PARIS — President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France met on Saturday, seeking to restore a relationship that started out friendly only to turn sour in recent months amid the American leader’s complaints that Europe is taking advantage of the century-old trans-Atlantic alliance.
Mr. Macron reassured Mr. Trump that his call this week for a “true European army” to defend against Russia, China and even the United States was actually in harmony with the American president’s insistence that NATO allies pick up more of the burden of mutual security efforts.
“I do share President Trump’s views that we need much better burden-sharing within NATO, and that’s why I do believe my proposals for European defense are utterly consistent with that,” Mr. Macron said with Mr. Trump at his side at the Élysée Palace.
Mr. Trump, who has bitterly assailed European allies for not spending more on defense, said he was glad to hear Mr. Macron say that. “He understands the United States can only do so much, in fairness to the United States,” Mr. Trump said.
The two met in Paris before ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Mr. Macron welcomed Mr. Trump to the presidential palace on a drizzly, dreary day that matched the mood of the moment. Their encounter seemed decidedly chillier than their warm session in Washington earlier in the year when they smiled broadly, hugged and lavished praise on each other.
On Saturday morning, the two patted each other’s arms and flashed thumbs up for cameras, but the tight-lipped smiles appeared strained and forced. During their short, subsequent appearance before reporters, Mr. Trump remained formal and distant but avoided sharp language. Mr. Macron appeared relieved at the end and patted Mr. Trump’s leg appreciatively.
The visit got off to a testy start on Friday when Mr. Trump posted a provocative message on Twitter assailing Mr. Macron just three minutes after Air Force One touched down at Orly Airport outside Paris.
Responding to comments that Mr. Macron made last week suggesting that Europe needed to form its own army to defend itself even against the United States, Mr. Trump wrote: “Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”
Mr. Trump did not address other comments made in recent days by Mr. Macron warning about the dangers of nationalism, drawing historical comparisons to the forces that devastated the European continent in the 20th century. “I’m struck by the resemblance between the moment we’re now living and the period between the world wars,” Mr. Macron said.
By contrast, Mr. Trump during the fall midterm election campaign proudly adopted the “nationalist” label for himself.
Beyond security, the biggest points of contention between the United States and France right now are the renewed American sanctions against Iran and the threats against French companies doing business in Tehran. Both businesspeople and Mr. Macron’s officials have expressed outrage over these threats. The French want to continue to do business with Iran and resent being put under pressure by the Americans.
Mr. Trump remains hugely unpopular in France and Mr. Macron, after making efforts to cozy up to Mr. Trump, has in the last several months shown signs of distancing himself. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr. Macron argued for cooperation between nations that seemed to be a direct rebuke to Mr. Trump’s unilateralism.
Mr. Trump is set to spend just about 48 hours on the ground but will have the chance to interact with other world leaders at several events hosted by Mr. Macron, including potentially President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
While long scheduled, the trip gives Mr. Trump the opportunity to try to briefly escape the domestic controversies dominating Washington. Democrats are preparing to take control of the House after midterm elections, and critics are lashing out at the president’s decision to fire his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, seeing it as an effort to impede the investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into any ties between Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
Later on Saturday, Mr. Trump plans to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at the foot of the hill where the Battle of Belleau Wood was fought and attend a dinner hosted by Mr. Macron. On Sunday, he will join about 70 world leaders for a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe commemorating the armistice that ended World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Afterward, he will join the leaders for lunch and separately then head to the Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris before leaving for home in the afternoon.
He will not stay for the Paris Peace Forum, a gathering that Mr. Macron is inaugurating to bring together governments and private organizations to improve international coordination and find ways to avoid the sort of tensions that led to World War I and other conflicts.
Many in Paris will be watched to see whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin talk. Mr. Trump last month sent his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, to Moscow to arrange for a meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the official events in Paris, but since then the two sides have issued confusing and conflicting accounts of whether they will talk or not.
No formal meeting is scheduled and the two sides now say they will wait for a more formal session during an international summit meeting in Buenos Aires, later this month. But the two will be in the same room together for this weekend’s events and could speak informally.