US President Donald Trump’s deplorable behaviour at the G7 summit in Canada really was a turning point in the relationship between America and its traditional allies. Trump showed that he does not value the multilateral international order or the transatlantic alliance, nor does he appreciate the importance of having strong allies and friends who share common values.

At the G7 meeting Trump offered no compromises on his shortsighted and irresponsible decision to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on America’s closest friends, he arrived late for a number of meetings, he was rude about his Canadian hosts, he reprimanded his fellow participants – in effect America’s closest allies – about their trade practices, he left the summit early (using the excuse of his Singapore meeting with Kim Jong-un, which was held two days later) and he decided not to endorse the final communiqué after having earlier committed himself to doing so.

It is inconceivable that Trump can insult his allies, quarrel with them and go on to praise somebody like Kim Jong-un, as he did when he met the North Korean dictator in Singapore. I will write about the Trump-Kim meeting on another occasion but for now I will only say that while it was a historic meeting, in reality Trump got nothing except a vague commitment by North Korea to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. What exactly does that mean? How will this be carried out and verified?

Furthermore, Trump made major concessions without consulting his own State Department or his South Korean and Japanese allies, such as declaring that the joint US-South Korea military manoeuvres were to end, in effect handing Pyongyang a huge propaganda victory without getting anything concrete in return.

This shows once again that Trump is clearly out of his depth in global issues and has no idea how proper diplomatic negotiations are conducted.

But back to the G7 summit, which not only failed to resolve the deep differences between Trump and the other world leaders over trade, but also over climate change, relations with Iran, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and allowing Russia back into the group. Trump had in effect already poisoned the atmosphere of the summit before it had even begun – by insisting, out of the blue, that Russia should be readmitted to the G7.

Russia’s potential re-entry to the G7 is not something which should be brought up casually when talking to the press – if need be it should have been discussed between all the G7 partners and a proper evaluation made. If there is a case to be made for Moscow to get back into the G7 – for example if it changed its behaviour in Ukraine – then so be it. Otherwise Trump should be careful in the way he speaks about Russia. 

Ever since Trump became US President he has shown very little interest in strengthening the transatlantic alliance, which has been the cornerstone of the international liberal order since 1945 and is without doubt the world’s most successful partnership.

Over the past 15 months the allies of the US have been doing their best to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, try to reason with him, even flatter him. This strategy has largely failed

Trump has insulted the EU – which has done so much for peace and stability in Europe, undermined Nato, moved away from multilateralism, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate pact, recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, refused to criticise Russian President Vladimir Putin and never speaks out in favour of human rights or the independent press – which he is constantly attacking in the United States.

It is so very sad indeed that America under Trump can no longer be considered the leader of the free world or the liberal global world order. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said just before the G7 meeting that Trump was undermining the global order the US helped create.

Tusk said: “The rules-based international order is being challenged. Not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the US. We will not stop trying to convince our American friends and President Trump that undermining this order makes no sense at all, because it would only play into the hands of those who seek a new, post-West order, where liberal democracy and fundamental freedoms would cease to exist.”

Over the past 15 months Washington’s allies have done their best to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, try to reason with him, even flatter him, and to stress the traditionally strong historical relations they have enjoyed with the US. The hope was that Trump could be convinced to do the right thing. Unfortunately this strategy has largely failed, since Trump seems only interested in undoing Barack Obama’s legacy, taking decisions which he perceives will be popular with his core bloc of voters – irrespective of the consequences, empowering Russia (perhaps we will soon find out why) and undermining multilateralism.

Of course, America’s friends must continue to try to influence the Trump administration (as well as the Republican-controlled Congress) and to emphasise the areas where they do see eye to eye. America has not yet retreated completely from the world, but the G7 meeting marked a new low point in US engagement with the international community. Sadly, Washington’s global isolation is slowly but surely becoming a reality, and no country, except perhaps Russia, benefits from this.

It is now more than clear that Europe needs to play a much bigger role in defending the liberal value system of democracy, peace, trade, liberty, multilateralism and the rule of law. Germany’s new Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat, said recently that Europe’s response to US President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy should be ‘Europe United’. He is absolutely right: a united Europe is essential as Trump’s America withdraws from international engagement.

In his first major policy speech since taking office, Maas said the European Union should strive for a “balanced partnership” with the United States, which means working with Washington where possible, filling voids in areas where the US is withdrawing and pushing back where America is seen as crossing red lines. Hopefully Europe will be up to the task.

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