A Postscript

Just as Trump set foot back on terra firma, the verdict on his nine-day tour was perhaps best expressed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe’s most influential leader, who concluded that “the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and the Continent have automatically depended on in the past.”

The New York Times:

Clearly disappointed with Mr. Trump’s positions on NATO, Russia, climate change and trade, Ms. Merkel said in Munich on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as steadfast as they once were and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests “and really take our fate into our own hands.”

Additional comments by Mrs Merkel:

“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over…This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

The Times adds:

Ms. Merkel’s strong comments were a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations. With the United States less willing to intervene overseas, Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.

Video Update

Below, a video of the infamous “shove,” courtesy The Huffington Post.

Also please watch Jimmy Fallon’s take at bottom.

Original Post

Americans, for more than a year, cringed from and felt deeply offended and embarrassed by the shenanigans, boorishness and pettiness of presidential candidate and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

After the man’s inauguration, there followed several embarrassing encounters with foreign leaders on home territory, fortunately somewhat shrouded from the rest of the world by distance, time zone differences, and, frankly, by apathy on the part of those on distant shores to incessantly follow the follies of this president

But when the 45th thrust himself onto the world’s stage, and in-the-flesh and on live worldwide television lectured, insulted, shoved and literally strong-armed Europe’s leaders –and by extension their peoples — he became, as the Washington Post put it “a national embarrassment.” The Daily News was more to-the-point: “President Trump insults Germany, shoves a prime minister, draws smirks from world leaders in bizarre NATO visit.”

What should have been a celebration of the strong US-European bonds, a confirmation of America’s global world leadership and what should have been an unequivocal reaffirmation of the US commitment to mutual defense under Article 5 along with categorical condemnation of Russia’s threat and aggressions, instead was turned by Trump into that “national embarrassment.”

So, how did the European press react to such blunders?

Here are a few excerpts and headlines

In what the UK Telegraph calls an “excoriating speech” at the Brussels summit, it writes, “the US president lectured an audience of European leaders that included Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany’s Angela Merkel.”

On what so many other media have been covering in sheer amazement, the Telegraph describes how Trump was seen “muscling himself to the front of a group of leaders during the summit, firmly pushing aside the leader of soon-to-be member Montenegro…then confidently adjusting his suit as he emerged in the front of the group, closer to Nato head Jens Stoltenberg.”

On the same subject, The Guardian writes, “Donald Trump doesn’t have to open up his mouth to make news anymore. The poor prime minister of Montenegro, a country with less people than El Paso, Texas, learned this the hard way when Trump gave him a big shove on Thursday to get to the front of a pack of world leaders. Doesn’t Dusko Markovic know you can’t box out The Donald?”

And on what has now become infamous – Trump’s handshakes or the lack thereof, a la Merkel — The Guardian adds:

What does this all mean? What can Trump’s handshakes tell the world about American diplomacy? What can they tell us about the man himself? Is he overcompensating for his smallness? It’s hard to say. Just as Trump doesn’t overthink matters of policy, he’s likely not undertaking in depth planning of his handshakes.

Der Spiegel, under the banner “Trump in Brussels ‘The Germans Are Bad, Very Bad’” writes about Trump’s gripes about Germany’s trade surplus:

According to a report in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, many EU officials were appalled by how little the Americans appeared to know about trade policy. The guests from Washington seemed not to be aware that EU member states only negotiate trade treaties as a bloc. According to the paper, Trump’s chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, claimed during meetings, for example, that different customs tariffs are in place between the U.S. and Germany than between the U.S. and Belgium.

The BBC on Trump’s ignorance of NATO’s financing and on his failure to reaffirm Article Five:

For those within Nato uncertain about President Trump’s commitment to the alliance, his brief visit to open the new headquarters building in Brussels will have provided little reassurance.

The commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in Nato still seems unclear as to how its defence resources are generated.

He spoke again of countries who fall short of the Nato defence spending target as “owing” money from past years – which is not how things work at all.

::

And there was no explicit re-statement of his administration’s commitment to Nato’s mutual security guarantees – the bedrock of the alliance. The mere fact that this question is raised at all shows just how uneasy remains the relationship between Mr Trump and the organisation of which his country is the leading member.

The UK’s Sun in a similar vein, under the headline, “Trump’s Tonguelashing”:

Donald Trump blasts Nato during tubthumping Brussels speech saying members owe the US ‘massive amounts of money’ after years of ‘not paying their fair share’

In stark contrast, a few hours earlier, a (former) US President, sharing a stage with Angela Merkel at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, told a crowd of 70,000:

The world order is at a crossroads. In this new world we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves, we can’t hide behind a wall…

We have to push back against those trends that would violate human rights or suppress democracy or restrict individual freedoms…

The world has never been wealthier, more healthy and never been better educated. If we can sustain that progress, then I’m optimistic about our future…

“[T]here was no mistaking the symbolism of his presence alongside Mrs Merkel close to where the Berlin Wall once stood,” the UK Telegraph adds, referring to President Barack Obama.

Lead photo: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arriving in Brussels, Belgium. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Added:


A footnote by Der Spiegel

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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