Natural that Europe should want an army, says Russia's Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War One at the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France, November 11, 2018. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday it made sense for a powerful economic bloc like the European Union to want to defend itself militarily.

The comments came after U.S. President Donald Trump fired off a tweet as he arrived in Paris on Friday in which he described a call by French President Emmanuel Macron for a European army as “very insulting”.

“Europe is a powerful economic entity, a powerful economic union and it is quite natural that it wants to be independent, self-sufficient and sovereign in matters of defense and security,” Putin told RT television.

Trump had taken a dim view of comments Macron made in a Europe 1 radio interview this week in which he appeared to cast the United States as a threat.

Discussing the growing danger from cyber-hacking, outside meddling in electoral processes and the U.S. decision to withdraw from a missile treaty, Macron said Europe needed to protect against China, Russia “and even the United States”.

Later in the same interview he spoke of the need for a European army, saying: “Faced by Russia, which is on our borders and which has shown that it can be threatening... we need to have a Europe that can better defend itself by itself, without depending solely on the United States.”

After they met on Saturday, Trump and Macron sought to paper over any differences, saying they agreed on the need for Europe to spend more on defense.

An official in Macron’s office said Trump’s rebuke was founded on a misunderstanding.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Janet Lawrence