangering democracy by inviting Trump to Paris. Political commentator Christophe Barbier says that's a shortsighted view.
CHRISTOPHE BARBIER: Emmanuel Macron is right. When you disagree with somebody, you speak with this person. Behind Donald Trump, there is United States of America. In 1917, hundred thousands of boys from United States decided to come in Europe and died in Europe for our freedom. And it is more important than four years with Donald Trump.
BEARDSLEY: Trump and Macron are at odds on almost every issue, starting with climate change, free trade and immigration. But Jean-Pierre Maulny, co-director of the French Institute for International Relations, says the two presidents will find common ground on Syria.
JEAN-PIERRE MAULNY: (Through interpreter) There could be points of agreement because these two presidents are both realists. They believe finding a long-term political solution means talking to all parties, even Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, because the top priority is the struggle against ISIS and terrorism.
BEARDSLEY: Just before Trump arrives, Macron will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to talk about enhanced defense cooperation between their countries. Jean-Pierre Maulny says Europe's concern about Trump's lack of commitment to European defense has given a boost to plans for a European-led defense strategy. Although the Bastille Day celebrations are all about the military, the biggest concern in France is Trump's decision to pull America out of the Paris climate accord. Christophe Barbier says that decision boosted the image of the new French president.
BARBIER: Donald Trump is looking to the past. He has not understood that a new economy, a green economy, is there. It is easy for Macron to be suddenly the great hero of the ecologists, the great hero of the new economy, the great hero of the international youth.
BEARDSLEY: Barbier says for the last eight years, the world looked to America for leadership, but Trump's isolationist approach has left the stage clear for a young, dynamic leader like President Macron to inspire the world. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR news, Paris.
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