President Trump believes his first foreign trip was a “home run,” so much so that he took a self-congratulatory lap around the bases Saturday in a speech delivered before U.S. troops in Sicily. Our European allies, however, feel like they’ve been hit in the gut by a wild pitch.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed the continent’s sentiments loudly and clearly today in a speech at a campaign rally in Munich. Merkel didn’t mention Trump by name, but she didn’t have to. It was clear from the tone and the timing who she was talking about.
Some of the highlights:
“Europe ‘must take its fate into its own hands.‘T
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
“We have to fight for our own destiny.”
In just a handful of days, President Trump has failed to give any reassurance to our European allies that America is ready and willing to maintain or expand the mutual economic, diplomatic, and defense agreements that have underpinned the Western world since the end of World War II.
Well attending the NATO meeting in Brussels, Trump failed to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the centerpiece of the alliance that states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.
This is an unprecedented omission by any NATO head of state, let alone one from the United States, and it only heightens already well-founded European fears about Trump’s public affection for, and private machinations with and links to, Russian President Vladimir Putin. NATO, after all, exists largely and primarily to protect members against the threat of Russian aggression.
The President then took time to lecture fellow NATO members for not meeting their commitments to spend 2% of their GDP on defense per year. This oft-repeated criticisms mirror thinly-veiled threats he made during the campaign to withdraw from NATO.
Later, news leaked that Trump had singled-out German auto makers in conversations with other leaders, calling them ‘very bad’ and threatening to slap 35% tariffs on cars Germany automakers manufactured in Mexico and shipped to the U.S.
Then, at the G7 meeting, Trump punted on the Paris Climate Accord on emission standards. G7 members have long looked to the U.S. for leadership on climate change policy, but since the campaign, Trump has hinted clearly he wants out of such treaties.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan – exactly every other member of the G7 – all reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Accord. Not Trump. The official statement issued at the close of the summit noted that the President indicated he needed “more time” to decide whether the 2015 Paris deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is something the U.S. will adhere too.
Presidents of the United Sates have long been recognized as the ‘Leader of the Free World.’ This isn’t simply an honorific title, or one that merely reflects the strength of the military or the success of our economy that a president oversees. It’s symbolic of the respect our allies usually have for the leader of the country that, at its best, symbolizes the unity of western civilization and embodies the many institutions of cooperation that underwrite it.
Angela Merkel and other European leaders have real cause to worry because, clearly, those days are over. At least for now.