President Trump began his European trip on Sunday evening, but even before he had arrived in the United Kingdom, he renewed a tweet attack on the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan as well as insulting the American wife of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle. Since then, his conduct on his first two days on the ground in London has been by the book and virtually without incident. His comportment with Queen Elizabeth appears to have been flawless and there have no untoward remarks during the visit. The international community is now waiting, however, for Donald Trump to revert to his attacking form.
The public portion of his meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May including their joint press conference seems to have gone off with nary a hitch; except for some contradictory remarks about meetings that he had with some, selected, potential British leaders and not others. This he did after affirming his insistence on remaining outside of internal, British domestic politics. The May-Trump consultations as well as the public gatherings are the Prime Minister’s final foreign policy events as she prepares to leave 10 Downing Street on Friday. (She continues as a caretaker Prime Minister until the Conservative Party selects a new party leader who in turn forms a new Government.)
What remains now to consider is what the next two and half days In Britain, Ireland, and France will produce in terms of presidential conduct. President Trump will be meeting with the Queen and other Royals on Wednesday at Portsmouth, England, from whence a portion of the D-Day expeditionary force was launched. It will continue on Thursday in France on the beaches of Normandy as the President’s participates in the 75th Commemoration of the actual D-Day invasion, on the 6th of June 1944. On these occasions there will be numerous European Heads of State who did and still form the major coalition of united Western defense forces.
How this will play out during the balance of the President’s European trip remains to be seen. He loves pomp and circumstance and being feted, but when substance comes up both politically and diplomatically everyone assumes that someone ultimately will be offended. This could include the future defense of Europe, bi-lateral economic relations, or Brexit itself. This is the Trump style of keeping everyone on edge.
The entire trip underscores how different Donald Trump is from any other American President and how difficult he makes America’s relations with its allies, to say nothing of America’s adversaries. It also will be the challenge for future American presidents; repairing Trump’s damage. The success of this trip, therefore, is largely contingent on the actions and the behavior of an America’s national leader who is totally unpredictable, mercurial, and irrational. Assuming such a personality might be acceptable at home, the damage it can cause for America’s global interests could be multi-faceted and dramatic.
World leaders have as their most recent backdrop the economic bickering in which President Trump has been engaged for months between the U.S. and China. Added now to this tariff war, is the threat Trump has made to place extensive tariffs immediately on goods coming in from Mexico, unless the Mexicans interdict immigration to the U.S. from across the border.
America’s friends should not have to live in trepidation of what attacks are uttered from the mouth of the President. If this trip is not the beginning of the next round of Presidential name-calling, Trump will receive kudos and increased support. If it reverts to form, everyone will now await Trump’s next global skirmish later this month at the G-20 meetings in Osaka.