Donald Trump’s trip to Europe was hardly a ‘great success’
Donald Trump’s first appearances at the Nato and G7 summits were a disservice to the US and the world as he framed most critical issues into zero-sum games
US President Donald Trump’s first appearances at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) and Group of Seven (G7) summits were a disservice to the US and the world. He betrayed no interest in maintaining America’s standing as the pre-eminent global leader, much less any aptitude for that task. The President is rattling the Western alliance in a way that can only delight its adversaries — Russia most of all.
Trump’s fundamental error is to treat allies as though they were adversaries. He frames the full spectrum of international relations—military cooperation, international trade, action on the environment, you name it—as a zero-sum game. This is both dumb and profoundly toxic. Smart diplomacy recognizes the opportunity for mutual advantage; in the intellectual vacuum of Trump’s world order, there is only, “You lose, we win.”
The Nato is not a charitable endeavor of the US. It has been a vital tool for advancing US interests. Yet Trump appeared to say, or anyway let himself be understood as saying, that the US is no longer wholly committed to the alliance. On trade, he said that Germany was “bad, very bad,” because it’s unfair, apparently, that Americans like its cars. On the Paris climate-change accord, he said he’d have to get back to his partners once he’d decided whether the US was getting bilked — as though it has no interest of its own in avoiding a global climate catastrophe.
In all, it was what the US has come to expect four months into this presidency — an embarrassing display of swaggering incompetence.
This kind of up-close experience must have been a shock to many European leaders, which may help explain their reaction. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for one, said that the days when Germany could “fully rely on others” for security “are to some extent over.”
The startled response to her comments is a little overwrought — especially since she gave a speech in January along similar lines about Europe needing to be more self-reliant in the era of Trump and Brexit. Merkel’s remarks also pale in comparison to Trump’s failure to publicly affirm the US commitment to Nato.
Yet Merkel and other European leaders need to be careful themselves not to use language that could destabilize the European alliance. When it comes to undermining the global order, Trump needs no help from other, supposedly wiser, leaders. Bloomberg
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