Donald Trump is about to return from his Mid-East/European jaunt which one NPR commentator has called “big hug diplomacy”. That was totally true at first in Saudi Arabia, but the hugs were less lavish in Israel, even less so with the Pope – more photo ops with the latter pair – and nonexistent at the NATO summit in Brussels and G7 meeting in Sicily.
At NATO Trump publicly lectured the assembled leaders about not paying their “fair share” of NATO expenses (23 of the 28 nations do not), which is not the way to cement relationships. Even though he makes a good point, it is not the way to lead off the gathering, a situation made worse by the president’s ignoring Article 5, which is that all- for-one-and-one-for all clause that binds NATO together in common defense.
A clause only invoked once, by the way, in support of our invasion of Afghanistan in response to 9/11, as the other member nations like to point out. Trump surrogates argue that the we-have-your-backs message was implied, but nations next to Russia, in particular, would likely want to hear it emphasized because Trump said little about the danger Russia poses, a seeming continuation of his policy to go soft on that nation in hopes of developing a better relationship, a likelihood most European leaders doubt.
Then at the G7 it is reported Trump lectured the Germans about flooding our market with their cars, which could not have helped our relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he also refused to shake hands with on her visit here.
That Trump continually acts more warmly to Russia (those recent photos of him smiling with Russian diplomats in the oval office being but one example) than he does to Germany, the strongest democracy in Europe with Merkel Europe’s strongest leader, is just plain strange. I think no one knows what he is really up to. Not even him, unless he actually does have hidden ties to Russia.
It prompts thoughts of Trump liking autocrats more than democrats. He admires their ability to get things done, while ignoring the often brutal, unjust nature of their strength. We could make a list starting with Putin, and on it would be the King of Saudi Arabia (not so much the elderly king but his royal family).
And, yes I will get back to that visit to Saudi Arabia because it illustrates how whatever actions Trump takes with foreign powers they will be devoid of any moral component and friendly to any despot he can make a deal with.
His own brand of realpolitik.