European allies see the two sides of Donald Trump

May 30, 2017, 05:37

Saudi investment in US arms and cooperation on terrorism seem to have led to a change of heart, and he was more comfortable with King Salman and other Arab leaders like Egypt's el-Sisi than with the likes of Angela Merkel later in the trip.

Most concerning was Mr Trump's vow to make a final decision on the Paris climate change agreement "next week" - a measure which 195 nations have already agreed upon before his election.

By the time he got to Sicily, Trump probably wished he were back at the glittering sword-dance ceremony in the Middle East, where various parties - Israelis, Palestinians, Saudis - need the US for trade, peace and protection. In Israel, after an historic direct flight from Riyadh, Trump raised eyebrows with the comment, "we just got back from the Middle East". And on Russian Federation, he did not insist on removing - as some allies had feared - the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow's intervention in Ukraine.

Melania Trump introduces her husband President Donald Trump as he rallies with service members at Sigonella Air Force Base at Naval Air Station Sigonella at the end of Trump's participation in the G7 summit in Sicily, Italy May 27, 2017.

Most disturbingly for allies, Trump did not personally affirm his commitment to Article 5, NATO's mutual defense doctrine, after pre-trip signals from the White House that he would do just that. Trump is the only G-7 leader who has not endorsed the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

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Trump's refusal while at the new Nato HQ to publicly reaffirm his acceptance of that obligation, the key pillar of Nato's system of collective defence, was particularly galling.

Her statement also touched on the president's entire nine-day trip overseas, saying that his speech to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "offered a fitting end to a trip that achieved little beside strained relationships and diplomatic missteps".

The trip has gone off without a major misstep, with the administration touting the president's efforts to create a new coalition to fight terrorism while admonishing partners in an old alliance to pay their fair share.

It was a speech that reminded some of Trump's doom-laden inauguration address in January, one that seemed written for the hardest of his hard-core domestic audience.

"If Trump really wants to go down a path of isolation, it will only speed up China's rise to the top", one senior German official grumbled.

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His trip led French leader Emmanuel Macron, with whom Mr Trump was seen gripping hands and gritting teeth, to announce that the handshake with the President was "not innocent".

Aside from body-language, European media attention Saturday focused on the brevity of the communiqué concluding the two-day G-7 summit in Sicily Saturday - half-a-dozen pages long, compared to 32 pages a year ago - which many editorial writers saw as advertising the absence of consensus between the US and the other G-7 members.

His now notorious physical pushing aside of the Montenegrin prime minister in the photo de famille was a clear manifestation of the president's view that this was not a gathering of equals.

Summing up the tour on Saturday, Trump's advisers seemed most enthused about the Saudi leg, where he clinched a $110 billion arms deal and forged what one aide described as a "personal bond" with the king. Mr Trump apparently left most of the discussion, dominated by trade issues, to his senior economic adviser Gary Cohn.

"His rhetoric and actions suggest he does not consider it a priority to build good and engaging relations with allies the far considered its most important ones", research director Daniela Schwarzer of the German Council of Foreign Relations told Reuters.

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