Trump's sobering Europe tour

US President Donald Trump has described his week-long trip to Europe as "historic", while many of his European partners view his behaviour as confrontational. At the Nato summit in Brussels he declined to reaffirm Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on mutual defence. At the G7 summit in Taormina he refused to make compromises, especially on the issue of climate protection. What lessons can be learned from the visit?

Open/close all quotes
NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

A break with the past

The US president's first foreign trip was sobering as far as NRC Handelsblad is concerned:

“It confirmed what the first months of his presidency had already indicated. Trump wants to do business with autocrats and has little respect for the Europeans. He is seeking confrontation rather than joint leadership. He is pursuing his own interests and showing little regard for common values. … We saw it: Trump first. America first. It was another demonstration of the new American agenda and of a new style. Anyone who still entertained the illusion that after a few months in office Trump would come to his senses and realise how valuable the US's old allies are and how expedient it can be to act jointly with them has realised their mistake now. Everyone could see it with their own eyes: Trump is a break with the past. And the world must find a way to respond.”

Der Bund (CH) /

No alternative to dialogue

Despite Trump's confrontational behaviour at the Nato and G7 summits it's vital to remain in dialogue with him, Der Bund is convinced:

“Refusing to talk with this egocentric would only inflate his importance and spur him on. So there's no other option but to continue talking to him. That doesn't mean we have to get used to him, accept his boorish, trite and sexist behaviour or, for example on the subject of climate policy, simply do nothing. On certain issues it's all the more important to voice opposition. At the same time, however, one must recognise that this man really is the US president. Instead of hoping for an impeachment or any other miracle, the US's partners should take advantage of his gambling nature, his craving for admiration and his eagerness to chalk up quick victories. The Chinese have shown that such an approach can work. They went from being economic public enemy number one to partner in the North Korea conflict overnight.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

The G7 model is redundant

After the difficult summit in Taormina Zeit Online questions whether the whole G7 format isn't obsolete:

“Back when the old industrial nations called the tune, the G7 were a kind of world government. When the global balance of power shifted with the rise of the emerging nations in Asia and Latin America, the G20 was founded, in which the new powers are represented. The G7 was left intact, as an informal coordinating body of those countries that see themselves as part of the West. … The longer Trump remains in power the clearer it becomes that from the European point of view the United States of America may soon simply be a country with which the G20 forms loose alliances depending on the problem. The same as is done with the Chinese nowadays, who are very committed to the climate. This means there would be no need for the G7 to take a vote beforehand, and no need for the G7 either.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Home situation even more difficult for Trump

For Trump the Nato summit and the G7 summit came as a welcome reprieve, Hospodářské noviny comments:

“If we disregard the disappointing results of the G7 summit, Trump presented himself as a statesman. During his nine days abroad, however, not once did he let the journalists ask him questions. The reason for that was back at home: the scandal over pre-election ties between Trump's people and the Kremlin. During his trip it emerged that Trump's son-in-law and key adviser agreed to meet the Russians last December - on the condition that the meetings took place in the Russian embassy, which can't be tapped by the FBI. Trump's mandate is crumbling under the weight of the suspicion that he is keeping silent about a pact with Putin. If he continues to ignore questions about this that suspicion will only grow.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Another improvised summit à la Trump

The fact that this is Trump's first G7 summit will also hinder it's success, La Stampa suspects:

“The meetings of the group of the seven most important industrialised nations are traditionally preceded by negotiations at which a final document is drawn up even before the summit officially begins. The summit that starts today under Italy's presidency is the first in a series of 'improvised meetings' characteristic of the Trump era. Promoting sustainable free trade is normally considered a key prerequisite of growth. Trump takes a different view. … The Americans are saying that globalisation has put them at a disadvantage. They want to pull the emergency brake - an idea that the newly elected Macron, who has turned out to be a bigger supporter of Trump than expected, doesn't seem averse to. … Also on climate protection the G7 don't seem to have any solutions at hand because the White House is refusing to implement the Paris agreements. And nor does the US president seem willing to make real progress on migration policy.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

China benefiting from the weakness of the West

In times of geopolitical tensions countries like China could exploit the weakness of the G7 and the West, Jyllands-Posten fears:

“China has recognised the G7's weakness: a weakness that started with the Brexit vote and was exacerbated by the presidential elections in the US and France. As a result Beijing is now doing its best to take the pole position in the global economy. The stance Trump and his team are taking on relations with Russia is creating confusion among the other G7 states as to what course should be taken vis-à-vis President Putin. The current geopolitical situation should in fact encourage the G7 states to play down the importance of personnel changes when it comes to heads of state and government. Unfortunately it's to be feared that the summit in Taormina will shine a spotlight on the lack of personal chemistry between the members, thus highlighting the G7's political disunity - something the enemies of the West won't fail to exploit.”